Do you start out each week—or each day—with a to-do list? Before I wised up to the dangers of to-do lists, I wrote them all the time. A typical one looked like this:

  1. Write blog article
  2. Craft proposal for new client
  3. Throw out orphan socks from sock drawer—or repurpose into puppets
  4. Develop PowerPoint for social media seminar
  5. Pull new gray hairs from top of head
  6. Make sales calls
  7. Memorize lyrics to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Consider singing with sock puppets.

You know what happened? I’d do the irrelevant stuff first (sock puppets, gray hairs, and Queen), because they were more fun and easier to check off. Wow, I was getting stuff done, I thought! Sure, I might work on less-pleasant-yet-critical business tasks…if there was enough time afterwards. But usually I found more tempting ways to fill the time.

Maybe you can relate. Okay, maybe you’re not lured by sock puppets, gray hairs, and Queen. But your tendency to check off simpler tasks—pay a bill, make a quick phone call, etc.—may be preventing you from accomplishing tasks that could make a huge, positive impact on your business.

Here are more problems with to-do lists:

  1. They don’t factor in the duration of each task. Some tasks might take two minutes—others might take two hours!
  2. They don’t say when you will tackle each task (i.e. no real commitment).
  3. They don’t distinguish between urgent and important. They’re not always the same thing.
  4. They rarely get completed in full. Did you know that, on average, 41% of to-do items never get done?

Imagine what your business would look like if you consistently accomplished your big-picture tasks every week.

My business transformed—with revenues quadrupling in one year—when I stopped writing to-do lists and started putting important tasks in a calendar. (I use Google Calendar, but any calendar will do.) Why a calendar? Because it forces you to block out time for the stuff that matters. In other words, you’re making regular business appointments with yourself. Using a calendar also helps you see what your day truly looks like, so you don’t end up over-committing to less important tasks.

Do I still crave a life with sock puppets, gray-hair pulling, and Queen? Absolutely. But now I can visualize what little time I have for it, at least during the workday. (Besides, I’ve found it’s easier to work on gray hairs at night, when my teenage son can help pull the ones I can’t see on the back of my head. Awkward for him, but great for me.)

I’d love to learn what productivity strategies work for you. Block out 15 minutes in your calendar to email me your thoughts. I look forward to hearing from you!

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