Stay On Top Of Tasks With This New Approach

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These days, we all have too much to do, and not enough time to do it all in.

Even leisure time seems to be fraught with the need to get to certain places at certain times, and our lives seem to need tightening down to the very last second to make sure we don’t screw up, miss appointments and deadlines, or simply let things slide.

This new pressure to perform well at all times can take its toll, and it’s more critical for business than in any other aspect of our lives.

When we work for ourselves, we lose out on a lot of the advantages of reporting to a manager. In an office environment, we have set objectives that need to be fulfilled each day, and when we reach the end of that list of things to achieve we pretty much know that the rest of the day is our own.

By the time it comes to five o clock, we are ready to go home safe in the knowledge that we have done what we needed to get by, perhaps a little extra on top, and we can enjoy the rest of the evening feeling smug and self-satisfied.

Working for ourselves is a whole different matter

The main difference between managing our own workload and letting someone else do that on our behalf is, when we set our own task list, it is never ending. Even if we say to ourselves, I need to achieve these six tasks today, when they are done we can’t quite let go enough to walk away and take the rest of the day or evening off.

This is why being in complete control of our activity schedule as small business bloggers is absolutely critical. If we know what needs to be done, and when it needs to be done by, we are in a much stronger position for making our business a success and also earning ourselves some time out to spend on other things than work.

I have a system in place with a colleague of mine, where each day we Skype each other and list the activities we need to complete for the day, in order to know we have done a good job for our respective businesses.

The following day, we check in with each other and tick off what we have done.

This works on many levels – we get to sense check our priorities with each other, and also it adds a little extra pressure on us both to hit our targets for the day. It’s making me more productive, and I wanted to share this trick with you as I think it’s a valuable thing to do.

A new approach…

When you have too much on every day, the best way to tackle it is to write a list, number it in order of priority, and tell yourself exactly what you are going to achieve, by a set timescale.

When this is done, you also need to reward yourself by walking away from your computer and taking time out. If we don’t have managers in place to do all this for us, it’s not too bad an idea to decide to manage ourselves in exactly the same way.

By taking control of our proverbial ships, and steering them in the right direction, we’ll get to jump off and go for a swim, from time to time!

P.S. I lied about the ‘new approach’…writing down your workload in a list has been around for years…but have your tried it?

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21 Responses to Stay On Top Of Tasks With This New Approach

  1. Satrap August 25, 2011 at 8:37 pm #

    This post is so timely for me Andrew. I have so much to do in a day that sometimes I become overwhelmed and end up doing nothing!

    For the past few weeks I have been thinking about doing the same thing, writing a to do list for each day and completing them one by one.

    I have done this in the past off and on and it works great. You get lots of things done without wasting time and being distracted. But for some reason, I cant stick to it.

    By the way, do you know of any free plugin or software that helps with keeping a to do list and alerting you when time is up for a specific task or something along that line?…

    Thanks.

    • Andrew August 27, 2011 at 3:29 pm #

      Satrap

      I’m not aware of any software but I am createing a free forum where you will be able to list (and tick off) your daily tasks.

      I’m just doing some final testing and hope to talk about it very soon.

      I’ll keep you posted.

      Andrew

  2. David August 26, 2011 at 9:43 am #

    Sometimes even i’ve listed what I need to do for my online business, but I still couldn’t get everything done. Set a realistic goal is important.

    As a part time blogger, our struggle is really too little time to work on our business. We really have to have more self-discipline.

    • Andrew August 27, 2011 at 3:30 pm #

      David,

      Perhaps you are listing too many things.

      You need to focus and really ask yourself, “Is what I am doing taking me closer to my goal?”.

      If it’s not, stop it and start something that will.

      Andrew

  3. Kathy Ver Eecke August 26, 2011 at 7:18 pm #

    Hey Andrew: it’s funny, for me writing down my list has become a way to procrastinate. I can spend a ton of time perfecting my list, making it look nice, finding different ways to format it. I even created this very complex cork board, colored post it note contraption thinking if I had a cool visual of the list it would help. Not so much.

    The idea of checking off the list with someone else though…that’s golden. I’ll go make a list of possible people to work with….

    • Andrew August 27, 2011 at 3:32 pm #

      Kathy

      My skype friend and I have created a free forum where people can work together and add their ‘to do’ list (and tick them off).

      I’m just doing some final testing and will talk about it soon.

