Written by Kayla Matthews (learn more about Kayla here)
To be a successful entrepreneur or small business owner, you need to continuously move towards achieving your business goals. This means staying on track and getting the appropriate tasks done in an efficient and timely manner. But when you become overwhelmed and disorganized, it’s easy to get behind on your to-do list.
Trying to get back on track is a struggle many professionals face, but it’s important if you want to stay on top of your growing business. If you find you’re struggling to get your to-do list accomplished at the end of the day or week, you may be creating them the wrong way.
To create better to-do lists and get your priorities back in order, follow this three-step process.
1. Create a 1-3-5 List
When you create a standard to-do list, you’re probably just listing the things you’d like to accomplish. But some tasks are more important than others while some can be pushed to tomorrow if necessary. If you’re not prioritizing your tasks, it’s easy to feel stressed, overwhelmed or like you don’t have enough time to complete everything on your list.
Instead of creating a traditional to-do list, create a 1-3- 5 list. This type of to-do list says you have one major accomplishment you need to complete that day, three medium level tasks and five small tasks you’d like to complete. This allows you to easily and clearly see which tasks need to get done today and which can get pushed to tomorrow if you run out of time.
2. Start With First Things First
Many people struggle with their to-do lists because they’re not sure where to start. They know they need to complete as much as possible, but they don’t know which task to complete first. Instead of tackling one task and crossing it off the list, they may start every task on their list and try to multitask.
Instead, tackle your priority goal. If you created a 1-3-5 list, this would be your #1 goal for the day. Once that’s finished — and only once that is finished — move on to your second task. For your third and fifth goals, rank them in order of most importance. Follow this list throughout the day, always focusing on the next task on your list.
3. Strategically Prioritize Your Tasks
When you’re considering how to rank your tasks, you may struggle to know which are the most important. If you have due dates coming up or tasks you need to accomplish, you may feel like all your tasks are of equal importance. To help you prioritize your tasks in a strategic way, give each of your tasks a specific ranking.
Consider the seriousness, urgency and growth of your tasks, and give each task a grade in each category. The tasks with the highest score will come first on your list. Those with the lowest score should be last. If tasks tie, consider which ranks highest in the seriousness category.
If there’s still a tie, look at urgency and go from there. If you still come up with a tie, see if one of the tasks can be given to another employee or outsourced. If you’re not considering what your priorities truly are, it can feel like you’re never getting on top of your work.
But if you create a strategic to-do list with a clear plan of attack, you can end each day feeling like you’ve accomplished a great deal. You’ll know exactly what you need to do the next day and you can start to feel more in control of your tasks.