As a business owner, you have a lot of responsibilities. And if you are like many of the clients I coach, your to-do list is extensive and filled with meetings and other responsibilities. It's easy to get caught up in your task list, and to feel overwhelmed and anxious

But what if I told you that very little of that to-do list actually matters? That for most of us, there are really only four or five things that you are on the payroll for. The rest is just filler and putting out someone else's fires. 

Don't believe me? Try this exercise. 

Begin by thinking about and writing down the five most important tasks that you really are on the payroll to create. For each of your key tasks, list three of your most important behaviors or activities that generate each of these key results. 

I go into this concept in detail in my latest bestseller, The Freedom Formula, but the idea is to put each item on your to-do list into a A,B,C, or D bucket, A being your highest value tasks and D being the tasks that could be outsourced or taken out altogether. Don't worry if you struggle with the distinction between your A and B level activities at this phase. What matters at this point is that you get in your gut the qualitative difference between A and B activities and the C or D level tasks that fill your day.

Now list your C and D level tasks. These likely are the things that currently fill the mass of your day. Look at your to-do list and calendar to jog your memory about all the tasks you regularly spend your day getting done. The first step of upgrading your use of time is to get clear--in writing--what you do that creates the most and the least value.

It's Not Static

It's also important to understand that these lists are not static. What you currently consider an A or B level activity will inevitably change as your business grows or your role evolves within your organization. For example, if meeting one-to-one with a prospective client currently is an A level activity for you, make sure that in six to 12 months, you've increased the value you create for your company so this activity is pushed down to a B or C level activity. 

Ideally, working with a joint-venture partner that can generate dozens of leads for you every month will become an A level activity, or training your sales team to meet with prospective clients one-to-one, or creating a sales video that generates passive sales. By that point, meeting one-to-one with a prospective client is no longer as important for you to do personally. This is good. This is growth, and the whole point of this exercise. 

Upgrade Your Time

Understanding the distinctions between A, B, C, and D level activities will help you shift your focus from just putting in the hours to upgrading the type of work you do and the value that you bring to the company. Over time, this will create huge business breakthroughs. If you are an entrepreneur, you can grow your business by 25 to 50 percent or more if you just create an extra day or two each week to focus on taking those action steps that would grow and expand your business. If you are an executive, you can meet corporate targets faster and demonstrably increase the growth and success of your division without working every weekend. If you practice law or some other profession, you can increase your firm's profit without simply cranking out more billable hours or personally performing more procedures. 

Whatever your field, the result of upgrading your existing hours to better and higher uses is magical--greater value created in less total time worked.