As I mentioned in a previous article, I spent some time over the last few weeks making phone calls for an informal poll on tasks, goals and balance (first article, second article, third article). The wording of the poll questions changed slightly as I went, but in general it was three questions and then whatever follow up questions I wanted to ask. This is the first of four articles that are a direct result of those phone calls.
What do you do to make sure that you’re getting all your important business tasks done?
That (or some form of that) was the first question of the poll I took over the past four weeks.
Answers ranged from nothing to detailed systems that involve thought and time. The most common answers involved some form of a to-do list and a calendar.
I heard two themes from people who don’t regularly make or keep to-do lists:
- When I have time and I’m not really busy, then I keep a to-do list.
- When I have a to-do list more seems to get done.
I get it, you’re busy and you want to spend your time DOING and spending time PLANNING to do just doesn’t seem to make sense (or be productive). I’ve felt like that! However, when there’s a lot going on is exactly when you need to make sure you’re taking time to plan.
I’ve learned I’m much more focused and less stressed when I have a to-do list. And that’s especially when there’s a lot going on.
A lot of people I talked with have or would like to have a daily to-do list. However, it’s also important to have a “Master” to-do list. A place for all those things that you need and want to get done, but aren’t a priority today or even this week.
Why have a master to-do list? It’s to prevent to-do list overwhelm. One person I talked with said she doesn’t like keeping to-do lists because they get too long and detailed. Well, if you’re looking at a long list of tasks and today you’re only focusing on one to three, then yes, that list will seem really long and frustrating! Instead pick those one to three things you’ll focus on and create a list with only those things on it. The other list still exists, you just don’t need to look at it multiple times a day.
Another reason you get more accomplished when you have a to-do list is you’ve effectively set your priorities for the day and know what tasks you’ll be doing to support that. This makes moving from one task to the next go much more quickly. When I don’t spend a little time making my daily to-do list I usually end up spending at least twice that time trying to figure out what my next task is for the day.
Now, on to some specifics. Below is a summarized list of how people make sure they’re doing what needs to be done – in no particular order:
- Create lists (either on paper or on computer)
- Create a daily list the night before
- Schedule appointments into a calendar (paper or computer)
- Schedule blocks of time for projects into a calendar
- Calendar reminders
- Outlook tasks
- Work with others
- Accountability partners
- Mastermind groups
- A coach
- Plan each week in advance
Do you do anything that’s not listed here?