Manage Your To-Do List Without Getting Distracted

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As an up and coming Entreprenette, you are probably wearing many hats and often feeling overwhelmed. We all hope to walk into our office (or the dining room) and cross everything off our to-do lists each day before it gets out of control, right? Since that’s not always a reality, here are a few tips to help you make the most of your time.

1. Power hours: Assign hours or minutes to certain projects. Get a calendar going and schedule yourself to get in a rhythm. Maybe spend one hour twice a day answering emails, 10 minutes on social media twice a day, lunch, exercise, meetings, five minutes of stretching. You get the picture. Turn off everything else during that time and ONLY work on that one task.

2. Realize your potential: Before you assign yourself a task, think about whether you are the best person to do it or if it can be outsourced. Even when money is tight, sometimes outsourcing can free you up to do the things you are really good at or things only you can do. Make a list of everything you do this week. Next, divide the list into things that only YOU can do and things that someone else can do for you. Then vow to hire someone to start on the “other person” list ASAP.

3. Master the “To Do” list forever: Once you know who’s doing what in your business, get out your calendar. I’m a big believer in lists. I use Google as I need the pop-up reminder to tell me when it’s time to move on to my next task. Once you schedule your regular tasks (blogging, social media, client meetings, etc.) it’s time to add your “To Do” list tasks. Schedule everything!

4. Know when to go: I like to minimize my phone calls during the day unless it is with a client or potential client. When a surprise caller keeps you on the phone longer than necessary, gently tell her that you have another call, you’re on a tight deadline or, if she has requested something from you, tell her that you want to get started on it immediately and will send a follow up email shortly.

5. Hear me now: I like to use a voicemail only system so I don’t have to answer the phone all the time and can just check the messages a few times a day. You can always give special customers your private office or cell number. I use Voicemail Depot and it works wonders.

6. The desk makeover: Make your environment conducive to working. Clear your desk of any distractions. Have the things you use on a regular basis at the ready. Everything else can go on a shelf. I use an online system by 37signals.com, which offers a virtual office management system so you can be paperless! I can access it anytime, anywhere. This is also a useful tool if you have clients whose progress you monitor.

7. Find your sweet spot: In retail they say “Location, location, location.” The same is true in a home office. A desk located in a high-traffic area is as welcome as a marching band in a library. Try to find a quiet place to work…even if this means your bed.

8. Let your fingers do the walking: Idle chit-chat is a big time drain when we need to maximize every possible moment. Catch up with friends on weekends and evenings. Use email as much as you can as it forces most people to cut to the chase and cuts down on lengthy conversations. You might find email to be “cold,” so try to find a “warm” voice for yourself. Try reading it back and see if it sounds like you. Sometimes emails need to be a bit longer than a four-word response to avoid that ”cold” feeling.

I hope these ideas help you get focused and find time in your life to be more productive. And don’t forget to schedule some “me” time too!

About the Author

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Having launched her own business, Sarah Shaw Handbags, Sarah Shaw advises other entrepreneurs and business owners.

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