Saturday, October 18, 2008

Get More Done with a Great To-Do List

By Mike McCoy

Every business owner — every person, really — can benefit from using to-do lists, but most people don't know the right way to use a task list so that they can really get the most out of their day.

Most people just write down everything they can think of that they need to do in a particular day, as well as things they'd maybe like to do or things they think they should do but don't really want to. There's no effort to prioritize and thus you don't know where to start, what to focus on and what to ignore.

The result? A big mess of stress and an unproductive day.

The key to a to-do list that really works is taking a good, hard look at everything on your list and deciding if it really needs to be done that day and if you're really the person to do it.

When evaluating your to-do list, think about your goals for your business and what you want to accomplish this week, this month and this year as well as this day. If you've got a to-do list filled with things that don't bring you closer to your vision, see what you can to do put off (even permanently if possible) some of those tasks.

Think also about what things you can delegate to an assistant (in person or virtual) or pay someone else to do. Many cities and towns have errand services that can pick up your dry cleaning or do your shopping for you at a much lower price than your hourly rate.

While you're at it, remove any "shoulds" from your list. You know the shoulds — the things you feel like you really ought to do but you just don't have any enthusiasm (or time) for them. If you've overcommitted to something or someone you don't want to be committed to, be honest and up front. Remember, "I'm too busy" is a fine reason not to do something you don't want to do!

Finally, rank those tasks that are left in order of importance. What absolutely, positively has to be done today? Give those an "A" rank. "B" tasks are things it would be great to do today, such as the small beginning steps of projects that will need to be done later in the week. "C" tasks are low-priority; there's no deadline attached so you don't need to worry about them today unless you have time.

This whole process should take just a few minutes and will give you a much better idea of how you really need to spend your time today.

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