If you often feel like your to-do list is a monster that never stops growing and that no matter how many items you cross off it during the day – you inevitably add a lot more at the bottom of it as well, this video is for you!
I am going to be sharing a super simple, cheap, efficient way to get on top of your to-do list and help you prioritize what’s on it, for good.
Let’s dive in.
Lately, I’ve been opening up my Asana app, which is the app I use to keep track of my projects and just generally my to-do list, and I’ve been feeling very overwhelmed. I consider myself a pretty organized person, but sometimes it doesn’t even have anything to do with how organized or disorganized you are, it’s just that there are those weeks where everything feels like it needs your attention right now. You might have a few orders that you didn’t expect and you’re also launching a collection, maybe that’s also when your in-laws decided to visit over the weekend… Whatever it might be, there are some weeks where you have 50 items on your list every day and you don’t even know where to start because everything feels like it needs to be done right now.
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When this happens, the first step of what I like to call the “recovery process” is admitting that you cannot possibly do everything that’s on this list. If you try, you’re going to fail, which is going to make you feel worse the next day and the vicious circle continues day after day. Now that you’ve accepted that you need to let go of some items on that list (at least for now) it’s time to prioritize. I do this every time I feel overwhelmed by my to-do list and don’t know where to start. It takes me 2 minutes and it’s changed my life. I hope it’s going to help you too.
We’re going to be using an Eisenhower matrix – the name may be complicated but it’s an easy and quick way to prioritize your to-do list. The concept is simple. Some tasks are important, some aren’t, some tasks are urgent and some aren’t. The problem with the human brain is that we tend to focus and to do the urgent tasks first. That’s not always the best way to go at it, so let me show you exactly what I mean and what this Eisenhower matrix is: four simple squares.
On the horizontal axis, we’re going to have items going from not urgent or not really urgent, all the way to very urgent on the right side. On the vertical axis, we’re going to have things ranked from not really important to very important.
So when you look at this as four different boxes, you have projects and tasks that are urgent but that aren’t actually important on the bottom right. Then on the bottom left you have things that are not urgent and not important. On the top left, you have things that are not urgent but that are important, and then on the top right, you have projects that are urgent and important. This is the theory behind it, and now in practice: what does this mean?
When something is urgent and important, you obviously want to do it now. That’s your very focus for the day, the first thing you need to start working on. If something is important but it’s not urgent, then you want to schedule it and decide when you’re going to get that done. You have to set a time in your calendar to take care of that because although it’s not urgent, it’s something that’s going to be important. That might be something to help you get more sales, more traffic or anything like that.
Next, we have things that aren’t urgent and that aren’t important – and guess what? This is the best box of the four of them because you can just cross that off. You can just literally drop it. It’s not important, it’s not urgent, you don’t need to look into it for now. It doesn’t mean you can’t do it in the future, it just means that for now, you shouldn’t worry about trying to get that done.
Finally, if something is urgent but it’s not important (all the little tasks like catching up on conversations or on emails and all these little things that end up piling up) – there are a few things you can do. If you have an assistant that works with you, you can delegate that or outsource that. And if you don’t have anyone working for you, it might be a good idea to keep track of those tasks. If you keep adding things in this box, it might be time for you to hire a little bit of help, at least for a couple of hours a week. If it’s not something that you can afford at the moment, you can try to find a way to automate those tasks. Maybe if you spend a lot of time doing little things like posting your Instagram posts yourself manually, you could put that into an app that would automatically publish that instead. Automating is going to help you get back that time.
You can also try batching. That means that instead of doing one email here, another email there during the day and feeling a little bit overwhelmed because you haven’t really gotten on top of your emails that day, it’s saying, “I’m not going to look at my emails at all until 3:00 PM and then from 3:00 to 4:00 PM that’s all I’m going to do. I’m going to block this hour and I’m only going to focus on this one task”. So it’s regrouping all those little tasks and deciding that you’re going to create slots in your calendar to get it done all at once.
So how does this look in real life? Well on mornings where I feel I need to prioritize my to-do list I write down on a piece of paper whatever is on my to-do list and my mind that day. The next step is to put numbers next to each item. They don’t matter – if it’s number one, it doesn’t mean that it’s the first thing you need to work on. Literally start from the top, go to the bottom and number them all. Once you’ve done that, get a post-it note or another sheet of paper (or whatever you want to work with – I like to use a post-it note because I can stick that on my calendar). Then you want to draw that matrix that I just described. I like to put as well a little reminder of what the actual scale is there, so I’ll put “u” for urgent, plus and minus so I know which quadrant is what and I’ll put “im” for important, plus and minus to know which one is important and non-important.
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From there take a look at your to-do list and go: “okay, item number one – is it urgent, yes or no? And is it important, yes or no?” and add it to the relevant box or quadrant. Do it for each item on your list and when you’re done, it’s time to use the matrix to prioritize and to decide what you’re going to do, what you’re not going to do and when you’re going to do the rest of it.
The first thing is always to cross off anything that’s in the bottom left. These are things that are not important and they’re not urgent, so just forget about them for now. You can always get back to them later. Maybe it’s next month, maybe it’s next trimester, but in any case, now is not a good time to look at them so just cross that off your to-do list as if it was done and forget about it.
The second thing you need to look at is the opposite box, which is the top right one because these are the things that are important and urgent. This is going to become your number one task for the day, the thing that needs to get done before anything else. You’re not allowed to work on anything else until that gets done. Once you’ve put that into your calendar and you know you’re going to start at 10:00 AM and it’s going to take around two hours – cross it off that list.
Next is looking at the top left box, which are things that are important but not urgent. You don’t need to do them right now, but they’re all probably projects that are going to move your shop and your business forward, so you do want to make sure that you make time on your calendar for them. It may be later this afternoon once you’re done with your number one task, or it might be tomorrow or the day after – it doesn’t matter, but write down a time at which you’re going to be working on this. Once you’re done, cross it off.
The last one is the bottom right box. These are things that are urgent but they’re not important. So these are all the little tasks like emails, conversations, post office trips to send a few products – whatever it might be, try to group those tasks and decide when you’re going to do them. If you find yourself always adding more items in this specific box, it may be time to consider hiring a little bit of help for that. Finally, is there anything that you can automate that’s going to help you be more effective and more productive when you’re doing those tasks?
That’s it. I know it took me a little while to explain it to you, but once you get the hang of it, it’s actually really, really, really quick and you’ll get clarity on what’s really important, what’s important but you can maybe do it tomorrow instead of today, what you shouldn’t even worry about and the things that you need to get done, but that you need to be more efficient at doing – maybe batching, automating or delegating. I hope this was helpful. Let me know below in the comments: are you going to try it?
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