Posted by Todd Smith
One of the most important keys to personal and professional success lies in how you spend your time. Each day contains 24 hours, but how we spend those hours is what separates people who enjoy lives of happiness, fulfillment, and success from those who experience lives filled with frustration, disappointment, and often failure.
Practicing good time management will not only have a tremendous impact on success in your career but it will also have a powerful effect on your entire life.
In order for you to be an effective time manager, you must first have the desire to be more productive with your time. It must be something that is important to you or you won’t take the steps required to improve your time management skills.
Keep a Prioritized Daily To-do List
Keeping a prioritized daily to-do list is my top time-management tip, and I believe my consistent use of such a list has played a significant role in my success. My daily to-do list is my prioritized daily action plan. It has been and continues to be my plan for how I will spend my time to accomplish those things that are important to me.
Everyone should keep a prioritized daily to-do list. It removes the guesswork from how to spend your time and who to spend it with. Keeping this to-do list also helps reduce stress, because it clarifies what you should and shouldn’t be doing. It will also keep you from forgetting things.
I keep my daily to-do list on a pad of paper. I carry this pad of paper with me everywhere I go. When new things come up that I must accomplish, I simply add them to the list.
The first step in creating your to-do list is to take out a blank pad of paper and write down everything you need to get done. As you make this list, don’t focus on prioritizing it or listing things in any specific order. Just drain your brain and make your list. Then, at the end of each day, go over your list and prioritize each item.
Prioritizing Your List
Once your list is complete, put an “A” next to those things that absolutely must get done the next day. These are the things that will bring you closer to the accomplishment of your most important goals. Throughout my career as an entrepreneur, most of my “A’s” have been the proactive things I must do to make money, such as prospecting for new business.
Put a “B” next to those items that you should get done. An example of a “B” item might be getting your dirty car washed.
Put a “C” next to those items that you need to do but just aren’t a priority right now. An example of a “C” item could be picking up the dry cleaning that you don’t need for a couple of days.
And lastly put a “D” next to those things you can delegate. This might be something you are going to ask your spouse or children to do, such as changing a light bulb or going to the post office to send a package.
After you have designated all the items on your list with an A, B, C, or D, then review all the “A’s” and put a “1” next to the most important A; a “2” next to the second most important A, a “3” next to the third most important A, and so on, until you are done with all of your “A’s.”
Then go over your “B’s.” Put a “1” next to your most important B and follow the same procedure as you did with your “A’s” until all your “B’s” are prioritized.
I generally don’t do anything with my “C’s” because I seldom get to them until they move up in importance. I do keep them on my list so I don’t forget about them. I then delegate the “D” items to the appropriate people.
Once my list is complete, I have a prioritized plan for the next day. I go to bed and rest comfortably because I am not thinking about all the things I need to do or the things I don’t want to forget to do. Each day I take out my list and look for A1, and that is the first thing I do. I intentionally do not look down the list for the easy things I could do quickly. Not only would that defeat the purpose of the to-do list, but it also would give me a false sense of accomplishment.
If you will put together a prioritized daily to-do list every day as I have described, and follow it diligently, it will do more to help you move closer to the accomplishment of your goals than almost anything else I can recommend.
I challenge you to make a prioritized to-do list each day for the next week and see how it affects how you spend your time and what you accomplish. I bet you will be astounded at your productivity and satisfaction.
Keeping a prioritized to-do list reduces stress, makes you more responsible, and increases your productivity.
Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 43 years and founder of Little Things Matter. This blog contains over 200 of his timeless life lessons.
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