      Andrew

  4. Ana August 27, 2011 at 10:08 am #

    Sneaky! LOL

    It is true that we pressurize ourselves too much. I agree with Kathy that a daily to do list causes me to procrastinate. I prefer to use a project list. In that way I work on one project and I am able to see progress on one task, instead of doing little bits on ten different projects.

    Great article though!

    • Andrew August 27, 2011 at 3:35 pm #

      Ana,

      I suppose we are all different.

      I like to work on projects AND other tasks.

      So if I am setting up a sales page for a client that could be classed as a project and I may list several things to do. But I also want to complete several tasks outside of that project like write a blog post or do some finances or provide a quote for a new cleint…

      Andrew

  5. Benjamin Hübner August 27, 2011 at 11:20 am #

    I´ve done this for quite some time and it works wonder!

    You can increase the effectivety of this method and your productivity if you follow the following two steps in addition :

    Write your list for the next day. This should be the last you are doing in your work day. (For the next)

    Start with the most challeging task you need to archieve this day. This can massively increase your productivity.

    • Andrew August 27, 2011 at 3:36 pm #

      Benjamin

      I agree with writing the list the night/day before.

      But I like to get a few small things out of the way first before I tackle the bigger jobs.

      Just shows we are different. No one way is right.

      Andrew

  6. Corinne Edwards August 28, 2011 at 10:06 pm #

    Dear Andrew –

    Been doing the list thing for years. Labeling from A to D.

    I even put things on the list I have already done to inspire me so I can cross them all off.

    (Yes, you suspected I was a little crazy)

    The problem I have found is I tend to do the easy stuff first instead of the important.

    Good idea having a buddy to hold you accountable.

    • Andrew August 29, 2011 at 3:30 pm #

      Corinne

      I often do the easy stuff first – just to get it out the way. Otherwise it can distract me.

      Andrew

  7. fred August 31, 2011 at 5:35 am #

    >>>P.S. I lied about the ‘new approach’…writing down your workload in a list has been around for years…but have your tried it?

    Genuine LOL at the way you ending this article! =P
    Keeping lists of what needs to be done is of course an age-old practice, and one that I’ve TRIED to make us of, Lord knows, and within the past few years its manifested as constantly open notebook txt files that sit on my desktop, infinitely open, trying to remind me what needs to be done.
    Somehow this doesn’t work. It ends up being just as easy to brush aside and procrastinate as if I hadn’t had a list on the screen at all.
    This leads me to believe that there is something about the quality of having something tactile and real, sitting in front of you, on a real piece of paper that reminds you more solidly than virtual notepads can.

    • Andrew September 1, 2011 at 11:38 am #

      Fred,

      Does the ‘buddy’ idea grab you?

      Would you feel more accountable?

      Andrew

  8. SEO Company Los Angeles August 31, 2011 at 11:06 pm #

    This is great advice! I’ve been doing numbered to do lists for about the past month, and I feel like I am a LOT more productive than I was before I was doing it. Thanks for the tip! 🙂

    ~Natasha

  9. Jym September 6, 2011 at 11:39 am #

    When it comes to productivity, these simple tips are the most powerful.

    I find that a core list on paper, updates daily for the following day to reflect tasks still to be completed, is far more effective than lists on-screen.

    Love your point about keeping connected with a partner. Could be a mentor as well – any kind of external accountability reference can make a big impact. Of course, it helps if you’re working together to spur each other on to new heights of efficiency and productivity!

    Thanks Andrew, nice tips, love that you lied as well 🙂

    • Andrew September 21, 2011 at 12:32 pm #

      Jym,

      I agree – the external factor really helps. It makes me focus.

      Andrew

  10. Toby September 7, 2011 at 6:48 am #

    No I haven’t tried making I list yet. My current task is already enough to consume a day. I have so many plans and so many things to do; it disappoints me that I don’t have time to them. I will make a list with schedule; I just wish I have both the speed and accuracy.

  11. Michael September 13, 2011 at 4:47 pm #

    It is really interesting to see the different ways people schedule their tasks. Personally i prefer to complete the big projects first to get them out of the way so then i can relax a little when i know i have a lot of smaller, easier tasks to complete.
    But if i somehow cant do a big task, i really panic! haha

  12. Nitin Agrawal September 17, 2011 at 7:09 am #

    Hey! Andrew I have already started listing my task,,
    Ya sure it gonna be a useful for us…
    I have a busy schedule,, unable to complete task on time,,, hope this will solve my problem

    • Andrew September 21, 2011 at 12:32 pm #

      Nitin

      Let us know if it helps – thanks.

      Andrew

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