Ever since I was a young boy, I've been a sucker for a good to-do list. There is something so satisfying about writing down all the tasks that I plan to do for the day and then marking them off one by one as I complete them. But, if you are like most business owners, that feeling is often short-lived. You start the day with a reasonable to-do list and by the end of the day it has grown to 20 or 30 items and very few are actually completed. Sound familiar?
If you struggle with finishing your to-do list, I would like to share two rules that I find to be extremely helpful in my own coaching business and daily life.
Working Above the Line
Every time you scratch an item off of your to-do list, you get a little rush of dopamine. It feels good to accomplish something. And, by instinct, you crave those little moments of accomplishment. So choosing the easy tasks that don't move the needle are often the first tasks we gravitate toward. But those aren't usually the ones that will move the needle on our business and help us reach our long-term goals.
To combat that instinct, I take a few moments every morning to organize my to-do list. Choosing the three things that are the most important tasks for the day, I call these my "above-the-line" tasks. If I get nothing else done on my list that day, I know that tackling those top three will make the biggest impact.
You can draw a line under them to visually mark them as special and different, or, if you use a digital task organizer, you can annotate them with a special color.
Live By the Results
My second rule for organizing my day is something I call "live by the results." This is the rule that by 10:30 I will have either completed the three things at the top of my to-do list or set up appointments/meetings to address those tasks. This helps me stay focused and make sure that I am putting my best time and attention toward the things that matter most. And generally speaking, the urgent fires that pop up in business happen more frequently as the day progresses. So getting the most important to-do items done before the fires start will go a long way to helping you be more productive.
This rule coupled with my scheduled focus times has made a huge impact not only in my own business but in the lives of thousands of business owners over the years.
Once you have the first three items taken care of, what about the other 17 or so items on your to-do list? Should you keep working through your list? Yes ... and no. Some of those items will still need to be done. And some of those items may not need to be there at all. They may be better suited for another member on your team or, in a lot of cases, they may not need to be done at all. If it doesn't help move the needle, you should at least ask yourself: "Is it really worth it?" If the answer is no, and it can be taken off of your list, remove it. If it still needs to be done, but could be done by someone else, delegate the task and take it off your plate.
At first, these rules may be a little difficult to adjust to, but once you get used to focusing your time and attention it will get easier and easier and the results will speak for themselves.