How To Get A Handle On Your To-Do List

Do You Have What it Takes to Be a Brand Leader?
December 11, 2013
Do You Want Next Year to be Better?
December 25, 2013

It seems like there are never enough hours in the day to get everything done that needs doing, not to mention things we’d actually like to do.

As entrepreneurs, there are always more tasks and challenges coming our way. This is a good thing! If we finished all our work quickly and easily, we probably wouldn’t be growing.

However, there’s a difference between pushing yourself and pushing yourself over the edge. In order to be successful, and yes sane, we need to find a way to manage our to-do list in an efficient and productive way.

Here is my Top 10 List for checking things off your to-do list:

1. Set aside time for yourself to think. You may feel like the last thing you have time for in your busy day is setting time aside to just think. If you do however, you will dramatically increase your productivity. So often we get pulled in different directions because we are not thinking clearly. When you focus your mind, you focus your energy.

2. Set your priorities. Until you know your priorities, you are just swimming around in the dark. You have to know what is most important, to you, for your business and for your private life. If you do not understand your priorities clearly, you may find yourself wasting time on unimportant tasks and moving away from your authentic goals.

3. Prioritize your tasks. Once you are clear on your priorities, you need to prioritize the tasks you need to do to get you to your goal as quickly as possible. For example, if your priority is to make more money, your highest priority task may be making sales calls vs. working on updating your website.

4. Set and follow the plan. Lay out your prioritized tasks in order and then set a specific time to implement. If you decide making sales calls is first on your list, schedule a specific time to do sales calls and then do it at that time. Do not allow yourself to sacrifice your goals by stealing time away from important tasks.

5. Work in intervals. Work hard, play hard. No one can work constantly and stay fresh and focused. The best and most efficient way to train your body is to do intervals, intense bursts of energy followed by rest or less intense activities. The same is true for your work and your brain. Choose a task, delegate a specific amount of time to work on it. Then stop, rest or do something less demanding and come back to it again. Try 15 minutes to start and then stretch out your intervals as you get better at it.

6. Delegate. Delegation is the secret weapon of productivity. The more you can delegate, the more you free yourself up to work in your zone of genius which usually translates into making more money. Make a list of all the things a) you want to do and b) only you can do. For everything else, as soon as possible, delegate the activities to someone else. That person may be a family member or some one you pay.

7. Choose your rewards. What makes you most excited about achieving? Is it having a clean house or it is having a massive client list? There is no right or wrong answer here. You just need to choose a reward that will make you feel really excited. Finish this sentence, “If I ____________ I will be so psyched!” Once you have your favorite reward goal figured out, give yourself time and permission to work towards it. This will give you fuel for working on some of your more mundane tasks.

8. Choose your regrets. You simply cannot do everything, even if you are efficient. To help you figure out on what to focus, ask yourself “What will I regret least should it not get done?”  Doing this exercise can often bring instant clarity to prioritizing. Will you regret not doing the dishes or not making the follow-up phone call for the possible speaking gig? Will you regret not meeting a colleague for lunch or not getting your W-9 requests done by year’s end?

9. Choose one easy & one hard. Some productivity books say you should do your most difficult task first. Others say do the easy things first to get a sense of accomplishment. I say choose one of each for your day. Choose one easy, doable task you can check off your list for the day and try to tackle one hard one. That way you will have some instant gratification and some sense of making a dent toward your big goals.

10. Reevaluate. Things change. Tasks get finished and new priorities pop up. What you thought was important yesterday may not be the same for today or next week. It’s important to consistently look where you are, where you have been and where you are going to see how your work landscape needs to shift to keep you on track towards your goals.

I would be remiss if I talked about productivity without mentioning self-care. In order to be truly productive, you must make yourself a priority. Make sure you are eating well, staying hydrated and getting enough sleep. Make sure you are also allowing yourself down time so you can recharge your mind, body and soul. And lastly, make sure you allow time to give and receive love because in the end, that’s what all this hard work is for!

I love to hear your voice!

What strategies do you use to be productive?

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Heather Poduska is a brand strategist, business coach and opera singer who helps entrepreneurs and small business owners create client attractive brands, polished brand images and brand communication strategies to increase their visibility and impact in the marketplace and grow their businesses.