I was recently brought in as a guest expert for a mastermind of business owners to answer any and all of their business operations questions.
That’s right; for 90 minutes, the coaches, writers, and creative professionals presented their burning questions about structuring their days, how to work with their teams, what pieces of technology to use, how to manage their inboxes and so much more goodness.
Even though the call was at the very end of my day, I left feeling a deep sense of gratitude for these women.
The group was delightful. So open and receptive to learning more about running their businesses.
They’re putting themselves out there to share their unique talents with the world.
But, I also noticed a recurring theme.
One that isn’t unique to this group of business owners.
I see it time and again when clients come to me.
They aren’t getting tasks done, they aren’t reaching project milestones, they aren’t making progress towards their business goals.
What I found is that we aren’t getting items on our to-do list, goal list, or target list accomplished because of we’re failing to take three small but important steps when setting up our days.
I want that to stop. NOW.
Because the steps are simple. And once you put them into practice, everything takes on a sense of ease.
1. Break larger tasks and projects into smaller subtasks.
This step almost sounds like more work, right?
I mean, it’s so much easier to write “Hire VA” on your project list and be on with the search.
But, we can’t hold that project in our mind. It’s too expansive to see progress being made along the way.
So we get discouraged and stop before we really get going.
Or worse, never even start and instead continue to kick the project down the order.
That’s where taking the extra 10 minutes to think through the steps of what needs to happen in order to check the larger “Hire VA” task off the list comes in.
The subtasks might look like:
- Figure out what tasks to pass to a VA
- Put together role description, budget and hours information
- Create VA application
- Reach out to network for referrals
- Review application results
- Interview top 5 candidates
- Interview references for candidates
- Put together trial assignment for top 1-2 candidates
- Review trial assignments
- Decide on new VA
- Formally hire new VA
- Hold new team member orientation
- Set regular check-in calls w/ VA
Having that list instantly makes the project more attainable and actionable.
You create mini-milestones along the way, itty bitty boxes to satisfyingly check off.
2. Add actionable words to each item.
The second step is one that gets glossed over too frequently because we’re already holding the vision for what needs to happen with a task in our brains.
So we see “new blog post” on our list and know what needs to be done.
Or do we?
Because this item might be “outline blog post” or “write new blog post” or “edit new blog post” or “publish new blog post” or “pass new blog post off to VA for posting to website”.
And each time you look at it, your brain is going through the list of options for what might happen.
Give your brain a rest.
And give yourself an action to take.
I’ll give you another example: when I have appointments that pop up on my daily list, instead of writing “Jane @ 1p”, I write it as “1:1 session w/ Jane, Wed @ 1p” on my list.
Just that small tweak gets me in the right mindset for the private client session.
3. Stick to a manageable number of items each day.
Of all the steps here, this one is the most challenging for business owners to stick to. Because our to-do lists are endless. Everything will never be all done.
So we keep piling on more and more, and seldom stop to look at our daily list and ask if it’s really doable.
Start by having less than 10 items on your daily list.
Nine items or less seems to be the sweet spot for most people to make progress on large-scale projects and also cross smaller items off their list.
It also forces you to be very intentional about what you’re going to do each and every day. It paints a clear picture of what you’ve said “yes” to already so that you can more easily say “no” to other items.
But Lindsay, you’re wondering, what about client sessions?
Oh yes, client sessions are included in the number of items. Say you have three client sessions in the day; that leaves six spots left on your list.
The only routine item that doesn’t count towards your total number – email checking and inbox processing. That’s why it’s super important to not be hanging out in your inbox throughout the day.
Following these three steps allows you clarity in what you’re focusing on each day.
Test it out in your business.
Run a curious experiment.
For the next three weeks, stick to a manageable number of items on your daily list, which all start with actionable words and which are small enough that they can be accomplished in that one day.
Then come back here and report back what you noticed. Tell me what insights you had about this approach to your daily to-do list.
Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash