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How to Defeat Your To-Do List

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Stephanie Davis

An appealing aspect of becoming a small business owner is the ability to be your own boss and run things the way you want. While this is exciting, it can become overwhelming fast when you realize how many tasks are on your to-do list. When you are the one running the show, how do you prioritize all of your tasks to be your most productive self?

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Analyze Your To-Do List

Having a to-do list is the first step in identifying and triaging what tasks you need to tackle. However, a to-do list is more than just a list of priorities. The most effective to-do lists help you rationalize the best way to work your way through the list.

For example, handling the tasks you don't want to do first can lead to higher productivity for the rest of the day. The reasoning is that if you push those tasks off, you'll be filled with that feeling of dread all day about having to do them and therefore end up distracted while trying to complete other critical tasks.

Is your list full of quick, easy tasks? If these types of tasks frequently pop up on your list, you can avoid clogging up your list by doing the task as soon as it appears, instead of even adding it. This trick will automatically free up your list to focus on tasks that will be a bit more time consuming.

Tip: You can also consider getting nerdy with your to-do list by using Eisenhower's Principle to categorize tasks: important and urgent; important but not urgent; not important but urgent, and not important and not urgent.

Early Bird vs Night Owl

Do you wake up in the morning with a feeling of excitement to hit the ground running? Or do you reach your peak later in the afternoon? Knowing when you work best can help you tackle your to-do list in a strategic way. If you have more energy in the afternoon, save the tasks that require some more brain power for them and focus on some easier tasks in the morning. Every small business is different and you may not be able to have as much flexibility when it comes to this flexible schedule, but if you do take advantage.

Tip: Another time-based consideration comes into play if you are working with remote teams and/or clients in different time zones: you'll want to structure your tasks for those areas based on overlap with the remote team or client in order to gain the most efficiency and highest chance for timely resolution.

Avoid Social Traps

Have you ever been facing a big deadline and all of a sudden find yourself sucked into a Facebook scrolling marathon for 20 minutes? Social media sites are huge time sucks because it's so easy to just keep scrolling through your feed. When you have a task you need to focus on, stay off of the social platforms. Don't have the self-control? Ask somebody to change your password or make a deal that you have to pay a dollar every time you log in when you should be focused. You can then put that money towards a team outing or something new for your business. You can still continue to use social media for your small business purposes but try to avoid your personal accounts.

Tip: If self-restraint isn't your thing, there's an app for that. Consider a plug-in like Cold Turkey Blocker which will allow you to block designated web pages, sites, social platforms, and apps for specific periods of time.

Turn to Technology

We live in a mobile, technologically advanced world. Apps have evolved and you can find one for just about any need or want you to have. This includes apps that can help you stay productive. Whether you are looking for apps that can help you manage your to-do list, apps that remind you to take breaks, or even app versions of software you use frequently such as PowerPoint or Word, you can have some technical assistance to stay on track.

Tip: Wondering what to-do list/productivity app is best for your needs? PC Mag ranked some of the most popular.

Take Productive Breaks

All work and no play leads to burnout. It's important to get your work done and reach your goals, but you'll actually reach them faster when you take scheduled breaks. Just a few minutes every hour can help give you that extra pep in your step to power through your list. You could call a friend, go for a walk, or just this once check in on your social networks for the latest news. These breaks may also give you a new idea for your business. Some of the best ideas happen when you're chilling out focusing on nothing at all.

Bottom Line

There are plenty of tools and tricks out there to help you increase and improve productivity. Being your own boss means you can craft your to-do list and day in a way that makes sense for you. If juggling all of the balls gets too difficult, you can always look to get some help by delegating tasks to your employees or hiring a contractor. You are never alone in your small business adventure.

How do you stay productive and conquer your to do list? Tweet us @SurePayroll with your tips

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