Weekly Business Idea

August 18, 2017 – What’s on Your To-Do List?

Posted on | August 18, 2017 | No Comments

Main Idea:

Are you overwhelmed right now?  Do you feel like the hamster in the wheel, running around and staying in the same place?  Does your to-do list depress you?  When you get home are you completely drained?  Does your team avoid you because they know you can’t handle one more problem?

Expansion of the Idea:

Last weekend I was cleaning up some things at home.  I came across a notebook from a meeting in Chicago from 3 years ago. It was one of those notebooks that hotels lay out in meeting rooms.  I opened it up and I had written 47 items on a to-do list.  I read through them and all 47 items were important.  I think I put the list together on the plane ride home.  (The reason it was only 47 items was that the flight was a quick 45 minute trip.)  I am guessing this notebook was stuck in a drawer at home because I probably didn’t want to think about all I had to do at the time.  It was too depressing.

All of us have been in that situation at different times in our lives.  Running a business can be all consuming and eat up all of your spare time.  You have new ideas that you want to implement and you add them to the list.  There are things that only you know how to do.  There is always something that doesn’t work.  Sales might not be predictable.  A good customer suddenly develops cash flow problems and you aren’t paid promptly.  A key employee suddenly leaves.   There are an infinite number of ways that your to-do list gets overburdened and you feel overwhelmed.

What should you do?

There are times when you just have to gut it out and work through the problems.  However, there are a couple tricks that can help.  I heard Juliet Funt speak at the Global Leadership Summit last week.  She talked about having whitespace at work.  Basically, it is a strategic pause to gather yourself.  This might be a short walk a couple of times a day to clear your head so you can refocus on the next project.  Of course, while you take a quick walk, five more things are added to your to-do list.  The key is that you take a moment and clear your head so you can focus.

Another trick is to create a special version of a to-do list.  This one has four columns.

  1. Your actual to-do list that needs to be done in the next 4-6 weeks.
  2. A list of good ideas that you want to do but not now.
  3. A list of things that you need to delegate.  You may need to train someone on how to do them but you don’t need to do them.
  4. A list of things that you need to stop doing.

Doing these two tricks will help create some breathing room for you.  By creating a little bit of space, you start making better decisions.  This leads to more effective use of your time and less emergencies.  As I am looking back on my list from 3 years ago, I realize that I have come a long way.  There are a couple of activities that I eliminated and saved me huge amounts of time and didn’t cost much, if any, revenue.  Part of this was getting clarity on what customers I wanted to serve and how I wanted to serve them.  There were some systems and policies that were unnecessary and created work.  You can only spot these problems when you do take the strategic pause.

Even with the savings and business improvement, I look at my current to-do list and I realize I still need a lot of improvement.  For me the biggest area is to keep future ideas separate.  I need to segregate those ideas so that I am not thinking about them right now.  This will allow me to focus on what is really critical.  This is a continual process that constantly needs to be reviewed.

Improvement starts when we come up for air and breathe.  You deserve it and so does your business.  The key is to start.

Places to Start:

  1. Take a moment and go for a walk
  2. Ask yourself if you are overwhelmed.
  3. Ask your team if they are overwhelmed.
  4. Put together the 4-column to-do list.
  5. Discuss it with your team.


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    These weekly ideas are brought to you by FitzGerald & FitzGerald P.C. For more information about how to use these ideas with your small business contact Tim FitzGerald at trfitz@fitz-net.com.