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Victoria Munro of Make-it-FlyTake Control of Your Day with a Meaningful “To-Do” List
By Victoria Munro

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As entrepreneurs, we face many demands on our time and attention – some we can control; others are beyond our control. It’s easy to react quickly to crises and pressing demands of others without stopping to fully assess the situation. Writing a simple daily plan can put you in charge and enable you to be proactive instead of reactive. Much in life we can’t control, but we can take charge of how we spend our time and what we give our attention to.

It helps to be crystal clear about what you want to accomplish each day. Writing down your main goal and a “to-do” list for the day will also help to clear your mind so you can focus fully on what you’re doing. Whether you use Outlook “Tasks,” a different software program, sticky notes on your monitor or scraps of paper stuffed in your pocket, you’ll be far more productive when you have a plan.

Below are some simple daily planning tips that have helped us and other business owners write meaningful daily “to-do” lists. Take 15 uninterrupted minutes each day to plan. Block this time out on your calendar.

Review your long- and short-term goals, and consider your progress to date.
Identify your main goal(s) for the day, and list the tasks you need to accomplish.
Ruthlessly prioritize these tasks and complete them in order, resisting any temptation to skip over or postpone the tough ones.
Assign reasonable times for each activity, and block these on your calendar. Add up the time blocks to make sure you are being realistic.
Don’t try to pack too many projects into each day. Allow flex time for those unexpected phone calls, employee or family interruptions, so you’re not being rushed and running behind for appointments.
Some of us are early birds and others may be night owls – we all operate on our own unique ‘clocks.’ As you make your daily “to-do” list, keep in mind when your peak times of day are and schedule your most challenging and creative tasks then.
At the end of the day, review your accomplishments, congratulate yourself on achievements and discover what you can learn from tasks that were scheduled but weren’t accomplished. Don’t waste time feeling guilty about them – forgive yourself and move on.
Don’t forget to include time for yourself, your family and friends.
When you’re the boss, you can’t count on others to recognize your achievements, so plan to reward yourself and celebrate! It may be a walk in the park, a massage, a cup of hot chocolate with whipped cream on top or an afternoon off to see a movie.

When considering the many tasks you face each day, it may be helpful to evaluate them by asking the following questions:

Eliminate – Is this task really necessary? Could it simply be a habit?
Automate – Is there any way to automate this?
Delegate – Can I get someone else to do this so that I can devote my time to more profitable work – the things I do best and enjoy most?
Create a system – Can we create a system to accomplish this more efficiently?

Wearing the many ‘hats’ of a business owner, it’s all too easy to become reactive, and live at the mercy of circumstances and the demands of others. A relevant, motivating goal for the day and a carefully thought-through daily “to-do” list will keep you in the driver’s seat, make you more productive and enable you to run your business instead of allowing it to run your life.

(600 words)
© 2005-2007 Victoria Munro.

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