“In order to say YES to your priorities, you need to say NO to something else.”

Running a business is hard work, but it can also very rewarding. No matter what type of business you run, your list of jobs to be done never seems to get any shorter. It can be very daunting when you write everything down and wonder how you’ll ever get it all done.

The important thing to remember when you organise your to-do-list is that some jobs may not seem important, but they actually are. Your urgent tasks are the ones which will have an effect on your business. If you need to have your website updated, for example, that may be a priority, but not as much as organising an important contract with a major customer. If something has a deadline in the near future, that’s a priority.

Some common tasks which can get de-prioritised are:

  • Invoicing and payments. If you have a good accounts team, they will keep on top of this for you so you can relax. If they don’t know who to invoice and how much they’re invoicing them for then they quite simply can’t do their job. If you don’t let them know these things, then you quite simply won’t be paid for what you do.
  • Staffing problems. Your staff are the backbone of your business. Without them, you won’t be able to build up customers and make money. If you have staff leaving, or you need to take on additional staff, it may not seem like a priority, because your existing staff can cover until you sort it out. That may be your way of thinking, but is it theirs? If you put off advertising for new staff or you don’t arrange interviews, your existing staff members may feel overworked and unappreciated.
  • The small stuff. Some people like to get rid of all the tasks which won’t take them very long, regardless of whether they are a priority or not. This is great because it clears a lot off your list, but it also means you have less time to deal with the really important matters of the day.
  • Awkward situations. These can be anything from an unhappy customer, an issue between staff or a contract which needs to be carefully renegotiated. Human nature likes to put off anything which is awkward, in the hope it’ll sort itself out, but this rarely happens. If a situation will affect your business, take the time to sit down and work out a solution. Even if it takes all day, if your business benefits in the long term, then it was time well spent.
  • Progress meetings. Meetings can be called for a number of reasons but progress meetings and regular meetings with heads of staff, should never be left. These are important as they tell you the state of your business and keep you up to date with information you need to know. If you decide to cancel one because you’re too busy, you may find things are missed and these could cause you more problems.

There are, of course, many other regular tasks which can be forgotten with the day to day pressure of running a business. This is where a to-do-list comes in. Every task which gets written on your to-do-list needs to be prioritised and here are a few tips which may help you to prioritise your list and keep on top of it.

Write it all down

This might seem an obvious thing to do with a to-do-list, but it’s surprising how many jobs get left off and then forgotten. When making your list of jobs to be done, include everything, no matter how small or how minor a job might be. If you miss it off the list and it gets forgotten, then it’ll soon become a priority job.

In these days of technology we have many online tools that can be used and some are simple for those of you who are not fans of technology.  A few that we use with our clients are.

  • Microsoft To-Do – For those that are not fans of technology or are just managing yourself we recommend Microsoft To-Do.  It works with your calendar and can be added to your smart phone for easy on the go updates.
  • Trello – I call Trello the modern Post-it.  It is a board where you can add cards (post-its).  You can have a board for each department in your business and add to-dos to each board.  You can invite people to collaborate.
  • Wrike and Asana – These two options are the most expensive of the task management software.  These are excellent for businesses who have projects spanning across many departments, or if you have many outside collaborators who need to do tasks within your business.

As always if you need assistance in setting up a good task management practice we are happy to help.

Delegation

When you have your list drawn up, pick out any jobs which can easily be delegated to someone else. When you’ve done that, don’t forget to actually delegate them and let the relevant staff members know when each task is due.

Urgent / Non urgent

The next step is to separate the urgent tasks from the not so urgent ones. This is often where people go wrong. Remember: if it could have an effect on your business, sales, or reputation, or if there is a deadline looming – it’s urgent.

You can then mark your jobs as those which are high or low priority, and start with the most urgent. As you go through your list, cross things off. This is a great way of showing yourself that you’re actually getting things done.

Don’t just move things around

At the end of the day transfer any tasks which have not been completed to a new list, ready for tomorrow. Be wary, though, of moving the same task more than once. It may not be a priority now, but if it continually gets put off, it soon will be.

 

It can be useful to keep more than one list, and if you have a very busy business, this is a good way to separate the urgent jobs from the less urgent ones. The thing you must always remember is that a job is on a to-do-list because it needs to be done.