Prioritizing tasks on your ‘to do’ list can often be a daunting job in itself, especially when you are trying to keep a whole lot of different people happy. Previously I have discussed focusing on just 3 tasks at a time in my article Make Prioritizing Work Tasks Simple. Another simple way of prioritizing your ‘to do’ list is to put a deadline date (or time) next to each task.
I re-write my ‘to do’ list for the next day each evening before I leave the office. A day can be a long time when working in a small business, situations can transform quickly and the urgency or relevancy of tasks can change like the wind. This is why I find re-writing my ‘to do’ list each day gives me a chance to reassess each task. On top of marking my most dreaded task to do first thing the next morning (discussed in First Job Of The Day, Hard Job Of The Day), I have recently started jotting a deadline date down for each task. What is the latest date each task has to be done by?
You may have a rolling ‘to do’ list or you may revise it more or less frequently than I do, but regardless of how you manage your tasks, without setting deadlines it is just an intimidating lump of work that has to be done. All it takes is a couple of minutes to set your deadlines and your priorities work themselves out. Next time you feel intimidated by your workload, get rid of that overwhelmed feeling by putting setting deadlines for all your tasks and just get stuck in!
When it comes to ticking hard jobs off the ‘to-do list’, I must admit I’m shocking. I’m not the only one though, there are plenty of you out there who are just as bad! I mean come on, who likes doing the crappy jobs when there are some easy ticks sitting there in front of you.
A week or so back I came across a blog that gave a simple (but evidently effective) suggestion on how to get those painful jobs out of the way. Quite simply, make the first job you do when you get into work each morning, the thing on your hit list you are dreading the most. Before you leave the office each night, go through your list of work for the following day and pick out that job. Make sure you set yourself a clear reminder so that when you waltz in bright and breezy the following morning, that job is staring you in the face.
Over the last week I have been giving this a go and it has been surprisingly satisfying. This morning I had a moment around 10am where I felt quietly pleased with myself about what had been accomplished in my first couple of hours at work. Sure, when you think about how you want to start your day it isn’t doing something you aren’t looking forward to. But on the bright side, once it is out of the way the rest of the day seems like a breeze!
If you manage a small business, prioritizing your work tasks is absolutely essential. Any manager in a small business has a never-ending and ever evolving ‘to-do’ list. Identifying the most important jobs to get done can sometimes be as challenging as actually executing them. A simple business practice used by the late Steve Jobs can be easily modified to structure a regular review of your ‘to-do’ list.
Jobs would ask his top people to submit a list of 10 things they needed to get done. Once their list was completed he would tell them they could only do 3 of the tasks. By doing so Jobs ensured his employees wouldn’t get lost in an endless list of work to get done, but focus on the 3 tasks that were absolutely necessary to get ticked off.
This simple practice provides a fantastic tool to evaluate your current work requirement situation regularly. It may be a weekly or daily ritual (regularity will vary based on the complexity of the tasks you are working on) but put aside 5 minutes to review your ‘to-do’ list, highlight your 3 key tasks to complete and make these your focus until there is a tick beside each. Repeat! You’ll be surprised how a simple structure around getting things done can increase efficiency dramatically. It’s also incredibly rewarding to find yourself completing work far more promptly.