How many items are on your to-do list? I mean, really important things for your business, not the everyday things to keep your doors open and serve your customers.
How many things, such as set financial and sales goals, or plan the advertising campaign for Memorial Day, or review staff hours as they seem to be growing too fast, or review financial statements for tips on what needs to be looked at, or take your key customers to lunch and explore more ways to serve them? How many items like that are on your to-do list? None? Five? 10? More?
Well, face it: None is too few. However, more than three may be too many. I’ve seen lists that went on for pages. No one can work on that many “important” items at one time. One or two or perhaps three seem to be the limit to actually think about them and accomplish them.
A friend uses DropTask to keep track of his to-do items. DropTask is a terrific tool. I use it myself. It allows you to prioritize tasks by importance, urgency, effort and due date. My friend has almost everything at the highest priority and importance level and a great many fall-due on the same day. As you can imagine, there is no clear task in front of him, and very few ever get done. In fact, because the priority level is the same for most tasks, he cannot sort out what should be done now unless the hard due date is tomorrow. He becomes easily distracted – in fact, looks for distractions to take him away from the guilt-inducing and overwhelming mass of tasks to be done.
I’ve suggested he limit the number of items scheduled on a given day. He tried, and it helped; but, he still struggles.
Do you see yourself anywhere in this description? Don’t worry; we all fall into this trap from time to time. The key is to get out of it as quickly, and fall into it as seldom, as possible. One method that may work for you is named the Eisenhower Box after the general and former president, Dwight Eisenhower. He is said to have used this tool to help with tough and critical decisions.
The Eisenhower Box consists of a square divided into four quadrants. In the upper-left quadrant are items that are both urgent and important. Those tasks must be done today. In the upper-right quadrant lie the important but not urgent items. Schedule a time to do those tasks and stick to it. In the lower-left quadrant are the urgent but not important tasks that can be delegated. The not urgent and not important things are in the lower-right quadrant. What do you think you do about those? That’s right. Delete them.
For a working graphic of the Eisenhower Box in an Excel spreadsheet, go to http://jamesclear.com/eisenhower-box. While you are at James Clear’s site, why not sign up for his e-newsletter? It’s well-written and offers ideas and tips to grow in discipline and organization.
With mastery of organization comes reliability. Your customers and your employees will appreciate that.
Bowser@BusinessValueInsights.com. Dan Bowser is president of Value Insights, Inc., of Durango, Chandler, Arizona, and Summerville, Pennsylvania.