Entrepreneurs: How To Shrink Your To-Do List

July 22, 2014By
Startup Productivity

Is your to-do list too big? Here are steps to make it easier.

For entrepreneurs, it seems like the to-do list never ends.

You never get the feeling of relief by thinking that the list is done at least for a few days.

It can be hard to take off weekends or even to take off an hour during the week when you’re thinking about all the things you have to do. This seems especially true with startup entrepreneurs. They seem to put all kinds of tasks on their plate for the week and never take a break.

If you’re in this position then we have some steps for you.

Personally, I go through these cycles in my life. I get to the point where there is just too much for me to do with GBW. I get to a point where I realize what’s going on and force myself to figure out a way to keep the business growing while not burning out. Then I’ll get through a period of change and things will be quiet for a while until it gets busy again with new tasks.

It’s probably something you can’t ever avoid with the cycle of it, but you can keep moving your business to the next level with these steps.

Step 1: List All The Tasks Required For Your Job And Business

Get a pad of paper and a pen or take out a spreadsheet on your computer. List all the tasks you’re currently doing yourself in your business. Also include tasks that anyone else on the team is doing or that you would like to do.

You’re basically writing down your to-do list. It’s the first step to figuring out all the things you’re doing and should be doing or wish you could be doing in your business.

Step 2: Prioritize The Tasks

Prioritize the tasks. List them starting with the most important tasks at the top. You should be able to identify each task in a list. There really shouldn’t be any ties on the list.

What most people find with this exercise is that they can eliminate a task or two that they’re doing every day that they really don’t need to do. You have to be honest with yourself on this one. You have to think about the long-term success of your business.

Think about these at the business level. Remove yourself from the tasks for now because you might not be doing these tasks going forward. But if they’re important you might need someone else to do them.

Step 3: Identify Tasks You Enjoy

Mark the tasks that you enjoy doing. You won’t be able to do everything so even if you like everything on the list you’ll have to cut it down to the things you enjoy doing the most.

Once you have these items listed you’ll have your future to-do list. As the business grows you’ll find that even these items get busier and busier and more involved. You’ll have to then cut back on those tasks again and look for help from other sources.

The reason you want to find the things you enjoy is that you’ll likely do a good job on them and generally enjoy your job more.

At GBW, I used to do a lot of the writing for client blogs, but it got to be too much. I had to prioritize the business side of things above writing client blogs. And even now I’m running into getting too busy on the business side so I have to identify the tasks I enjoy once again like email, inquiries, etc.

For the tasks that you can’t do or don’t want to do you’ll have to find other people to do things. With the way people work remotely today it can be really easy to find great people to handle specific tasks.

Step 4: Create Procedures For The Other Tasks

For the tasks that you’re not going to be working on you have to create procedures. This can take a lot of time initially, but it really is worth it in the long run.

At GBW, I had to create procedures for uploading blog posts to client blogs. When I was doing it I had all the procedures in my head. But to make things efficient for other writers I had to document the procedures so they could easily do the same task.

I find that it might take the person once or twice to learn, but after that they’re pros at it and ready to go. And they’ll even make suggestions to change improve things, which is what you want.

You can probably get away without procedures for the tasks you’ll be doing, but it might be good to create procedures anyway.

Step 5: Hire Help For Those Other Tasks

This will all depend on the type of business you have. At GBW, I had to find writers to handle the writing for clients. That’s been a big transition. Thankfully I just had to put up a page on our site and writers would reply to the form. I would create a list with experiences and could kind of tell with their initial email if they were the right fit.

Then you just have to go through the early process of the task and see how things go.

There will be hiccups along the way. Just look at the person and see if they’re the long-term answer. The procedures can really help to make these transitions easier and smoother.

The payoff comes when things get rolling and other people are handling tasks in your business and you’re freed up for other things.

Step 6: Look Long-Term At Your Business Vision

You always have to be looking at the long-term vision for your business. It will never work out exactly how you envision, but you have to have a picture in your mind of something you’re working for.

For GBW, I’m looking at how to structure things because there are points that come when I just can’t do everything. I have to see the future and make plans for transitioning tasks to other people. The vision helps me plan for that and helps me prepare to bring others into the business, which is a big step for  any startup entrepreneur.

Conclusion

Hopefully these steps can help you with your entrepreneur to-do list. I know I’ve struggled with my own to-do list in the past. It’s easy to tell people that you’re really busy working in your business and it can make you feel good, but you don’t want to be doing work just for the sake of doing work.

You have to make sure you’re doing the right things for your business. For me, it meant giving up writing for clients and focusing on marketing and other things. And now I have to do it again with the tasks I’m doing. It’s a good sign because the business is growing, but it’s always a change.