As people start a new year with new goals and resolutions, they’ll inevitably look at the previous with one big question on their mind: What happened?

Chances are, they’ll feel frustrated. They’ll start to look at how they spent their time and money, and almost inevitably, discouragement will start to set in.

The real tragedy is that discouragement from the shortcomings of the previous year are one of the main factors in how quickly people give up on their goals for the new year. It doesn’t take long for a cycle of mediocrity and frustration to develop. Next thing you know, people stay as chubby and poor as they always were.

It doesn’t have to be this way. One of the best sales trainers I’ve ever heard says that failure is almost never due to lack of desire and almost always due to lack of training. A person who doesn’t know how to succeed will almost inevitably fail, regardless of their desire for success.

Here is the best tool I’ve ever found for increasing personal productivity and actually helping you achieve your goals. It’s this simple. Make a list.

Many of you will say there’s no way a simple to do list can solve your productivity problems and help you get where you want to go. Normally I’d agree with you. But this is a different kind of list.

This is what you need to do: Think about one of your goals. Think of the final result you want to enjoy, whether it’s losing twenty pounds, paying off your credit cards, or getting an extra $2,000 in the bank.

Break up your big goal into smaller goals and tasks that will help you achieve your goal result. You can make this list as long or as short as you want, as long as each step you create will actually carry you purposefully toward your goal.

Sort the list of tasks according to which are most important and which have to be done before others. Let’s say you end up with a list of twenty-five items. You’re going to start with the first five and work your way down from there.

On day one of your plan to achieve the end result, you will do everything in your power to get the first five items on your list done. One crucial point: you will never skip ahead. You must not start on task 2 before task 1 is complete, and so on.

Even if you don’t complete the first five items on the first day, the day will not have been a failure. All that matters is that you got some of the items done.

If you completed items one through three, but weren’t able to tackle four or five, then those are the two that will become one and two on tomorrow’s list. By approaching it this way, you guarantee that you’ll always do the most important things first, and you will make progress.

Won’t that feel great? You’ll finally get a little momentum and traction toward the things that have always frustrated you. If you consistently apply this method, you’ll become a disciplined and successful person, guaranteed.