Every successful person practices the skill of finishing a to-do list.
Have you ever found yourself looking through scraps of paper on your desk and find an old to-do list that you never completed? It happens. You get busy. You are in charge. Important people and events pull you in forty different directions at once. You may overlook that to-do list for today. If you’re busy enough, nobody will blame you.
Well, nobody will blame you anyway. You’re in charge. Except, people tend to know if you are the kind of person who does what they say they’ll do. In the search for success, this quality, the ability to follow through on a commitment, plays a vital role.
You made that list for a reason. Everything on it needed to get done. If something goes undone, your business will be affected. However, you are busy. So what do you do? You prepare your strategy ahead of time.
First, keep in mind how much time you have. Do you have all day? Do you have two Zoom meetings today, cutting into the amount of time you have to work? If you have all day your list can be longer than a list for the day with two meetings. This advice seems obvious, but it’s remarkable how often we overlook the fact. Be careful about how much time you need and compare it to what you have available.
Second, batch items. Must you do this or that task? No? You can delegate and move to another issue that requires your attention. The “delegate” batch of items will help ease your pain a lot. Also, batch similar tasks. Each email you read and respond to is not a separate task. “Checking email” is one task. Make exceptions to this as necessary, but usually, email is one thing. What else do you need to do that you can batch together?
Third, a good list never has more than six items on it. You and I might want to do more than six things. We may look around our business and say to ourselves, “There are so many more than six things that need doing!” The problem is, we can only use the time we have, and we probably have enough time for one or two large tasks and three or four small ones. If we are realistic, we can accept the time we have as a guide. Assign items to tomorrow if you need to and can.
Picking six things provides benefits. For example, if you’re lucky enough to get all six done in record time, you can always choose one more thing. Completing the list feels great, also. Even if you do have some time at the end of the day to add one more item, knowing you made it through your list feels terrific.
Fourth, having batched your items, delegated what you can, and prioritized the six things you can accomplish today, make a schedule. Assign a time for each to-do list item. Schedule yourself a few minutes between each item, also. You’ll need to stand up, stretch your legs, get some water. Leave room in your day for those not-so-little things which seem little. If you find yourself ahead of your schedule, this, too, will empower you. It will feel good. You will have to option of moving other items up in your day.
Fifth, keep your list where you can see it. Put it in a spot that gives your list the power to keep you focused. If it goes in your drawer, it won’t help as readily. ProTip: it may not work on your phone or computer, either. A physical copy placed in an unmissable spot will more likely move you than a calendar or reminder list you have to pull up digitally.
Finally, whenever you tell a client, an investor, a team member, or anyone else that you will do something, get that task on a list. Perhaps it goes on the list for two days from now, but it goes on a list. Follow-through is about doing what we say we will do. Maintaining a useful to-do list is the secret to getting things done.
Unsuccessful people create to-do lists. You and other successful people like you finish them!
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