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When I first started my business, I really struggled to tick off all my to-do list items throughout the week. I’d end up moving tasks to the next week, then the next, and then letting them fall off the list altogether. In the past few years, though, I’ve developed a system that keeps me productive and eliminates the stress of an ever-growing to-do list.
This is my process for organizing your to-do list for maximum productivity. Listen to the podcast for a full breakdown and my tips for identifying and prioritizing money-making tasks in your business.
Welcome back to another episode of the Intentional Creative Podcast. Today, I want to talk to you all about to-do lists and how to make a really impactful to-do list where you feel good about everything on there, and you also feel like you’re able to get things done before it gets 10 miles long.
I personally struggle with productivity for so long in my business. And most of that was because I was prioritizing the wrong things. I was putting all of the urgent tasks on my business, all of the little tasks that I felt I needed to do that I needed to get done every day to move my business forward. I was doing those little urgent tasks over tasks that were actually important for the longevity and the long-term success of my business.
I’ve tried a ton of different productivity techniques, and today I’m going to share with you some of the ones that have transformed the way I get things done every day and how I run my business.
Before we dive in, though. The first thing I wanted to tell you is that if you’re feeling like you’re not getting the things done that you want to in your business. That you’re always putting off the things that are going to help you grow, that are going to help you attract new clients, charge more for your work. If you’re putting those things off, the problem, isn’t your to-do list. The problem isn’t your lack of a productivity strategy or anything like that. The problem is your priorities. If you don’t have time for something, if time is constantly an excuse that you’re using in your life and in your business, it’s most likely because you don’t have your priorities straight.
While at client work is super important because word of mouth is a thing, right? You want people to have a good experience with you so that they can go tell other people about how wonderful you were. That’s important, right? You’re you want to respond to your client emails? Um, That’s not the only thing that’s important in your business. You need to take care of yourself. You need to prioritize your mental health, your well-being. You also need to prioritize your vision for the business. Where do you see your business in five years? What do you want your business to look like in five years? Because if you’re not doing things every day, that gets you closer to the long-term vision that you have for your business. You’re not going to get there. You’re going to be surprised. Always be surprised by how much time went by and you still didn’t reach those milestones. You still didn’t hit those goals that you set for yourself.
I think this happens all the time for everyone. We get bogged down in the little day-to-day tasks of our business, and we forget to look at the big picture and look at what are those tiny steps we can take each and every day to get closer to our goals.
There are certain things in our business that just really take time before they start to produce results. That could be blogging, that could be posting on social media, showing up in different ways for your ideal clients, these things aren’t going to turn you into an overnight success, but they are things that are going to benefit you six months from now a year from now, two years from now. And if you plan on staying in business that long, they are good things to invest your time in. These are the things that always fall to the bottom of our to-do list. These are the things that we always tell ourselves, “Well, I’ll do that tomorrow. I’ll do that when I have more time when I’m not so busy with client work,” but then before you know it a year has gone by and you haven’t taken any of those small steps, so you’re not seeing the momentum. And you might look around at other people around you who are seeing results from those things because they planted the seeds early on and they nourished them and let them grow, and now they have traffic coming to their website from search engines every single day that they’re not actually having to do anything for now because they grew that marketing strategy over time, and they let it develop organically.
There’s not one strategy that’s going to be right for every single person. It’s really going to be customized for you, for your lifestyle, for what you like to do as a business owner. But whatever that marketing strategy is, whatever that long term strategy is, that’s going to help you grow your business. Start doing it today. Start paying attention to it today. Start planting those seeds so that way you see the results and you will be the one looking around you and saying, wow, look at this foundation I’ve built. Look at this audience of potential clients I’ve built because I put in the time over the last six months to get where you are today.
I could talk about this subject all day long, because I love looking at how tweaking your priorities can change the trajectory of your business.
Now I want to specifically dive into to-do lists and how you can organize your to-do list to be your most productive self.
I personally like to plan out my to-do list at the beginning of every week. I do it Sunday night or first thing, Monday morning, I sit down with a cup of coffee and a piece of paper, and I write out all the tasks that I need to get done this week, just in one giant pile. So, I can see them all in front of me and really visualize how these different things are going to fit together in different days.
Once you have everything laid out in front of you, this is your chance to really edit it down, cut out anything that you don’t absolutely need to get done. Move it to the next week. Outsource it, delete it altogether. I don’t care but clean out that list.
The biggest mistake you can make is thinking you have more time to get things done than you actually do. Set yourself up for success by setting the bar pretty low for yourself. Because if you overcome that bar, if you’re able to actually get everything done on your to-do list, you can tackle those maybes. You can tackle those for later items, but you’ll feel really good because you got the core of your to-do list done.
Now, I typically do this part once a week on a piece of paper, just because I like that tactile feeling of writing it down and checking it off. But I also keep track of everything inside of my productivity tool, Notion. Because Notion is on my phone, it’s on my computer so I can look at it when I’m on the go. I can share items with my team. Notion really saves me a ton of time here, but you can use both of these options. You can have it just on a piece of paper or you can use whatever productivity tool you prefer.
