The Science of the To-Do List

Every entrepreneur has a to-do list. It’s a never-ending document. It lingers in our heads as we go to sleep; it’s the first thing on our minds when we wake up in the morning, and we thing our whole life hinges upon finally reaching the bottom. There’s a wonderful finality in making that check-mark on the page. Even crossing an item off the grocery list can give you a sigh of relief.

But, as an entrepreneur, chances are you’re overloading your to-do list. This leads to a lack of focus. You shift to just getting things done rather than taking your time completing a task, giving it the full attention it deserves. So, how do you fix up your to-do list?

1. Aggregate.

 Make an unsorted list of all the things you need to do over the course of the next week or month. Try not to go too far into the future, as things may come up and surprise you. Don’t get started on them yet! Just hold that thought.

2. Prioritize.

We prioritize our to-do lists in our heads all the time, but this time we can be more mathematical about it.

Pick few criteria you want to work with. Examples are “how much time will this take;” “how hard is this;” “is there a deadline.” You definitely need to have a category asking “how important is this to the business.” With each category, you will give the item on your to-do list a number, 1 being the highest.

For example: Creating a Twitter would be a 1 on easy (anyone can do it); depending on your business, a 3 on importance; the time commitment, though, to maintain the Twitter account would be a 4 or a 5.

When you’re done, add these numbers together. Low numbers should shuffle to the top and the higher numbers should bump down the list.

3. Give it a glance.

You know your business better than I. Some things that are most important may have ended up in the higher numbers because they are difficult and they take a long time. Double check to make sure something you absolutely need to do hasn’t fallen to the bottom. But, be discerning. Does it absolutely need to be done? Make sure you bring that back up to the top.

4. Cut it off.

Delete the bottom 30% of the list.

All right, maybe you want to come back and visit these items later. Make a “Lost To-Do List” file on your computer and save this last 30% there. If you have time in your week or month, revisit the list, but chances are, you won’t even get to everything you wanted to get to that remained on the list.

There you have it. A step-by-step way to creating a doable to-do list.

How do you prioritize your to-do list? Share in the comments below.


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Posted on December 3, 2012, in Biz Tips, Entrepreneur, Small Business and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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