Creating your business to-do list

To, DoWhen you’re a small business owner, your to-do list is often long and constantly growing. There are an overwhelming number of things need to be done and it can seem they’re all urgent. It’s easy to push important tasks to the side and focus on less-vital activities but that often means you miss deadlines, make mistakes and feel as though you’re always trying to catch up.

Create a list and order it in terms of priority.

1. Know all of your tasks

It isn’t enough to have a running list of tasks in your head; you need to write them out so you can see them at a glance. Take the time to list all your tasks, and break down large tasks into smaller steps.

Write a list of the activities you need to do for the week—or even the next two weeks—on Monday morning. Include information such as how urgent they are, how long they’ll take to complete and what their deadlines are.

Now you know what you need to complete and you have an idea of when things need to be done.

2. Determine what tasks are vital

There are many methods for determining which tasks are the most vital. Here, we’ll go into two: the Eisenhower Decision Matrix and the ABCDE Method.

In the Eisenhower Decision Matrix, you classify each task into one of four quadrants. These quadrants are based on whether the task is important, urgent, both or neither. Tasks that are both important and urgent should be done first, followed by those that are either important but not urgent or urgent but not important, and finally those that are neither important nor urgent. If possible, delegate tasks that aren’t both important and urgent to someone else.

Another method is the ABCDE method, in which you assign each task on your list a letter from A through E based on its level of importance. Tasks with a level of A or B are the most important, while D and E are not at all important. Anything from C down can likely be rescheduled or delegated to someone else.

3. Schedule your tasks

Now that you know which tasks are the most important, schedule your to-do list in that order. Write yourself a daily list that puts the most important tasks at the start of your day. Don’t over-schedule yourself. There’s a good chance that in the course of your week, a new activity that is both important and urgent will arise and you’ll need the space in your calendar to address it.

Give yourself deadlines in the day to get the work done, based on a reasonable assessment of how long the activity should take you. You can also chunk your work, in which you set aside specific, uninterrupted periods of time to do focused work and then schedule in breaks around that.

Make sure you turn off distractions and let your colleagues know that you aren’t available during those times.

By determining which of your tasks are the most important to you and your business and scheduling your day based on that criteria, you can ease the pressure caused when you have a long list of activities to take care of.

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