Tasks. To-dos. Getting things done. Checking the box. Crossing it off.
As entrepreneurs and leaders, our days are filled with task lists and executables. We entrepreneurs love that, for our work, the sky is the limit. But when there is always another mountain to climb, it can seem like the work is endless, and the joy gets sucked out.
Tasking and to-dos are the building blocks of our businesses. They are akin to the steps a hiker takes while scaling Mount Everest. Some are harder than others, but each task completed means another step forward as we scale our work.
This can create a sense of overwhelm. One of the most common requests I receive from clients and members of my Facebook group is how to manage tasks. How does one organize, prioritize, and make time for the meetings, team, and work/life balance when the list never ends?
I’m going to show you how to tackle your list each week so you feel in control and capable of the big leaps you’re taking in your business. So let’s get started.
1. Write it all down.
It’s brain dump time! Keeping our tasks and to-dos stored in the mind uses up executive function (the part of the brain that makes decisions and holds relevant information). This can lead to mental fatigue as you are spending precious energy on simply storing tasks.
Start your week by writing down everything that you want to get done. Do a total brain dump, including the things that you’re not sure you’ll have time for. If you Bullet Journal, do this brain dump alongside your weekly review to gather any outstanding tasks from the previous week. Don’t worry about organizing in any sort of way. Editing and organizing use different mental functions, and for now, we just need to get everything out.
2. Mark each task as Urgent, Important, or Neither.
Now you get to review! Go down your list, taking the time to consider how each item affects your business, team, clients, and your own work. Create symbols that symbolize Urgent and Important if you’d like (or their first letters will do). Some tasks will be both Urgent and Important, some will be neither (and won’t get a mark). This organizing process is called the Eisenhower Matrix. It helps us sort through our tasks logically, rather than emotionally (which is how we typically approach our task lists). Again, don’t concern yourself with when you have time to complete these tasks.
3. Schedule each task.
This is where the rubber meets the road. Now that it’s clear what priority your tasks have, it will be much easier to give them time and attention. Open your calendar and begin placing each task in open time slots.
Be sure to add a break in between tasks. Our brains need a few minutes (10-15min is great) to reset for the next thing. Going from task to task is exhausting and will make you want to rage quit — totally defeating the hard work you’ve done to get to this point.
Tasks marked both Urgent and Important should receive your first open slots. Then come those that are Urgent but not Important (these can also be delegated to a team member so they get done faster and relieve you of stress). Then schedule the Important tasks. Finally, review the tasks that are neither Important nor Urgent. Do they really need to happen? If so, maybe they’re a weekend task. It’s also totally okay to keep a parking lot of non-urgent and unimportant tasks that you want to complete in a spare minute. I keep mine on a “Someday/Maybe” list, á la “Getting Things Done.” Eventually, if they never get done, I just cross them off, as becomes clear that they just are rosy ideas but not worth my time.
If you have any tasks that are both Urgent and Important and you need a tiebreaker, here’s what to do: First review which are most urgent / have the shortest deadline. Those come first. If you have several that have the same urgency, then look at which are most important. Those with similar urgency but higher importance take presence next.
One final note on scheduling tasks: inflate the time you’re allocating for your tasks by 50-100% each. That is, if you think it will take a half-hour to review your email inbox, block 45min on your calendar. Our imaginations tend to be more efficient than reality. Adding extra time will save you the stress of running out of time, and give you a longer break if you finish early. Don’t try to fill your breaks with more tasks — this leads to exhaustion and burnout.
Rinse and repeat each week!
Need help with tasking? I’d love to help you get organized so you can confidently build your empire. Here’s the link to my calendar for a complimentary session.