Once I’ve got all my tasks laid out for the week and I’ve edited down to just the ones I absolutely need to get done, I start organizing them into different days. I start with Monday, and I put down what are the tasks that I can feasibly get done on Monday? And I do the same for Tuesday through Friday.
I don’t always write down the tasks in a specific order, but I try to organize them from highest priority to lowest.
And typically for me that looks like five or six different tasks per day.
Once I’ve got my tasks assigned to each day, I go through and add a star to the most important tasks of each day. And I limit this to three stars per day.
If I get all three starred items done in a particular day, I consider it that day, a win and any additional tasks are bonus.
I’m really trying to set myself up to feel positive about my to-do list and feel really good when I get the most important items done.
Now, that I’ve got my entire week planned out on a piece of paper. I move everything over to Notion just to keep it organized there as well.
Then, I look at my calendar to try to find any open blocks of time between meetings to place those larger projects. And I’ll actually block it out on my calendar. So, I know when I get to that day and that time that I meant to work on larger projects. I find there are certain tasks that can kind of squeeze in wherever, like sending emails, sending invoices, any of those smaller tasks that take less than 30 minutes, but any projects that are going to take longer than 30 minutes, I want to make sure I set aside a dedicated chunk of time to get that done.
At the beginning of each day, I refer back to my list. I look at what my big three starred items are for the day, and I make sure that I prioritize those first. And then I work on any of the additional items on my to-do list.
I also follow the “eat the frog” technique, which if you’ve never heard of that, basically, it just means you do the thing you want to do least first and you get it out of the way, so that way you’re free to do other things. I also pay attention to my energy throughout the day. So, for me personally, I know that I’m most productive, typically mid-morning through early afternoon, and then my productivity kind of fades off. So, I saved my most creative work for during the time of the day when I have my creative juices flowing.
Any tasks that I absolutely have to get done in a particular day, maybe because they have a strict deadline, I save those for times of the day when my energy is a little bit lower, because I know I’m going to get them done at no matter what. I always want to prioritize the smaller things that are important, that maybe a little less urgent, so I save those for my most creative time of the day.
If on a particular day, my productivity has hit an all-time low and I feel like I’m distracted and I’m not getting anything done, I implement the Pomodoro technique. And this is a very simple productivity technique that just involves a 25-minute timer. And basically, you start a timer. You do 25 minutes of highly concentrated, productive work time followed by a five-minute break.
During those 25 minutes, you’re only allowed to work on one task.
So there’s no distractions. Do you have to put your phone away, turn off any notifications on your computer? You get that one task done. And if it takes a second Pomodoro, that’s fine. You just continue working on that task during your next 25-minute chunk.
You’d be surprised how much you can actually get done by completing three or four Pomodoro’s in a day. That concentrated work time is so much more powerful than five plus hours of time where you’re checking your phone or looking at Instagram. It’s all about staying focused.
If you listen to my earlier podcast episode about things, I’m doing differently in 2021, you’ll know that I’m only taking client meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Mondays are my admin days. Friday are my client workdays, and then Wednesdays are my content days. This has completely changed how I run my business and how productive I am on a weekly basis.
I know everyone’s schedule is different, but I highly recommend batching your time so that you’re not jumping in and out of meetings every single day of the week, because I find that meetings are the biggest culprit to my lack of productivity.
If you found any of these productivity tips, helpful, come over and say hi on Instagram. I’m @localcreative.co. If you enjoyed this episode, make sure to leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. Thank you so much for listening and I’ll see you in the next one.
How to Organize Your To-Do List
1. Prioritize Your To-Do List Tasks
The most important tasks on your to-do list should be the ones that make you money and grow your business. If you’re constantly putting off these types of tasks – maybe those website updates, new product, or brand refresh – the problem isn’t your to-do list. It’s your priorities.
Be honest with yourself about the difference between the tasks that keep the lights on and the tasks that light you up. Client work is important, but it’s not the most important part of your business.
2. Get Them All On Paper
At the beginning of the week (either Sunday night or Monday morning), I like to sit down with pen and paper and make my master to-do list for the week. This is a list of every single tasks you need to accomplish in the next seven days. Don’t worry about putting them in order, just get them all on paper.
3. Edit, edit, edit!
Next, it’s time to cut down your list. Anything that’s not particularly urgent can wait until next week. If it’s not important or urgent, outsource it or delete it altogether. When you look at your to-do list with an objective eye, you’ll be surprised how many or your tiny tasks aren’t necessary.
4. Plan Your Week
Finally, break your master-do list into daily to-do lists. How many tasks you realistically complete on Monday? For me, it’s usually five to seven. I write them on my Monday list in order of importance, and then I put a star next to the three most important tasks of that day. If I complete those three things, I can use any extra time for the less important ones.
Learn the Process Start-to-Finish
Be sure to check out this week’s episode of the Intentional Creative Podcast for the full breakdown of my to-do list process.
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