How To Get Stuff Done

Do you have a "To Do List?" Most people have one or multiple ones these days. I'm on a mission to rid the world of To Do Lists! I say, throw them all away! Eventually that "To Do List" becomes a "To Worry About List" because it continues to grow and you continue to beat yourself up and "worry" about everything you haven't done yet.

There's an easier way to get things done. SCHEDULE IT!

Instead of writing down a list of all the things you want to get done, do what SUCCESSFUL people have been doing for decades (and most likely centuries). They put things into their calendars.

I don't care if you're still using a paper-based Day Planner or the latest iPhone. With today's technology, it's easy to find a calendar that works for you.

So instead of a To Do List, here's what I do to prioritize my tasks:

1. Do It Now: if something is urgent and important and will only take a few minutes, I'll do it on the spot. It almost takes more time to find a To Do List and to write it down than it does to actually do the task.

2. Schedule It: if it's important and takes more than a few minutes to complete, then I put an appointment into the calendar of my Palm Treo to remind me to complete the task. If it's important enough for me to pay attention to it, then I should put it in my calendar so I remember to do it. The key is to schedule everything out at a future date and time. It could be something as simple as reminding yourself to print something out later tonight or to pick up some diapers on the way home. Or it could be an appointment with your customer or a meeting with your banker. Either way, you have it covered. Some things aren't as time sensitive. Maybe you publish a monthly newsletter. Well, it doesn't matter what day it gets out, just that it gets out during the month. So perhaps you set a reminder for yourself in the middle of the month that you should be working on it. It's OK if it slips a few days or weeks, because it will still be done on time by the end of the month.

3. Delegate It: if I'm not the right person to get something done or if I can't make time to complete the task before it's due, I'll make sure to delegate it to someone else who can.

4. Say No & Move On: I find that some of the biggest items that clutter up To Do Lists are things that you've promised someone else you'll do, but they aren't important enough to you to make time to do them. So you put them on your list with every intention of getting to it ("when you have time"), but the days and weeks and months go by and it doesn't get done. Cut these things off from the start. If you can't slot the item into numbers 1-3 above, then the task is probably better suited for someone else to get it done. Don't add it to your list and create more stress for yourself.

Do something as simple as following the above 4 steps and you'll save yourself a lot of time and money. You won't need to buy and read those books and attend those seminars to help you "manage your time" better.

Make sure you don't overschedule yourself. But make sure you don't have any "empty" time on your calendar either. Something can always fill in that empty space. Just schedule in your most time sensitive and important tasks and you'll make sure you always get the key things attend your son's T-ball games!


Adam Sonnhalter is a Partner of Maximum Value Partners, a business coaching firm based in Northeast Ohio that works with companies across the U.S. with anywhere from 1-25 employees. Adam has been involved in professional services his entire career including nearly a decade on Wall Street as an Investment Banker helping people buy and sell companies as well as raise money for their companies. Adam grew up with an entrepreneur at the dinner table and has been advising business owners for well o...

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