Making Lists and Checking Them Off

Making Lists and Checking Them Off

Making lists can be an art form. While there will always be exceptions to the rule, productivity and list making go hand-in-hand. Of course there is more to productivity than just making lists and checking them off, but keeping lists can provide a very tangible benefit in the workplace and make you a more efficient supervisor or employee.

List-making works to align short and long term goals into the workflow of daily life. This seems like common sense on its face, but when most people look closely at their actual workdays they see a tendency to get stuck in daily minutia rather than projects that benefit long term progress and growth. This is where targeted lists can help.

Long Term Goals

Productive people are judicious with what items make it onto their lists. Before you get to the task of making daily lists, focus your efforts on itemizing what your long-term goals are. Too many days, weeks, and months are wasted completing tasks that don’t benefit you any further than the short term. In these circumstances you may well be very productive each day, but with nothing amounting to anything down the road.

Sit down and brainstorm what long term goals you have, whether they are company growth goals, inventory goals, or market sector goals. They can also be a goals of how many conferences to attend, what education to get for employees, or even saving for a company computer upgrade. They should be somewhat big, as they’ll take a while to attain. That’s a good thing. Big is good.

Once you know what your long-term goals are you can go about breaking them up into more manageable pieces. More often than not, the big goals people set can become an albatross. Once a goal seems too big people are more likely to avoid it in favor of more manageable tasks. This is human nature. It’s easier to clean the kitchen than research and set up a business plan, so the kitchen gets cleaned and the research gets pushed to another day. Those days add up. So first get those long-term goals written down and then the process of breaking them up will be easier.

Long-term goals don’t have to be work related either. Fitness, finance, and family goals might all be long term topics to put on your list. The important task is deciding where you want to be in six months, as well as in one, five, and ten years. Now list out the steps you’ll need to take.

If your goal is to save $25,000 for a business emergency fund you might break that large number up into monthly or weekly amounts you can save. The smaller numbers will be easier to swallow. If the goal is to get your employees more relevant education, the list may have a game plan of how you’ll research options, technology, and locations as well as saving for the undertaking. The big takeaway here is to know where you want to be and how to get there.

Daily Checklists

A lot of action items might make it onto your daily list. Some will be the component parts of those long-term goals you broke up. Others will be everyday responsibilities and odds and ends. Here it will benefit you to organize you list into sections. Once you start adding to your daily list, figure out what aspects of your life each item fits in. Now separate them. This way you can make sure you aren’t ignoring one aspect of your life and focusing on another. This is a more common occurrence than most people think, but human nature is to tackle the more enjoyable tasks, and those that are easier to understand, first. By seeing how many to-dos you have in each category you’ll be able to organize your time to get what needs to get done first.

Look at the list. Can anything be eliminated or delegated? Here you prioritize what you spend your time on. Of course there will be some daily tasks you can’t avoid, but the goal is to focus on higher-level daily issues and those goals that will make a difference in a month or year. Other tasks should be eliminated or delegated. This is an opportunity to train your staff to get those daily tasks off of your plate.

Big Picture Benefits

Making and following lists is not always easy at first. The tendency to slide back into the daily grind will be all too easy, but with a little practice, and a well-trained staff, you’ll be handling the big decisions in no time.

You’ll become a more discerning person as you follow the process of asking thoughtful questions about each item that makes it onto your list. Ultimately this will make you a better leader and free up your personal life for those times you can prioritize, delegate, and delay decisions in favor of focusing on family.

About author

Michael Barry
Michael Barry 31 posts

Michael Barry is the Editor-In-Chief at AgeOfTheSmallBusiness.com. Currently living in Boston, Massachusetts, he received his B.A. in Financial Economics from St. Anselm College and his MFA in Creative Writing from the Stonecoast Program at the University of Southern Maine.

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