This is a follow up to a previous article about beating procrastination, How To Beat Procrastination When You Don’t Know What To Do Next. This is a hot topic if you are running your own entrepreneurial business and largely responsible for getting things done. Combine this with the current online world with so many distractions being just a mouse click away.
Basically, if you do not get what needs to be done your business may suffer. So this article will share some secrets to help improve productivity and also provide some answers to questions raised in the last article, Is Email A Bigger Productivity Killer Than Marijuana? (UK Study Says Yes).
Importance Of Prioritizing Tasks
I am the first to admit there is no shortage of things to be done. Seriously, who’s “to do” list isn’t overflowing? Famous motivational speaker Brian Tracey says that you will always have things on your to do list and you will never get them all done. Thanks for the vote of confidence Brian! No, in all seriousness, Brian is onto something. There are never enough hours in the day to get all the tasks done that we want to get done, especially if you are running a business.
Knowing that your to do list is a never ending saga, what Brian suggests doing is prioritizing the list. I know it sounds so obvious and simple, but you would be surprised how many people make to do lists filled with meaningless and irrelevant junk when they have serious issues to sort out with their business.
An example to do list:
- Trim the hedges
- Dust cobwebs
- Buy new battery for clock
- Phone xyz
- Fix broken ‘buy now’ button on sales page
- Start an email opt-in form
- Research new product ideas
- Find affiliates for current products
I know it may seem ridiculous when illustrated like this but don’t laugh. The harsh reality is with limited time and so much to do, if you want to make your business work and take it to the next level, you will need to understand that not all your tasks are going to get done. I am not suggesting you become a hermit who lives in a pigsty and never speaks to anyone. I am just saying at the end of the day you need to know you have accomplished your most important tasks. And that can either be having a successful business or having a cobweb free home, which would you rather?
How To Prioritize Tasks
Brian’s idea of prioritizing tasks is super easy. Do your most important tasks first. He thinks usually your most important task is the one you want to avoid, the one you have been putting off. Hence the title of his famous time management book Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time.
Make out your to do list the day before, either as the last part of that day’s work or before you go to bed. This way you can really put some thought into what is really important and what needs to get done, and then you are ready to get started on it the next day.
Another way to look at how to prioritize your tasks and what to put at the very top of your to do list is to ask yourself this question: “If I was only allowed to do one task today, would I be satisfied that I got this one task done?” When you look at managing your time like this you can really start to re-prioritize your to do list and get a clear idea of what is most important for growing your business. If you are still struggling with prioritizing your list, I will make it really easy for you: What task do you need to do today that will make your business money?
Break Your Tasks Down
For those looking for more specific Internet business time management advice, you can’t beat Internet marketer, time management specialist and author of Double Your Productivity for Life Jason Fladlien.
Jason likes to break tasks down into simple and easy to digest components. He feels the brain is only capable of handling seven bits of information plus or minus two bits. So based on this he takes complicated and often overwhelming tasks such as writing sales copy and breaks it into seven components. Now the task just becomes seven easy to follow steps.
This is how Jason was able to create 30+ products in a few months and quickly make a mark in the Internet marketing scene. I highly recommend you grab his FREE report (no-optin) Time Management Secrets of a Madman.
Get Important Things Done First
Building on prioritizing the to do list, I am a big fan of doing the hard and important tasks first thing in the morning when I am mentally freshest. I have my to do list from the night before, so there is no guessing or fiddling around in the morning.
Legendary copywriter Gary Bencivenga was a big fan of doing a good three hour block of writing in the morning. A phone off the hook, lock the door, no disturb sign on the door type of three hour block. He knew that this block was super productive because he wasn’t tired and he was totally focused. He knew that if he got that three hour block out of the way that he had a productive day and anything else he got done was a bonus. He also realized that a focused three hour block was often more productive than an interrupted normal eight hour work day.
Take Control Of Your Time And Be Non-Reactive
When you are most mentally alert in the morning and you still have some mental fuel in the tank, do not go wasting it on checking email and surfing the net. Take charge of your time and focus. You can decide what you should spend your time and energy on. If the first thing you do is open your email, then you have gone straight into a reactive mode where other people are dictating where your thoughts and energies go.
Tim Ferriss has talked extensively about email management and recommendations of just checking email twice a day. If you find you also don’t have the self-discipline to refrain from browsing and wasting time then you may want to check out another Ferriss recommendation called rescue time. This great piece of software allows you to block websites, but it will also monitor your browsing activity, which can be a real eye opener.
Once you see that you are spending three hours of your work day reading forums instead of actually working, you may just realize how much time you are wasting.
I do not want to come across as a slave master for your business. But I guess the bottom line is: we all want our businesses to be as successful as possible. Besides discussing marketing strategies, I often spend time with my marketing clients helping them get a clearer picture in their head about exactly how their business is going to make money. With this picture in mind, it now becomes easier to prioritize their daily tasks and know what needs to get done now and what can wait.