I get it. You’ve got loads to do at work and you don’t know where to start. We’ve all been there. First things first – write them down. You’ll never remember them all if you can’t refer back to them. You might think you’ve got it covered but you’ll probably forget the most important one at the least convenient time. That’s how things like this work. Running a business can be challenging at the best of times, so you need to keep things simple where you can. Even small changes to your routine can help streamline your operations, freeing up time for more important duties.
I know you’re rolling your eyes thinking that you’re above such secretarial tasks, but you’re not. If you want to get things done in an orderly fashion you’re gonna have to bite the bullet and start keeping things in order. Believe me, I know how being disorganised can affect your work-life. I used to run one of the least organised business around. In the end, it affected my bottom line. So it definitely needs addressing for your business.
Efficiency. It’s all anyone talks about these days. I know it’s important, but other things matter too. You don’t want to be in a position where you don’t know what you’re doing, or what to do next. “To-do” sound fussy and doesn’t really fit with the high-powered businessman you’re trying to convince people you are. But they really are helpful, especially if you’re like me and have trouble organising things or deciding what you’re gonna do next.
Now I’m not saying you need to write EVERYTHING down. Get up, brush your teeth, get dressed. Hopefully you’ve got those covered. It’s the new tasks you need to add to your list. Ones you haven’t done before or don’t do very often. They’re the easiest to forget.
The problem with being disorganised is that it reeks of un-professionalism. You want to present a version of yourself that people want to work with. I’ve had clients turn up for meetings completely under-prepared, and it’s made me question whether I want to do business with them. You don’t want that.
So you’ve decided to start writing things down. That’s a good first step. The problem is, many people start with the right intentions but they never stick it out. And that’s often because they’re writing the wrong things down. Most people create to-do lists that are too broad and not specific enough, it’s a common mistake.
I’ll give you an example – It’s easy to simply write “find new customers”. whilst that’s well intentioned enough – it’s nowhere near as specific you need to be. Such vagueness is easy to ignore. It’s easy to procrastinate or do small tasks first that do little to achieve your goals. You need to break it down into bite-size pieces that can be clearly carried out. How are you going to get more customers for your business? It might be an appropriate title for your list, but it needs specific sub-headings that have clear actions. Contact the local newspaper and purchase some advertising space, phone the local radio station and sponsor a prize give-away, introduce a discount scheme for new customers. These are all examples of things you can do to get new customers, and it’ll be clear when you look at your list as to whether you’ve done them or not.
Here’s another one – “make your office more presentable to visitors”. It’s well-meaning, but it’s not specific enough. I used to have a messy office, and I’m sure I lost customers because of it. But how are you going to tackle it? Paint the walls, install new windows, hire a cleaner, revamp your filing system. That’s right – be specific.
It’s also important that you work through your list one by one. I’ve known people who’ll simply tick off the “easy” tasks whilst continuously putting off the harder ones. Don’t skip items on your list. If you leave the harder things till last, chances are you’ll conveniently “forget” about your list altogether. Work down your list one thing at a time, or even better – do the hardest things first.
3 steps to list-writing success
1. Write everything down. Simple. It might seem like a brainless tip but you’d be surprised how many people delay getting things down on paper. Procrastination never helps, so get on with it and get things written down. The sooner the better. If you want, you can do separate lists for different areas of your life, such as work and home. Although this can work, you might find yourself with too many lists. And you’ll also find lots of items which could go on a number of lists – making it hard to make a final decision. I like to keep one list because it’s simple and reduces workload. Simplicity wins in situations like this.
2. Rank items on your list, from A to F, with A being the most important and F being the least. Some people like to rank their lists by writing them in order, but you’ll probably forget something at first which might mess up your order. Get everything down and then decide which is the most important.
3. Work through the list and try and do the most important things first. I’ve already explained why this is important, but it’s obviously better if you demote and neglect less important items rather than the crucial ones.