Your To-do List Isn’t the Enemy! These tips will help you focus on your goals!
Maintaining focus on your goals is hard—I mean really hard. I don’t need to tell you, though; you’re an entrepreneur. You are likely already performing a virtual juggling act with your email, calendars, website, and various different platforms, while simultaneously walking the metaphorical tightrope in the real world, balancing clients in each arm with a stack of proposals teetering atop your noggin.
How can you possibly know what and how to prioritize when everything seems so important?
Here are 6 steps you can walk through whenever you are in an inefficiency rut from an inability to focus on your goals.
Following them will help you determine what you need to focus on and what can wait.
1.) Make a list of all the projects and to-do’s that are on your list.
Include literally everything—from client work to planning, to invoicing, even trips to the post office. No task is too small!
2.) Order them by the value they provide to your business.
Ask yourself how you define value in your business. Is it a client’s perception? Is it increasing partnerships? Website visits? Shares on social media?
Ultimately, it all comes down to monetary value. You can’t pay your overhead with a client’s perception, but if they love and trust your company, they are going to refer you to others. This positive word of mouth indirectly impacts your bottom line because those referrals turn into new customers. So, you might think about value in terms of the most profitable task per hour spent, whether directly or indirectly. Weighing the value of items that don’t already have a specific dollar value attached against those that do can be tricky, so I suggest using a point system to access value.
For example, focus on client work will directly bring in money to support the business, so it may seem like the bulk of your time should be spent there. But when you use the point system to access value, you might realize with each partnership you develop, you usually bring in 3 new clients, so the value of networking and developing partnerships is triple that of a single client project. Of course, in this example you would also want to consider the value of your client’s perception and how that leads to future business. You’ll also need to quantify reach and impact when it it comes to those tasks that are less tangible. Assign more points to the tasks that have the farthest reach or impact the most people than those that produce minimal results.
3.) Ask what will be the impact of not doing certain tasks and projects.
This question can help you differentiate when priorities appear to compete on the same level. That update to your homepage might be important but can it wait until tomorrow so you can interview a top industry influencer for your podcast and make a mark on an entirely new audience of substantial size?
4.) Trust that with clear prioritizing and maintaining focus, you will actually get more done in the end.
Our instincts tell us to avoid change. Thus, breaking free from our habits is daunting. It makes sense to believe that training ourselves to do something in a new way might actually take more time than simply sticking with the old way of trying to get everything done at once. But you wouldn’t be reading this if that old way of doing things was actually working.
It seems counter-intuitive, but spinning too many plates at once is a massively ineffective waste of time. You lose track of where you were, your head is in a thousand places, you make mistakes because you are moving too quickly, or your attention is divided too thin. Each of these has repercussions and recovering from them takes time. You will be more effective with a “less is more” strategy.
5.) Know the difference between urgent and important
The late Stephen Covey popularized the idea of the Time Management Matrix. It’s a 2 by 2 matrix that enables you to group tasks in one of four categories:
- Urgent and important
- Urgent and not important
- Important but not urgent
- Neither important nor urgent
Take that list of high-value tasks you created earlier and determine where they land in this matrix, this will enable you to easily prioritize. If you are always running from one urgent thing to the next, you have a few deeper problems. Here are some possibilities of where you might be getting caught up and losing focus on your goals:
- Planning. Are you planning ahead well enough?
- Time Blocking. Are you blocking enough time well in advance, to work on projects, or waiting until it’s last minute and has to get done?
- Clarity. How clear are you with your team about expectations for their deliverables, that impact your deliverables?
- Reality. How realistic are you about how long things actually take?
Take note of what your personal roadblocks, remove them, and get out of your own way.
6.) Narrow it down
Now that your list of tasks is prioritized and you’ve enabled your self to complete them, pick the top 5 tasks. From there, narrow it to the top 3. Everything else on your list can wait. How long will depend on the size and scope of your projects. Place those items on a separate list and title it “The Not Now or Not Yet list”. Don’t worry, these items won’t wait forever. You’ve just created a more efficient process that will allow you to get a LOT more done
Now that you know what steps to take, you can walk through them each time you need to determine what you need to focus on and what can wait. Regular prioritizing and calendaring accordingly will help you run your business more effectively. So make your lists, block out time, and get to work!
Let’s continue this conversation in the comments section. Do you have any tried-and-true methods you use to keep laser-focus on your goals??