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Get More Done With Smarter To-Do Lists

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

A recent article from Yahoo! Small Business Advisor, “Make the most of your to do list,” compiled the best advice on making and using to-do lists. As small business owners and operators, you may feel like there’s never enough hours in the day to complete everything on your agenda, but these ten tips will help you manage your tasks more efficiently.

  1. Use the right tool. For some it’s a pen and index card; for others it’s an app on a smartphone or the tasks section in Outlook. Just make sure it’s a tool that you look at every day.
  2. Focus. Be specific, focused and crisp. “If you aren’t precise enough you can invent excuses for not doing the task,” the author writes. Ask yourself questions like: Does this task really need to go on a list? Why are you doing it? Does it really need to be done?
  3. List control. Keeping one lengthy list of all types of tasks can dull the satisfaction you get from crossing tasks off. Try using multiple lists for different types of tasks. “I keep a long term ‘big’ hard-to-do list and a shorter, next week or two list and a today list,” the author writes.
  4. Prioritize – or not. Remember the pareto principle – 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort. Every day decide on the most important thing to do, make time and do it. If a task stays low-priority for too long then maybe it shouldn’t be on the list at all.
  5. Schedule. Schedule lengthy tasks into your calendar to help you commit to getting them done. If you’re easily distracted, it can also be helpful to schedule some time for breaks as well. “That way you have an end for them and can avoid too much procrastination,” the author writes.
  6. Break it down. If a task seems too big or complex to grasp, break it down into smaller tasks to help get you started.
  7. Document success. When you successfully complete a task, write a short summary of what you did. Keep a running file of successes to refer back to when you’re trying to solve a particular problem in the future.
  8. Habits. Set up a regular time each day to keep up with your list, make additions and subtractions and decide if certain tasks were worth your time.
  9. Set up to succeed. It’s fine to have a master list of all future tasks, but make sure to set reasonable expectations for your daily lists. Don’t schedule more than you can reasonably accomplish.
  10. Affirmation. Daily affirmation can help you reach long term goals. Ask yourself why you are doing what you are doing. Keep big-picture goals in mind when you’re completing small tasks.

To read the entire article from Yahoo! Small Business Advisor, please click here.


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