Running a business certainly comes with a wide range of benefits. Being an entrepreneur can provide you with a higher sense of fulfilment and professional satisfaction than any other career path. However, that same position also has its downsides.
Considering how many tasks and responsibilities you need to stay on top of, time management can soon become a concern that might affect how fast or efficiently you reach your goals, leading to increased levels of stress at the same time.
With so many tasks and responsibilities ahead of you, how can you handle everything without getting overwhelmed? When everything seems equally important, you need to create an action plan that allows you to fulfill requirements and meet your overall objectives.
The following pointers will clarify the subject for you, helping you understand what exactly needs to be done on the matter:
Create a list of all of your current tasks
Having a to-do list in front of you can be more helpful than you would imagine. Staying organized is essential when it comes to completing each assignment correctly and in a timely manner, so start by putting everything you have planned to do in a list. Simply write all tasks down without a particular order so it will be easier to think of them individually. A great way of looking at a broad set of tasks is to create a Master List. This approach allows you to better understand the bigger picture and better estimate the amount of work that needs to be done.
Daylite Tip: Check out this Daylite tutorial on Managing Tasks to learn how to quickly capture all your to-dos into a list and then sort and prioritize them.
After you’ve carefully analyzed the workload that you need to deal with, you can then evenly distribute the tasks in a hierarchical manner. Visually this Master List will resemble a pyramid.
Let’s say you have a broad spectrum of tasks that you need to execute within a month. Once you’ve written down all the tasks you need to complete, arrange them in increments of weeks and days. This will allow you to evenly distribute effort throughout all of your assignments and allocate the necessary time to deliver each of them. This way, you will know exactly where you stand with the completion process of a specific time,
Even a glance at your to-do list will certainly keep you on your toes, and prevent you from losing track of time, or overlooking an important assignment that is essential for your business. Also, remember to keep the Master List updated and cross things off (or mark them as “done” in Daylite) when you’ve managed completing them. Seeing your progress could impact your productivity in a positive way.
Organize your tasks based on their urgency
More urgent tasks are not always the most important ones and vice versa. Handling what is urgent first will allow you to focus on your business’ core responsibilities, without having to worry that you have gone past the deadline of a rather simple task. When you are trying to organize everything, put the urgent things on top of the list, and handle them in that particular order.
- Important tasks – activities with outcomes that lead to goal fulfillment
- Urgent tasks – activities requiring immediate attention
Daylite Tip: You can use a Keyword to tag “Important” or “Urgent” tasks and then filter by that Keyword. This will give you a list of just your tasks tagged with “Important”, or just your tasks tagged with “Urgent” so you can easily sort and focus on them.
Once you get out of your way the things that come with a tight deadline, you can use your energy and focus to handle in a more resourceful and attentive manner the tasks that will actually influence your ultimate business objectives. Prioritizing your business activities based on urgency will ensure a smoother work flow, and will prevent you from working under pressure on assignment with results that could actually have a role in the further growth and success of your business.
Split your to-do list into three segments
According to a paper called “Effectiveness at Self-Regulation and Prioritizing Difficult Exercise Goal Pursuit,” published in the Self and Identity Journal, the most efficient way of prioritizing tasks is separating them in categories based on task complexity and tackling the most complicated issues first.
Here’s a very simple way of how you can classify your tasks:
- Most complicated – these tasks will create most significant outcomes. Break these task down into actionable pieces, if you aren’t exactly sure where to start. Handling them first will reduce stress and prevent you from using all of your resources on activities with a lower importance grade for business growth. This approach will allow you to benefit from rapid, significant progress.
Daylite Tip: For tasks that have 2-3 steps, you can create a sub-task in Daylite. But for tasks with multiple steps and pieces and lots of details to remember, it’s best to create a Project for the overall objective, then create individual tasks for each step and link it to the project so it’s all organized in one place. You can then sort the tasks to re-order them and assign due dates to keep you on track. For more tips on this topic, check out this tutorial How to organize all the moving pieces in a project.
- Complicated – slightly less complex than the ones mentioned above, complicated tasks come second in relevance.
- Least complicated – tasks with the lowers impact in business success. These can be various, but usually are easy to complete, involving clear actions and that is why they should be resolved last.
Prioritize the tasks that are most beneficial to your business
While tasks need to be addressed in terms of urgency, that shouldn’t mean spending precious work time on activities that actually don’t come with results, actions with low business impact, and neglecting assignments with actual value. A task that will bring a bigger profit, such a new email marketing campaign, is definitely more important than others, which can potentially be a waste of the company’s time.
Try to differentiate between tasks that come with critical characteristics and involve value for the business from the ones that are simply related to in-house routine operations. Learn how to spot the type of tasks and activities that could be eliminated entirely or automated.
Learn to stay very focused
While this sounds like a very straightforward and self-evident recommendation, the reason we need to prioritize our tasks is that we’re not very focused in the first place. And that isn’t necessarily our fault.
We’re living in the attention economy, many apps and services are fighting for our focus. A study published in Psychology of self-regulation, suggests that self-control is an acquired capability. While at work and lacking focus, we still manage to become tired, even without managing to execute many tasks, this makes the complicated tasks even more complicated.
You can adopt various strategies that will help you stay focused on your business vision:
- Keep your expectations realistic – overworking yourself will never be a good idea
- Track projects effectively by using a project and task management system like Daylite, for example
- Work in an environment free of distractions
- Maintain an organized and comfortable workstation
- Acknowledge achievements
- Get your team involved – be open to communication with your employees
Daylite Tip: To help you stay focused on your top priority tasks, pin these to your Worklist so they’re front and centre on your Home Screen.
Take a less important task off the list
Sometimes, there simply isn’t enough time to get everything done, so you need to accept that and reassess your obligations, looking for anything that could be temporarily put on hold. Taking a task off the list can be just as nerve-wracking as thinking you haven’t yet completed it, but it will give you the chance to actually remain productive, lower your stress and handle the things that are actually critical for further business development. If something is not as important as you thought, it might simply not be worth your time at all.
Of course, you will have to carefully go through each task written down on the list, consider the actual implications of leaving the task undone, and make sure it actually is something you can prolong.
When you are running a business, you will come across new tasks on a daily basis, which means you need to be fully prepared and know how to handle oncoming requirements efficiently. One of the things you need to remember here is that not everything is worth your time – some tasks can simply be directed towards one of your employees, or crossed off your to-do list entirely. Knowing how to prioritize your business activities will allow you to always stay on top of what’s really critical for the future of your business, so take into account these suggestions.
About the author:
Diana Nadim is a writer and editor who has a Master degree in Marketing. Diana has her own 3to5Marketing blog. What inspires her the most in her writing is traveling and meeting new people. Follow her on Twitter.