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6 steps to de-clutter your to-do list (and eliminate most of it!)

by Alison Bradford

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A to-do list comes in many forms – you may have a neat, colour-coded list in a special book, it may be notes jotted down quickly on post-its and scraps of paper, or you may be using an app on your phone to keep track of what you need to do.

What I want to share with you is how you can take a few minutes and eliminate a good chunk of your to-do list, and reduce the feeling of overwhelm as you get clear on your priorities and get the important stuff done.

1. Separate out personal and business tasks – mixing up tasks such as ‘book dentist appointment’, ‘prepare client report’, ‘buy birthday present’ is a surefire way to distract you from getting the important stuff done in your business. Keep personal and business tasks separate, and have designated time to do the personal stuff so you don’t end up browsing the internet for a birthday present when you should be working on a client report!

2. Schedule recurring tasks – you will have certain tasks that need to happen regularly, such as invoicing, marketing activities, updating your financial measures etc. Don’t clog up your to-do list with these tasks – simply add them to your calendar as a recurring task, and do it at the time you schedule it for.

3. Remove your ‘brilliant ideas’ – do you have some tasks that are actually brilliant ideas you’ve had, that you want to explore further? For example, a new service or product you want to offer, or a new target market to explore? An ‘idea’ is not a task, and putting it on your to-do list is unlikely to result in any progress on it. A much better way to deal with your brilliant ideas is to have a place where you keep a record of them, such as an ideas book, and then schedule in separate time to regularly review them, Once you’ve decided to progress an idea, it will then become a set of tasks to add your to-do list.

4. Eliminate detailed bits & pieces – it’s easy to stop trusting yourself to remember anything and use your to-do list as a memory crutch. If you’re not careful it then becomes a brain dump of anything and everything. Your to-do list should not be lots of mini project plans with all the little tasks on to complete a bigger task. If a task is big enough to justify a project plan, then do a separate project plan, otherwise, chunk the task at the right level so that you know what your next step is.

For example, if you’re looking to develop someone in your team, your next step may be to book in a conversation with them to discuss it. You don’t need to go off and devise a list of next steps – you need to do the first step before you know the next steps.

5. Just do it jobs – there will be some tasks you have to do, that you can get done in pretty much the same time it will take you to add it to a list. As a rule of thumb, if you can do it in 2 minutes or less, just get it done there and then.

6. Follow ups – another clogger up of many to do lists, those things you’re waiting for other people to come back to you with a response before you can do anything, Get these off your list and schedule reminders in your calendar for when you need to follow up. PLUS, make sure you have given the person a deadline for when you expect a response.

Over to you now – get your to-do list out and ruthlessly declutter it using these 6 steps. I’ve seen clients get rid of 90% of their list using these strategies – let me know how much you get rid of by leaving a comment below.

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Alison Bradford

Alison Bradford is a business coach who works with smart, ambitious business owners to get clarity about how they can grow their business and increase profit. Sign up here to learn 6 easy ways you can boost profit in your business today.

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