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Getting Through Your To-Do List

With the travel I’ve had this month and that I see ahead – hello, Houston and its deadlines – I have to be quite organized to get it done. Here are some tips for accomplishing all that’s on your to-do list.

1. Start with a written plan. Clear, written goals are essential. What is the major goal and what are the sub-tasks? For example, my trip to our industry shows, Quilt Market and Quilt Festival in Houston, is a major goal. It has a number of sub-goals, including creating handouts for the two classes I will be teaching, developing a look for the booth, shipping supplies, developing an order form, etc. I have written out all the specific tasks for each sub-goal in my plan. It lets me focus easily and assures I don’t forget anything.

2. Prioritize the tasks and set deadlines. You need to determine when all the sub-tasks need to be done for the goal to be completed. In the case of Quilt Market/Festival, we know it takes place beginning Oct. 29, so I create a schedule backwards showing when my display materials and class materials need to be shipped. I also like to build in a little extra time. And, you might find out that not everything on your list will get done, so focus first on those activities that have the greatest impact on your business results.

3. Make a daily schedule. Take time either first thing in the morning or the night before to plan your day. Then take daily action toward your goals. How you work toward your goals will vary. You may like to work on one project to completion or divide your day into large blocks for different tasks. In my case, I plan to work on the handouts for my classes on one day and then ship the materials this week. That way they are done, I can check them off the list, and I won’t rush at the last minute.

4. Create and use systems if possible. I have a checklist for booth supplies for trade and retail shows. When it nears time for me to pack my supplies to ship, I get out my checklist, note any additions I may have added at the last show, and print a revised copy to use. I allow extra time in case I need to replace something on the list, e.g., masking tape or a new bulb.

5. Not everything on your list will get done. Remember the 80/20 rule. Twenty percent of your activity results in 80 percent of your results. Concentrate on work in the 80 percent; that’s where your ROI (return on investment) will be.

6. And, finally, let go of perfectionism.This is a hard one for me. One of my mentors says to work to “good enough.” It might be that you set a timer for some of the tasks and what you accomplish in that time is “good enough.”

One of my favorite resources for getting things done is Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy. The book’s title references a quote from Mark Twain: “Eat a live frog every morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”

Brian goes on to offer his own two rules about “frogs,” your most important task. “The first rule of frog eating is this: If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first. The second rule of frog eating is this: If you have to eat a live frog at all, it doesn’t pay to sit and look at it for very long.” So when I have lots on my plate, I look for the frog and start there.

How do you handle getting everything done on your list?

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