5 Tips for Getting the Most Important Things Done Every Day Don't confuse being busy with making progress, and don't mistake your to-do list for goals.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Getting the right things done is a daily struggle for most entrepreneurs. The battle cry of an entrepreneur's struggle is "boy am I busy!" Are you really that busy or does it just make you feel good to say that?
When I ask entrepreneurs or business executives "why are you so busy?" I get a "to-do" list recitation. But what are you really getting done? Are you tackling the right items on your list? Are those things yielding the results your business needs to thrive?
As a "busy" entrepreneur, maybe you mistakenly measure success by the length of your "to-do" list or the number of hours you work. Bottom line, you have to break down the wall you have built around yourself and find the freedom from your current daily routine.
Related: Tough Choices and Juggling Priorities Takes Courage
You can start to tear down this wall by answering the following questions:
- Do you find that you waste time and money and miss opportunities?
- Do you find yourself involved in a fair amount of "fire-fighting" and feel like you are moving from crisis to crisis?
- Do you run from task to task without seeing any measurable progress?
- Are you pulled in multiple directions at once with little or no time for you?
Entrepreneurs always have things to get done, but there's usually an equal amount of "to-do" items that can best be described as "distractions." You know, the "stuff" that gets in the way and pulls us every which way other than the right one.
More times than not you will get "seduced" by shiny objects, which are things that seem more important than they actually are. The challenge for entrepreneurs is not only finding a way to fight distractions, but conditioning yourself not to be tempted in the first place, all in order to get the right things done.
Here are the five simple steps to help you to get the right things done:
Start each day with this question: What is the one thing that I can/should do today that will get me closer to my goal or desired result? Work on that first and complete the task. You must first have specific and clear goals. Without them there is no way you can determine the most important tasks.
Related: Are You Actually Setting Goals? Probably Not. Here's How in 3 Steps.
Create a daily list of things to do: Work on the high value tasks first. High value tasks are those that increase important business factors like revenue and profitability. High value tasks are also those that help you achieve your goals. As such, you have to define "high value" as it relates to you and your organization.
3. The 4 D's.
When the "right thing" isn't clear, apply what I refer to as "The 4 D Rule" – every task that you are faced with must "fit" into one of these four categories:
Do it. You are the best person to handle this task.
Delegate it. Though this is something you could probably do, it's not the best use of your time or skills. Delegate it to someone who is better suited to handle it.
Defer it. Not everything has to be done at the same time; set priorities to stay focused on the right things for the given time period.
Dump it. This is a task that doesn't have to be done at all; it represents "busy" work and no value will result from it being done.
4. Pause to consider.
Take small breaks during the course of the day to evaluate your current situation. Give yourself the opportunity to validate that you are working on the right things.
This last step is very important: Stop multi-tasking! While you can probably do more than one or two things at the same time, you are not Superman, and it's impossible to actually focus on more than one thing at the same time. Continue multi-tasking, and your results will begin to reflect your lack of focus.
Related: Multitasking Is a Myth. Harness the Power of Focus to Achieve Extraordinary Results.