Prioritising for impact: managing a to do list for maximum results

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked is ‘how do you manage to fit everything in?’. Between running a record label, working as a digital consultant, writing as a journalist and author, occasionally making some music myself, having a family and, you know, life stuff – how do I get everything done.

The answer isn’t giving up sleep, nor (sadly) is it that I am a Time Lord but rather it is having a process which focuses me on the priorities. My to do list might be a mile long and more things get added than ticked off each day but the way I work means I see results from just a few actions each day.

Time management, juggling heavy workloads on limited resources, cracking through an ever growing to do – this is the lot of most working in the public sector or in small businesses and whether I’ve been in-house or working independently I’ve found having a process invaluable not only to managing the work but managing the way I feel about the workload.

This is the process I use to get things done now, and which enabled me to successfully run a digital transformation project in-house for a Council on time and to budget, write my first novel, and carry out the role of editor of a large online music site which was also working on its first print issue – all in the same 4 month period.

Having a method to triage your to do and prioritise daily means you will get stuff done, and fast.

Setting goals

Moving through a to do list with ease starts with having a clear goal in mind. I talked about my overall intentions for the year in my last post but goal setting brings that down a level and puts a definite timescale and measurable result in place.

For goals should be SMART (does anyone still set goals which aren’t?) and I tend to have one for each area of my life – record label, digital consultancy, writing, health, and what I tend to call a ‘happiness’ goal which may be something family-orientated or about my home or travel. It’s a bit of miscellaneous category but it works for me as I’m not about having it all, I’m about having balance.

Once we’ve got goals set and really worked through why we want that thing, how we’d feel if we didn’t achieve it then we’re set to run the daily process.

The Power of Three

That process starts with a massive to do list – often 30 or 40 items spanning work, social, family, home, health and everything. It’s the full list – absolutely everything I could do across any part of my life.

But short of getting the key to the TARDIS I haven’t a hope of working my way through it in a month, nevermind a day so I need to prioritise not the easy stuff, not necessarily the fun stuff, but the three things which will give me the biggest move toward a larger goal.

Each day before I finish up my work I set the three priorities for the next day – that way, when I start each day I already have my focus. I don’t need to think about things but can use my most productive and creative hours (that’s morning for me) to Get Stuff Done.

The priorities must be the thing which has the most impact in moving closer to a goal, and they must be achievable in a day – if they’re not the task needs breaking down further. If I have a day where I don’t get through the list (because life happens, duvet days are allowed) then I re-calibrate for the next day, it doesn’t just automatically role over.

It’s not all work

My daily focus list also includes one item under ‘Body’ and one item under ‘Mind’. What gets scheduled, gets done so making sure I’ve planning in exercise or reading for half an hour means I’m more likely to achieve it than if the intention to do those things is more vague. And it means I’m giving those things importance in my life – something I learnt the hard way I had to do.

Get your To Do done

Being able to see a route from tiny task to huge goal is one of the key skills of those working in the public sector or small business. Whether it’s migrating a 30,000 page website, or launching a new product, having a way to create the path from daily action to overall success is key.

My power of three approach works for me – I set SMART goals, I prioritise my daily to-do, I remember to look after my wellbeing as well as the workload, and I see the results. I’d love to hear how others manage their workloads – drop me a comment below or get in touch on Twitter and let’s talk focus and productivity.

LET’S WORK TOGETHER

If you need a hand with anything you’re planning to do in 2020, get in touch. I’m happy to take a look at what you’re currently doing, share my experience to help you build something new, or come in and share some of my knowledge and skills with you and your team. I’ve a range of workshops which can be delivered in-house and am also available for mentoring, website and social media reviews, and strategic and tactical support. You can get in touch with me here and find out who else I’ve helped recently here

You can find the next dates for the Vital Facebook Skills workshops I run with Dan Slee here – I cover what you need to know about Facebook Ads plus we give you the low down on the algorithm, creating great content, engaging in Groups, the purpose of Pages, and knowing when to engage. You can find my other workshops here.