Let’s face it, running a small business means always having a to-do list that is far longer than any mere mortal could ever complete.
Stress. Overwhelm. Feeling like you’re falling behind.
In last week’s post, I said you need to ruthlessly prioritize and delegate.
This week, I want to show you how I prioritize.
Productivity ≠ Doing more stuff
It starts with understanding that productivity does not mean doing more stuff. Productivity means producing results.
If you did 100 things on your list, but none of them got you any closer to your goals, did you really do anything?
No. You didn’t.
Well, you wasted a lot of time. So that’s something.
Plan your “must do” items
Start each week (I like to do this on Sunday morning) with a review of the coming week. Decide on the 1 to 5 things that are most important to reaching your goals for the week.
Don’t try to list more than 5. It would be even better if you keep it to 3 items. The idea is to set productivity goals you can actually achieve.
Ideally, you will have spent time thinking about your goals for the year. Then broken those down by quarter and by month. You would decide on your must do items for the week by looking at your current month goals.
If you haven’t done any of that, don’t worry. Start small. Just worry about this week. At some point, you’ll want to take the time to plan longer term, though. That’s the only way you will stay on track to hit your goals.
Once you have your list of 1 to 5 “must do” items for the week, they are set in stone. They will be done. When they are done, you will be that much closer to achieving your goal.
Next, estimate how much time it will take you to complete them. If you’re like most people, at first you will wildly underestimate how long things take. Just keep track of how wrong you are and adjust your estimates as you learn.
Block out that amount of time on your calendar. In each block of time, name the “appointment” with the task you are going to complete. Use that time to work ONLY on the “must do” items.
If you come to the end of your scheduled time and the “must do” tasks aren’t done, use whatever other time you have to keep working on them.
Getting through each day
At the start of each day (or, better, the evening before), identify the “must do” tasks for the day. The hard part is mostly done because you already scheduled the task on your calendar. Put those at the top of your list and mark them as important.
Fill in all the other stuff that you have to do underneath the must do items. DO NOT do any of them until all the must do items are finished.
These are all tasks you might consider delegating.
Dealing with incoming requests
Throughout the day, you will get a constant stream of emails, texts, calls, and other requests. Here’s how to handle them without feeling like the ball in a pinball machine.
When a new item comes in, decide whether it is urgent. If it is, put in on your list and mark as “urgent”. If it isn’t, put it on your list with all the other stuff. Then go back to working on your “must do” item.
When you finish one of your “must do” tasks, tackle the urgent thing that came in. Then go back and start working on the next “must do” task.
Getting things done
If you stick to this approach, you will start hitting your goals faster and more regularly.
The key, like anything else, is execution. Planning to tackle important tasks and blocking out time on your calendar for them doesn’t mean anything unless you actually do them.
You need to develop the discipline to focus on the things that get you to your goals. And you need to treat those calendar appointments as sacred.
These things don’t require superhuman abilities. They are habits. Start small and be consistent. Before you know it, it will be second nature.
If you’re wondering, writing this was one of my “must do” tasks today. Scheduled it on the calendar, finished at 9:19am.
Give it a try. Let me know how it goes.