Plan your To Do List

I have talked before about planning the tasks you need to get done, not just having them in a To Do list.  That means thinking about which day you're going to do them on and how long they might take (ie. how many can you fit into a day).

You may already have a tool which you can use to do this, there are numerous To Do List apps available - Toodledo, Don't Forget the Milk, Outlook Tasks, etc - or project management tools - Trello, Asana, Teamwork, etc.  

However, if you want something more straight forward, or you are a pen and paper type person, you might want to download my Daily Planner - click here.

I have used my learnings from several good business books to create this planner, so let me briefly take you through it ...

- Spending 90 minutes a day working ON your business not IN it is the consistent message given by Nigel Botterill of The Entrepreneurs Circle and is the reason that I have 2 distinct sections on the planner - the tasks you need to do for your customers but also the tasks you need to do to grow your business.

Find out more about the 90 minute theory in Nigel's book, Build Your Business in 90 Minutes a Day.

- Pareto's 80/20 Principle says that we get 80% of our results from 20% of what we do.  The Daily Planner will force you to think about the few things that you are doing that create most of your successes as there is only space for your top 3 tasks. 

There are many books written on Pareto's Law but here's one by Richard Koch to get you started - The 80/20 Principle - the secret of achieving more with less.

- "Will it make the boat go faster?" was the simple question that Olympic Gold Medalist Ben Hunt-Davies and his team asked themselves every day for 2 years in the run up to their Gold medal win.  Checking that the things you're putting on your To Do list are the things that are going to 'make your boat go faster', ie. move your business forwards towards your goals, ensures that you're spending your time on the right things.

Ben is now a successful Business Coach and he talks about how to apply his Olympic Gold winning techniques to your business in his book Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?

- The last book I have drawn from is The One Thing by Gary Keller.  This suggests that you should only ever be focusing on the ONE thing that will move you forward. 

So at the bottom of my planner I have put the emergency rope - if things don't got to plan and you only get one thing done today, what should it be?

- The last thing I want to point out doesn't relate to a book but rather a 'good practice' that I have learnt - "Today isn't finished until Tomorrow is planned" - that's why I've added the last action onto the planner.

It is much better to complete your planner for tomorrow before you finish today. so that when you get to your desk in the morning you know exactly what you're doing and can get straight into it, no procrastination!

I hope you find the planner useful and it helps you to focus on the key tasks you need to get done.  Click here to download it.

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Don't forget to plan your business holiday as well

With the holiday season approaching I thought it might be useful today to go through 3 things you should do prior to your holiday to ensure you have a peaceful break:

1. Speak to a phone answering company about holiday cover for your phones 

You could just divert your office phone to your mobile but that means that you have to make sure you have your phone with you at all times and keep checking to see if you've missed any calls.  That's doesn't make for a relaxing break that gives you an opportunity to switch off. 

It's much better for you and for your customers if your calls are answered professionally and a pre-planned response is given.  That might mean that you agree to check your emails once a day to respond to any urgent telephone message or it might mean that customers are asked to email a support email address with their query, for response within 24 hours.  Whatever you decide, you are able to enjoy your break without the constant worry of dealing with phone calls.

There are many call answering services available but if you want help to find one then get in touch and I can point you in the right direction.

2.  Create a schedule now for everything that needs to be completed before your holiday

It's one thing to have a long To Do list of things that need completing before you break-up but it's another to know how you're actually going to fit them in! 

Whether you use the task list in your email client, a project management tool such as Trello or Teamwork, or you simply want to print off a blank calendar for July/August (or the appropriate month leading up to your holiday), it's a good idea to schedule when you are going to do the things on your To Do list so you don't end up in a mass panic on the last afternoon. 

Bear in mind that things often take longer than you imagine so when you're planning the time slots for each task, realistically think about what you have to do and how long you need, planning the tasks round your other commitments.  If you're struggling to fit everything in you may need to prioritise and you might find Steven Covey's Urgent/Important matrix useful for this.

3.  Automate and pre-schedule what you can

I love automation - the magic that makes things happen without anyone having to do anything - and this is a great time to get some of that set-up and working so you have less to worry about during your holiday. 

Here's some ideas about what you might sensibly be able to automate in the next couple of weeks (although there'll probably be more that could be done in the longer term):

- Set-up 'Repeat Invoices' on Xero to ensure your invoices get sent out on time even though you're not working.
- Set-up an Out of Office / Automatic Reply on your email to inform people that you're on holiday and when they can expect a response from you.
- Pre-schedule your social media posts using a tool such as HootSuite.
- If people often request a piece of information such as a brochure, add a form to your website so they can do this and automatically receive a PDF download.

I'm sure you've heard the old adage, "fail to plan, plan to fail" so make sure that you don't fail to plan for a relaxing holiday!

 

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Are you the King/Queen of Lists?

I’m a list person.  I love the feeling you get when you can tick another job as complete!  In fact, I love lists so much I have many of them – I have my sales pipeline tasks in my CRM, I have customer related tasks in our project management software, I have my business building actions in Trello, I have my general admin to do’s in Outlook and finally I have my 4 or 5 actions from my weekly buddy call on a post-it on my desk in front of my nose!

I’m sure there will be people out there that will say that’s far too many lists and question whether I can possibly work effectively with so many, but there’s a key that pulls it all together – diary planning 

I don’t know about you but I can have lists of things that need doing yet when I sit down at my desk in a morning, I can somehow never quite work out what I should be doing.  Morning isn’t my best time, I function best between about 4-8pm, so maybe that’s why I’m a bit dumb first thing.  What definitely helps me though is to pre-plan my time in my diary.  So last night I sat and worked out what I needed to do today and I blocked out time in my diary to do certain things.  This morning, I open up Outlook and lo and behold, it tells me what I need to do, I don’t have to think, I just have to get on and do it. 

You might want to do some planning weekly to make sure you have slots to do your customer work and work on the business, then daily you might want to be more specific about what those slots will include.  But this is where the lists come in – if I have a slot for customer work I will go to my Project Management software and it will give me the list of things that need doing.  If I have a slot for following up on enquiries I will go to my CRM and there will be a list of people I need to contact.  In my 90 minute slot (time for working ON your business) I can go to Trello and my weekly Post-it Note and there’s a list of the things I need to do and ideas I need to work on.

So the key to making the lists work, at least for me, is to plan time slots in the diary at a time when my brain is functioning on full power so that when it’s not so bright I can just do what the diary says.

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