How to Tame your To Do List: 4 things you must do to Plan, Prioritise and Organise your Workload
Being organised and methodical is really hard for creative people. There's always a million things you want to be working on, you're working on one project and a fab idea for the next one pops into your head.
You're so excited by this brand new idea, the current thing gets pushed aside in favour of planning the new thing and you end up constantly surrounded by 15 unfinished projects and a nagging idea you've forgotten to do something important (like sleep, or feed your children!)
Unfortunately you can't run a successful business like that! You need to be working on what's most effective for your business' success and not run with every single project that pops into your head!
So how do you run your business in an organised, streamlined way and decide which new and exciting project is worth working on?
Start your planning by writing an immediate goal list and a to do list for the year.
Planning, prioritising and organising your work load are essential for keeping you on the right path for your business.
Plan for maximum Return on Investment (ROI)
ROI basically means the money (or other results) you get in exchange for the investment you put in. This is any investment - from financial and time investments to emotional investments. The aim is to be getting more out than what you put in!
Sometimes it can be really hard to measure your ROI. Nothing is a simple 'investment in' compared to 'cash flow out'. Eg; building up a community in a Facebook group will not bring you direct sales but in the long run will get your name out there as the supportive, helpful, go to person with tonnes of awesome advice in times of struggle with your particular area of expertise.
Even seemingly obvious 'successes' aren't always clear cut. Eg; it's obvious that time spent updating your product titles and tags to contain relevant keywords was worth the investment if it leads to an increase in sales.
But only if that increase covers the cost of your time doing those updates. So consider, would it be worth changing your tags and titles on your top sellers only? Just changing your titles? Just your tags? Concentrating on one product category at a time before doing all the items in your shop?
The problem is, you just don't know what will and what won't work! You can see what has worked for others with similar businesses to yours and what they deem important. But basically, it boils down to trial and error to see what works for you.
You need to be aware of the priorities for your business and what is important at the stage you're currently at. Maximising your ROIs is about prioritising what is important now to get to what is important for the future.
Prioritise your to do list
Need a reminder of the points in this post for a later date? You're in luck - I made you a Free 'Tame your To Do list checklist' and 'Monthly Priorities List' for you to download and print (<< just click the link to download, or the photograph below)
When you are faced with an overwhelming to do list tame it by answering the following questions for each item you've written down (especially for any new or big ideas you've had)
Is it in line with my business and brand vision and ethics?
Ask yourself will it help your target audience and is it something that is important to them? And is it something you really believe will benefit them and not just make you money?
Will doing it take me closer to my goals?
You may have noticed that focus is one of my favourite words! That's because it's important as a work at home Mum to have a clear direction to be heading in so you don't end up spending valuable resources on things that aren't going to help you long term. Any items on your to do list that aren't going to help you reach the goal you are currently working towards need to be made low priority.
Does it really excite me or is it just there because someone said it should be?
This doesn't mean I'm saying you should only do things that are fun because, unfortunately, life isn't like that! But there is no point half heartedly starting something because someone said you should. Doing something badly is going to harm your business more than not doing it. There are often different ways to get to the same end result so find the path that best suits you.
Is it a goal or an action point?
The things you have written down as your yearly aims are likely to be goals. As in, long term achievements you want to make by the end of the year. These goals will need to be broken down into manageable action points for your monthly to do list and diary planning.
Is it something I can actually do?
Is there anything on your list that it is impossible for you to do at this exact moment? This could be for financial reasons, your current skill levels, time constraints or just because you need to do something else first to make it possible! Put these things at the bottom of the list for 'doing later'.
Do I really really need to do it?
Or do you just want to? Or think you should want to? It's really easy to get bogged down by little tweaks and details that you fixate on but nobody else notices! Ask yourself what would happen if you didn't make that one little change to your blog? And if the answer is, 'absolutely nothing', then remove it from the list. If you're not quite ready to do that yet, ignore it for a couple of weeks then come back to it and ask yourself the same question. Chances are you'll probably have forgotten why you thought it was important in the first place!
When does it need to be done by?
Does it have a date for completion? Items with completion dates are the easiest to plan for because you have a concrete timescale. Create your own deadlines for your projects to help you plan and make sure you actually finish them. If you struggle to meet self imposed deadlines tell someone else who will hold you accountable!
