Are you a nonprofit leader tired of looking at your to-do list with a sense of dread? Trust me. You're not alone. We all have a love/hate relationship with those seemingly endless lists. They can be overwhelming, but at the same time, they're essential for keeping us on track and ensuring we get things done.
👉🏻 If you want to transform your TO-DO list into a truly productive tool, it's time to make it more manageable.
🤔 Are you wondering....How do you trim your TO-DO list?
The wrong thing to put on your list
To tame your TO-DO list, you must remove repetitive items. When you stop entering tasks on your list that you complete regularly, you will see your list shrink dramatically. Doing this lets you find that your TO-DO list becomes your trusted friend instead of a daunting foe.
You can do what Sarah and Maria did
👱🏻♀️ My client Sarah manages a group home. She used to have tasks like "prepare program schedule every week" and "review budget once a month," constantly cluttering her to-do list.
Realizing that these were routine items, Sarah entered them directly into her schedule. This simple change made a massive difference in how she approached her daily tasks, allowing her to focus on more pressing matters and be more productive.
👩🏻 Another client Maria, a Program Coordinator, used to dread the monthly task of compiling statistics and preparing quarterly reports. It was a time-consuming chore that she would often leave until the last moment, sacrificing her personal time to get it done.
However, after learning to treat routine tasks as appointments with herself, Maria scheduled a specific time slot every month to tackle the statistics. Not only did this help her prioritize the task, but it also freed up her evenings and weekends for personal activities.
❌ Removing the routine items
By removing routine items from your to-do list and scheduling them in your agenda, you're making a commitment to yourself to complete these tasks during designated times.
📆 Book appointments with yourself
Most leaders only use their agenda for meetings and appointments with others. They may list other things they must do during the day in their agenda, but only as bulleted points. Instead, you should enter routine items into a time slot in your schedule with a beginning and ending time. The routine task should be entered into your schedule as an appointment with yourself.
📊 The dreaded monthly stats task
Let me give you an example. Many managers need to do monthly statistics and quarterly reports. This means you pull together charts, forms, and spreadsheets every month. Laying them all out on your desk, you compile data into a report that goes off to the powers that be.
For most leaders, this data compilation is a challenging task. Leaders put it off and delay doing it until the last moment. I venture to guess that most leaders tend to get it done by either staying late or finishing it on the weekend. That's certainly how I used to get it done 🤦🏼♀️
This chore gets done on a manager's own time because the manager never prioritized it. Oh, they may put it at the top of their TO-DO list! But that didn't mean it came before other fires needing put out. Since the monthly statistical collection wasn't put in as an appointment, it was not completed during the regular daytime hours.
🙋♀️ How I do it:
I now have a standing appointment with myself to do it each 📆 Monday morning. Yes, you read that right. It's part of my weekly review that gets prioritized before anything else!
Move it from TO-DO list to your agenda
Tasks that are routine things need to be put into your agenda. Schedule a regular appointment with yourself to get done the things that need to get repeatedly done.
How to Set Routine Tasks as an Appointment
Most leaders only use their agenda for meetings and appointments with others, but it's also important to include routine tasks. Rather than simply jotting them down as bullet points, I encourage you to allocate a specific time slot in your schedule with a defined start and end time.
Treat these routine tasks as appointments with yourself.
✔️ Appointments with yourself get entered into your agenda and are blocked off as busy times.
✔️ No one else should be able to book an appointment with you during this time.
✔️ Treat those times just like you would treat any other meeting:
But what if something more important comes up?
We all know that unexpected things can arise, and priorities can shift. If you cannot complete a task during the scheduled time, don't just erase it and forget about it. As author Jay Papasan says: "If you erase it, then you must replace it."
📚 Papasan co-authored the book The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth About Extraordinary Results, and I highly recommend it if you want to become more productive.
Rebook it if you can't do it
That means if you can't do the work as planned, find another suitable time slot in your calendar to reschedule it. Don't let routine tasks pile up and follow you home as unfinished business. They are an integral part of your workload and deserve the same level of attention as anything else
⭐️Compiling timesheets, writing reports, and reviewing budgets are all part of your workload. They are not extras. You need to treat them with the same importance as anything else.
✅ Your TO-DO list taming HOMEWORK:
1️⃣ During your weekly planning, review your TO-DO list.
2️⃣ Put a ✔️ checkmark beside anything that is a regular or cyclical task.
3️⃣ Take those items and 📆 schedule the appropriate amount of time into your agenda.
4️⃣ Stick to those times and complete the task in that time slot 💪🏻
5️⃣ If you can't do it, re-book it 📆
A manageable-looking TO-DO list
This leaves a manageable TO-DO list for you to prioritize. It won't be quite as scary to look at the items left 👀
Keeping your TO-DO list manageable requires being mindful of what you enter into it. Schedule routine items into your agenda. That way, regularly occurring tasks will get done on time. This will also leave your TO-DO list smaller, more inviting to scan and way easier to keep up with 👏🏻
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