Definition of a to-do list: A long list of tasks who’s main purpose is to overwhelm you into numbing inaction.
A to-do list maybe a good place to capture everything you need to get done. But it is a bad place to actually move you towards doing the stuff.
What you need is a when-to-do list. A when-to-do list is a to-do-list but with due dates and context.
Here is a 3 step process on how to make a when-to-do list work for you.
1. Add context and categories to your tasks
As an entrepreneur, you’ll have tasks across multiple functional areas. Marketing tasks, administrative tasks, customer service tasks, human resources etc. Batch tasks from each functional area together. Batch similar tasks together (emails, meetings, calls). Most to-do list apps give you the ability to add tasks to a project, or assign tags to tasks. Working on similar tasks together, also known as ‘batching’ is a proven way of getting these tasks done much faster, as well as better. If you’re focused only on marketing tasks for a fixed period of time, you’ll do a higher quality job than if you had to switch between marketing tasks and finance tasks.
2. Pre-allocate blocks of times to categories of tasks / projects
At the beginning of a week you should sketch out roughly how much time you’d want to spend on any functional area. These could be full days or blocks of times within a day. For example, Mondays and Thursdays could be mostly creative or marketing tasks. Tuesdays could be focussed on Product and Technology tasks, Wednesdays for meetings and calls, Fridays for finance and admin etc. Assume you’ll only have 3-4 hours to work on pre-determined time blocks. The rest of your day will fill up with urgent stuff that pops up on that day.
3. Now turn your to-do list into a ‘When-to-do list’.
Go through your list and assign dates to each task based on your pre-determined blocks for when you’ll work on that category. So if today’s Marketing day, put the more important marketing tasks on your list for today. Plus some other critical tasks that really need to be done today. There are only so many things you can do in one day. Assign the rest of the tasks to the coming days. For example if Friday is your day for finance/ admin task then schedule all finance / admin tasks for the coming Friday.
Once you’ve applied this framework to your long list of tasks, you end up with digestible, actionable chunks of similar tasks scheduled through the week. Your weeks will have a rhythm, and you’ll end up working on important areas of your business holistically, rather than just chasing urgent tasks that pop up everyday.