What do I have to change to make it happen?
Now we're getting down to the nitty gritty of actually prioritising one thing over another. I'm guessing you're busy. Like, 'can't possibly find another minute in your day' busy. So how are you going to find the time do design a new product and still fulfil current orders? Write your e-book and keep up your blogging schedule? Develop that online course and still do your client work?
You're going to have to make some changes! The changes you make are up to you. You could find some extra time by getting up 15 minutes earlier every day, you could cut back on clients you take on, or reduce your blogging frequency, or ask Granny nicely if she'd like to babysit an extra day a week for the next couple of months. It's not important what you change, it's important that you plan the change and acknowledge that the time you gain is for working on your new project and not fannying about 'being busy'.
Plan in advance
Planning in advance helps you:
Get organised for making seasonal products, writing seasonal blog posts and marketing for popular holidays
Purchase any materials or consumables you need for a project
Do any preparatory work or research that you need to do to get your project started
Auto schedule social sharing ahead of time
Be one step ahead and not have to rush to create content or products.
Plan your marketing strategies in advance
Some things you will be able to plan well in advance. Your seasonal products or content for example can be planned months in advance. It is important to be organised for holidays such as Christmas because the lead up gets earlier and earlier every year and you don't want to be the last one talking about it!
By planning for important dates in advance you can then create a marketing plan for the lead up. For example, if you are planning the launch of a new e-book you can plan your blog posts leading up to the launch to share a teaser or provide an introduction to the topic.
Regular jobs can be planned on a month by month basis, for example - your blog posts, email list topics and social media scheduling.
Are you a paper planner like me? Have a look at my Blog Planner & Bullet Journal Printables for easy to use, hand drawn Planner pdfs created just for Bloggers:
Use your diary or planner
It doesn't matter if you use a digital or pen and paper planner or a combination of the two, you need to make sure you use it effectively. Use stickers, highlighters or coloured pens to differentiate tasks or highlight the most important ones. If you use a digital planner set reminders and events so you don't forget things.
Put your appointments and children's and family activities in your planner
Know what you have to work around in your business planner so you don't double book!
Start with the completion date of whatever you're planning
Put it in when it needs to be done by and work backwards from there to plan what needs to be done and when to meet your deadline.
Be flexible with your planning
Depending on what sort of schedule you have you might need to create a flexible planning schedule. Plan a week at a time rather than planning things for specific time slots or specific days in case you can't get them done when you planned. Even if all you do is write a weekly to do list you will know what needs to be done when you get time to work.
Leave time for your regular tasks
Things you have to do regularly (whether it is daily, weekly or monthly) take time too and tend to get forgotten in favour of the more immediate, fun stuff (don't pretend you don't do it too!) Trouble is, they then don't get done properly because you don't have time or you do them and get behind on the creating stuff and get annoyed and grumpy! (<< Not speaking from experience there. Honest!) So things like social media, writing your blog, doing your accounts, keeping your work space tidy, need to be planned in too. (I really should take my own advice on this one!!) Don't forget time for fulfilling customer orders too!
Have a contingency plan
Don't plan something into all of your hours. Sometimes things go wrong, you might have a family emergency, come down with a bug and feel too ill to work for a few days, your twins might decide they're not sleeping till 10pm for 3 nights on the trot (surely mine aren't the only ones that do that!). So plan a contingency day for 'when things go horribly wrong'. This should stop you getting too behind, getting disheartened and giving up on your plan! If you get everything done on time (<< tell me your secret!), actually give yourself some time off or work on something for fun.
Cross things out or give them a big tick when you've done them
It's so satisfying to be able to say 'job done!' and have a visible record of all the progress you have made.
Time to Take Action! Take a looong, hard look at your to do list - is it as out of control as my twins? (that are currently at 11 on the 1-10 'out of control' scale!) Use the Free 'Tame your To Do list checklist and Monthly Priorities List I made you to get it back under control!
Don't forget to join us at The Badass BusinessMum's Club for your Free, Exclusive 69-page Productivity workbook (and weekly email lessons and a Private Facebook group!)