Here are some ideas that I have used to master my own bottomless to do list:
1 – Start each day with a NEW list!
I am a habitual user of a daily task list and have been for many years. I have tried to keep it on my smartphone or task list in Outlook. I have even bought into some of the apps that promise to help me keep my life more organized. None of them work for me as well as my notepad. I end each day by creating my list for tomorrow – which includes adding anything that I did not get done today. Then I close the book on today’s list. So tomorrow I am not faced with an incomplete list from yesterday and a defeated feeling to start off my morning.
2 – Prioritize the list.
The eternal question of Important vs Urgent. Things we would like to get done vs Things we must get done. Prioritize by order of importance, then by date due and amount of time needed to do the project. If your budget is due on Friday and it is already Tuesday, this is a task that must get done. Put the MUST DO items first on the list and tackle them early in the day when you are fresh and ready to take on the world. Don’t leave important items last and end up pushing them to the next day…and the next….
3 – Focus!
Getting things done is good for the soul. When you have too many balls in the air, you may be making some headway on some of the projects but it is likely that completing them is going to be a slower process. So write down all of the things that you want to accomplish and then prioritize and focus on not more than 5 – 6 objectives/projects at a time. I do this at the beginning of the year and then break the objectives down by quarter, then by month, week, etc… This helps me make sure I am always looking at the big picture strategy while accomplishing the day to day items required to reach that big goal. What a great feeling to complete a big project in the first quarter and start fresh on something new. And don’t be afraid to take the list out and re-prioritize from time to time. Things change and we have to be able to adjust our priorities to meet the changing needs of our business and our life.
4 – Plan your time.
We are amazing. We are awesome and we are so productive we can the work of 4 people. We need little sleep and are always “on.” Sound familiar? All probably pretty true but the reality is that no matter how good we are at managing our work and our time, we still only get 24 hours in a day. So use those hours and minutes wisely. Put time in your calendar as an appointment for that hour you want to devote to a project. Tentatively accept invitations for non-important meetings or events and allow yourself to change your mind of you need that time for something that is more critical for reaching your goals. Estimate the time needed to complete tasks and write it on your list. Tally up the time and take some non-critical items off the list or put them on a later day if you know you are starting off in the red on the 24 hour bank. Remember that some things don’t need to be done during prime time. Plan to do research, read industry news, catch up on non-urgent emails while relaxing on your couch after dinner. And don’t forget that you need time for yourself. Don’t just wish for time to work out, get that massage or have lunch with your best friend – put it on the list and your calendar.
5 – Learn to say NO!
Over-achievers hate that word but learning when and how to use it can help us accomplish more than any other item in this article. Ask yourself if you are the only person on your team that can do the task. Is this going to cause you to lose ground in other areas? Can you delegate the project to your administrative team? And don’t forget that you can always say yes to the project but negotiate the time frame to complete it. Learn to give yourself time to think about it before committing – “That sounds like a really interesting project and I might be interested in taking it on. Let me check my project list and think it over. May I call you about this later in the week?” And when all else fails and you know that you shouldn’t take on just One. More. Thing – Just say NO!
Managing the busy-ness of your day and keeping your mind and your energy focused on the things that really count will ensure that you will complete the important things that must be done for you to reach your goals. Don’t be a victim of your own to do list. Own it! It is your time – use it wisely.