5 Tips to Help You Get Through Your To-Do List
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
Every entrepreneur we know struggles with time management. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to take care of everything. We fight the same battles to manage our time and tasks.
If you have a to-do list, you are ahead of the pack. However, there are ways to make your list and time management plans more effective. Here are five tips that will be help you to get a few more minutes in your schedule:
1. Prioritize the list.
Each day, look at your list and mark those items that are the top priority. Consider the urgency and the importance of each task. Obviously, things that are both urgent and important will rise to the top of the list. Items that are neither urgent nor important can wait.
Place items that are urgent, but not important lower on your list. Evaluate just how “squeaky” that wheel is before spending your precious time on it. Give more time to those tasks that are important, but less urgent. These items, when completed, add more value.
Use some type of visual reference so your priorities are clear. You might rewrite your list in order of priority. Polly highlights her top items in yellow and then again in pink when they are complete. Doug numbers items in order of priority.
Once you have established priorities, follow them. Don’t get sucked into the trap of focusing those things you can finish quickly, so that you can put lots of checks on your list.
2. Estimate how long each item on your list will take to complete.
It's common to underestimate how long tasks take. You may fail to include time for interruptions, travel, review or getting steps approved. What about "pondering" time? We all need time to think about our tasks before moving forward. Developing or creating takes time. When you fail to include time for these parts of the process, you are doomed to underestimate how long your tasks will take.
3. Use your calendar.
Once you become more effective at estimating how long tasks take, the next step is to move them to your calendar (at least those tasks that will take more than just a few minutes). Schedule the time to execute your tasks. If you have a calendar that is loaded with items not on your to-do list, there is an obvious mismatch. You are highly unlikely to accomplish many of your top priority items.
4. Don't pack your schedule.
Be realistic about what you can actually accomplish in a day. It doesn't matter how hard you work -- you can't put nine women on the job and get a baby in a month. Putting too much on your calendar can lead to cutting corners, sloppy work or just being frustrated that you can't get it all done.
5. Get help.
If you truly have too much work, it may be time to bring in some help. Spend your time on high-value activities. How much is your time worth to the business? Put a dollar value on an hour of your time. Then ask yourself if you need an assistant to provide administrative help.
Entering data, typing correspondence and making travel arrangements could be done by a less expensive resource. Should you spend time doing the bookkeeping? Ask, “If I had 10 less hours of low-value work each week, could I fill this time with higher value activities that would be worth more than the cost of an assistant?”
Help may come in the form of a full- or part-time employee. Alternatively, you might outsource some of your workload. For example, you can hire a bookkeeping service to take care of your accounting issues. You may need to let go of some of your tasks to be more efficient.
Time is your most valuable commodity and the quantity is limited. Your personal productivity may be the difference between success and bankruptcy. Implementing these tips will help you achieve your full potential.
Related: Track Your Time to Get More Done