How to Get your To-do List under Control

Article By: Temi Koleowo 

As a business owner, do you create a to-do list or do you just do whatever comes to mind every day? Is your to-do list too long to get through in a day? Do you end the day frustrated because you could not tick a completed task on your list? Don’t despair; you can still get your to-do list under control to compliment your time management strategies.

What is There to Do?

A to-do list is a list of priorities, not a list of wishes neither is it a mind map with tentacles spiraling out of control. There is a place for short and long-term goals and there is also a place for your priority list. Your to-do list should consist of tasks you need to accomplish within a short space of time i.e. 48 hours or less. If you have tasks that you should complete in a week’s time or more, you should use your diary or daily planner to note those due dates.

Tips for a Good To-do List

Before you start a to-do list, you need to know the regular business tasks you do daily. Once you identify them, create your tasks list and categorise them into MUST-DO, NEED-TO-DO and WANT-TO-DO.

When to make your list - It is best to make up your to do list (if time permits) a day before your first working day of the week. This will enable you to start the week with good focus and energy. It will also rid you of wasting time trying to think of what you need to do each day.

Must-Do List - also called “A” level tasks can fall under two categories. For example meeting your client at 11am on Monday is a priority therefore a ‘must do’. Whilst returning a phone
call is also a priority, it can be done later in the day. Some ‘must-do’ tasks can be done the next day whilst some just can’t wait. Remember to make sure the ones you shift to tomorrow do get done then. If your website says you will respond to all enquiries within 48 hours then response to enquiries should be one of your “A” level tasks but with 48 hour flexibility depending on the urgency.

Need-To-Do List - are “B” level tasks which also need to done within a certain specified time frame. These are also important tasks but could be deferred for a day or two. Make sure you get the right balance for your business with your “must do” and “need to do” tasks. Checking out your competitors does not carry as much weight as sending out your orders on time so clients receive their orders on the stipulated dates.

Every business task carries a different degree of urgency at various times of the year. It is the responsibility of the business owner to constantly identify and analyze the ones that will promote and profit your business and prioritize them accordingly.

Want To Do List - there are some business tasks that contribute to the development of your business, but need to be on the back burner if there are other pressing priorities. These “C”
tasks can be done but should be after all other “A” and “B” priorities for the day have been ticked off the list as DONE. You can easily move them to the next day’s list or even a week later. Alternatively slot them into your down-time during your working hours.

Points to Remember:

  • Do not confuse your personal “want to do” list with your business tasks.
  • Map out time during your lunch break or after work for the things you like to do for leisure rather than build them into your working hours - especially internet surfing!
  • Once you have identified your business tasks develop a realistic weekly schedule.
  • To-do-lists are meant to be flexible, so don’t give up if it doesn’t go according to plan for the first few weeks. Just keep working at it until it becomes a part of your daily routine.
  • You can create a paper or electronic to-do list, just make sure it is easy to access and use.
  • Do not make your list too short, too long or unattainable but still challenge yourself.
  • Colour code each category so you can spot priority tasks at a glance.
  • Remember to cross out completed tasks.
  • Transfer tasks that cannot be completed to next day’s schedule. If you carry the same task over five days in a row, you may need to reassess your business priorities and tasks.
  • Revisit and edit your to-do list regularly so no business task falls through the crack.

There are some tasks that cannot be completed in one day. You should therefore split these tasks into mini tasks and complete a part of the task each day. It is advisable to give each task a time slot during your working hours. For example – you can allocate an hour to email responses, three hours a day for client’s work, one hour to call suppliers and debtors etc.

Make sure your tasks are realistic and make your to-do list work for you and not against you or your business.

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  1. Thanks for this. I have just started writing lists after reading “Eat that Frog”, yes that is a title of a book lol. It tells you in there to use the A B C method. So far I think I am getting more work done by writing lists and it certainly has made me more organised. Great post :)

  2. Great article. Informative, pratical and chock full of tips. Thanks for the advice on getting those pesky ‘To Do’ lists nailed and hopefully I can nail the tasks ont hem now :-)