Is Your To-Do List Killing You?

toddler holding head in frustration

I’m a bit of a to-do list junkie. However, those lists can derail rather than boost productivity if you don’t create and manage them effectively. Check out executive business coach Chris Belfi’s expert advice in his article below. He suggests one simple change that will transform your ordinary to-do list into a take-action-and-get-it-done list.


One tip to make your to-do list work for you — not against you

What do you see when you look at your to-do list?

Highly specific action steps — or vague ideas that make you want to bang your head on your desk instead of getting to work?

What does a vague to-do list look like?

This is a common mistake I see advisors make all the time. And the worst part is, their lack of to-do list progress gets self-labeled as laziness and procrastination. So, if you have ever looked at your to-do list in frustration and blamed yourself for not building momentum, perhaps you are not the problem. Maybe your to-do list is sabotaging your efforts. 

Let’s pull up your to-do list right now. Maybe you use a notepad, a checklist on your phone, or a Google Doc. Open it up — and look for offenders that look like this. 

  • Parents’ anniversary
  • Dermatologist
  • Car
  • Roof
  • Paraplanner

Can you notice a pattern between these to-do items?

That’s right. None of these are actions. Items like this are a symptom that you haven’t actually decided what it is you need to do. Let me throw out a prediction: it’s probably not going to get done.

Ready to fix your to-do list?

Great! Let’s look at each of these items and figure out exactly what it is that you need to do. A new list might look something like this. 

  • Login to 1-800-Flowers.com and order flowers for parents
  • E-mail Christine to ask for contact info on her dermatologist
  • Call Mike to schedule tire rotation and oil change for the car
  • Login to Angie’s list to look up 3 local roofing contractors to request repair quotes
  • Review 10 resumes in my files to identify 3 candidates to interview for paraplanner position

When your to-do list is filled with specific, concrete, physical actions, you have set yourself up for success.

I know what you’re thinking.

“But Chris, that’s too much work to boil down every item on my to-do list to a specific, concrete, physical action.”

You’re right. It is hard work. It’s also hard and frustrating to be overwhelmed by vague items on your to-do list. 

And here’s the truth. If you want to make progress on your list, you will have to define those specific actions at some point. By deciding now, you make it much easier to get it done later. It’s in your own best interest to invest energy in defining and clarifying next actions before they get a chance to slow you down.

Too often, you miss opportunities to get something done (and create more time for yourself and your family) because you don’t have enough mental energy to decide exactly what needs to be done.  Don’t make this mistake. Banish vague items from your to-do list — and watch your productivity soar!

This article was originally published on ModelFA.com

Author Bio:

CHRIS BELFI

Chris Belfi is the founder and CEO of MaxPotential Coaching.

His company works with executive-level leaders and business owners and who are drowning in their own success and feel underwater in a sea of things they are supposed to get done. Through proven techniques, MaxPotential Coaching allows executives to take control of their endless to-do list and the other details of their lives and work, go home on time, and create the space to do what matters most to them.

How To Avoid Administrative Angst & Procrastination Pileup

They appear innocent enough.

Those seemingly non-urgent pain in the @*# tasks you figure you’ll get to sometime. Maybe on a slow day or some other time when you find yourself Piles-of-workmotivated to tackle them.

So you put them on the back burner.

You’ve got more important things to do, right? There’s no sense in letting them take you away from your “real work.”

But the problem with ignoring small—yet eventually necessary—tasks when you’re self-employed is the longer you put them off, they bigger they become. They pile up. And then, instead of demanding just a few minutes of your time, they transform into mammoth undertakings that could require hours on end to get them under control.

Sound familiar?

Avoid Unnecessary Stress: Take a few minutes; Save a few hours.

 Working as a freelance writer these past five years, I’ve learned that procrastination nearly never has a positive outcome. It’s true when approaching work for clients—and when taking care of the administrative details that come with running a business solo. Here’s my short list of tasks that can go from “manageable” to “mayhem” if you save them for later rather than nipping them in the bud.

Generating invoices – Depending how many clients you have, you could find yourself spending hours producing invoices and sending them if you wait to do all of them at the same time. For project work, consider billing customers after you’ve completed the work instead of waiting until the end of the month. If you’ve got multiple recurring monthly assignments requiring invoices dated the first of the month, set a schedule to create them ahead of time so you’re not scrambling at the last minute.

Logging your accounts receivables and deposits – Matching up invoices with checks and logging deposit dates can get harrowing if you’ve got a pile of them awaiting your attention. Save yourself the headache by tracking them in your accounting system as they arrive.

Filing paper copies – As much as I do business electronically, I do still keep some paper records on file. I know many other solopreneurs and small business owners who do, too. Again, putting them where they belong nearly as soon as they cross your desk can save you the hassle of shuffling through mass quantities.

Balancing your checkbook and reconciling your bank statement – If you like nightmares, let two or three or more months pass by before you pay attention to these tasks. While reviewing and matching up your checkbook’s records with those on your bank statement and in Quickbooks (or Freshbooks or Excel or whatever accounting tool you’re using) may never be a dream come true for you, it will go so much easier if you take care of it promptly each and every month. Plus, if there’s any discrepancy between what you’ve recorded and what your bank’s reporting, you’ll want to address it with them ASAP.

Logging your business mileage – That 56 cents per mile deduction can add up—and so can the time you’ll need to spend if you wait too long before logging the miles you’ve put on your car going to business meetings and events. I regrettably procrastinate on this one every quarter and then find myself muttering choice words under my breath as I scour my Google Calendar for the appointments I attended over the prior three months.

 With all of the above, I’ve learned that a few minutes now can save many minutes (sometimes hours) later. While you may feel tempted to put off those little to dos until tomorrow…or the next day…or the one after that, don’t procrastinate! It’s a mean, spiteful practice that will come back to bite you.

What administrative tasks have piled up on you lately?

By Dawn Mentzer (Struggling with writing fresh content for your blog? Drop me a note!)
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ post

 

 

Image courtesy of Gualberto107 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net