Time is money. Three words which pretty much sum it up for us all. Especially when your staff consists of your dog – then you quickly realize that passing the buck isn’t an option. Instead, you must learn to sort through the multitude of tasks facing you each day and narrow down your focus to only the key revenue-generating activities, while letting the majority of the “noise” fade away and most of us accomplish this with a to-do list.
However, not all activities are of equal value. There is an economic principle called the 80/20 Rule, or Pareto Principle, that basically means that 80% of the effects of anything in your life will come from 20% of the causes. When applied to your daily to do list, the Pareto Principle means that 80 percent of the value of your list comes from only 20 percent of the items on it.
In other words, if you have 10 items on your list, you could focus on only two of those tasks and get the vast majority of success even though you ignore the other 8 items entirely!
Now I know you may be ready to go after your to-do list cutting out all the low-payoff items – before you get out the hatchet, read my short list of suggestions so that you cut out the right tasks:
- Know what your goals are. You can’t choose your biggest payoff tasks if you don’t know what your goals are. Thoughtful planning is critical so you know what you’re trying to accomplish and can rank your items accordingly. In order to do that you need to …
- Write it all down. Write every task down, from the largest to the seemingly least important that has to get done. Before you can rank your items, you need a complete view of every task in your work world. I call this a brain dump. From it, you can determine what to delegate, what to defer, and what to start working on each day.
- Evaluate. With your goals in mind, ask yourself, “What are the top three activities I can complete today that will move me closer to those goals?” Put an asterisk next to those tasks and start the day there.
- Track your success. At the end of the week, review your daily lists. Have you made significant progress towards your goals? Which tasks turned out to be the most important? Which did you think were important but proved to be less valuable?
- Keep refining. Use your weekly review to make informed decisions going forward. If you notice that you often rank your social media efforts as critical, but they don’t seem to be impacting new business, resist putting those as starred items on your daily lists.
Remember, though, that tools are only as good as the person who wields them. No to-do list, app or program, no mindset, trick or suggestion is going to help you build a better, more productive work day. Only you can do that, and you do it by sitting down at your desk, day after day, starting fresh with your daily to do list and the top 3 things you want to get done.
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