If you’re like most entrepreneurs, you have a lengthy to-do list that gets longer no matter how hard you work. And it could get frustrating when results seen barely compensate for the hours of work. So how do we ensure our to-do lists produce maximum results?
The tendency is for most entrepreneurs to organise their to-do lists based on deadlines, seemingly urgent issues that need to be addressed first. A better, smarter approach is to prioritise your list by what matters most.
As such, there are only two types of tasks that should really matter to entrepreneurs. The first can broadly be described as “whatever makes money in the near future,” such as writing proposals, returning prospect calls, researching your customers’ needs to satisfy them better, etc. The second is “whatever will make customers happy.”
People feel compelled to finish tasks just because they are on the to-do list, especially if a deadline looms. But what good is crossing off an item on your to-do list if it doesn’t make you money or thrill your customers?
A consistent flow of cash is the lifeblood of your business. If you can make money in the next 30 days by getting an item on your list done, then make that item a priority. Same goes for any task that will win you ecstatic customers, who might reward you with repeat business or rave about you to potential customers. Everything else? Not so much.
Here’s how to turn your to-do list into a productive, money-making machine:
1. Maintain a paper task list. Most computer software emphasises due dates and percentages complete, which isn’t our focus. So get out your writing pad and start scribbling down your to-dos.
2. Create two columns: one labelled, “TYPE” and one labelled, “TASK.” In the “TASK” column, write down everything you need to get done.
3. In the “TYPE” column, write a naira sign next to each task that, when completed, you are confident would bring in money in the next 30 days. Then, put a smiley face next to any items that, when finished, will make your customers happy. Now, you have a short list of the really important tasks, a list you can manage, a list that will have an immediate, positive impact on your business.
4. Start ticking off items with naira signs and smiley faces once they get done. When you dive into a new task, highlight it. This way, if you get distracted by the phone, or email, or meetings, you can instantly get back on track by going to the highlighted task. When you complete a task, cross it off your list and go on to the next naira sign or smiley face task.
5. As you move through your day, new to-do items will come up. Write them down as soon as they come to mind so you can get back to your task at hand without worrying about remembering fleeting thoughts, or getting sidetracked contemplating how to complete that task. Then, at the end of your day, review your new to-do list items and, if applicable, add a naira sign or smiley face.
This simple approach is a very effective productivity strategy. Sure enough, it consistently improves business because you’re bringing in money and making customers pleased. If cash is flowing and the customers are happy, who cares if you never get around to other tasks?
Make this an attitude: Never sacrifice what is important for the sake of what is urgent.