You probably think your pretty organised? When I first started in business, I thought I was a pretty organised chick.
I was only 25 and I had a mortgage and an investment property, my partner and I owned all of our own vehicles, which included a car and a motorbike each and we had no credit cards. I kept a calendar on the wall near the telephone (yep, back when we still had landlines connected to the walls by cables!) and all the bills that were due got clipped to the calendar, with the nearest payment at the front.
It was a good system, bills got paid on time and special events got remembered. I figured I could incorporate a similar way of thinking to my new business and everything would run smoothly.
I was right and I was wrong.
Right, in that by having some kind of idea of money and time management, I was able to take over an existing business with staff, and understand the importance of priorities and appointment keeping.
Wrong, in that there is so much more to running a business than just paying bills on time and checking the calendar for meetings and events.
I quickly became overcome by the sheer demand on my own time. Trying to manage the intense workload of management tasks as well as the design jobs, especially if staff were sick or away proved overwhelming and tiring. Then learning the detailed financial requirements of my company and ensuring these were always up-to-date and correct placed a massive weight on my shoulders and began to make me question my decisions and at times feel quite negative as I would be working long hours, away from my partner, pets and home, trying to get all my tasks done. I have since learned to delegate and employ professionals to perform the particular tasks that I struggle and stress over – but that is another post.
I learned very quickly that I needed to manage my time and priorities much more earnestly. I had to get serious.
So I got into lists.
Not just a scrap bit of paper with a few to-do’s scribbled on it (because honestly that stuff gets lost on my desk!). I designed a proper, printed (and branded) sheet, which I used daily to record the different tasks I needed to perform, in order of priority, and separated into admin / design / sales.
The first difference it made was to make me feel more in control and more organised, and less likely to forget important tasks. My confidence and my mood improved.
The next difference I noticed was how much more time I felt like I had, when I studiously worked through my list and got my tasks done and there were even sometimes (happy dance) that the list got completely done!
Getting the feeling of accomplishment in your day gives you motivation to keep going, endorphins to improve your mood and self-belief in yourself that you can achieve goals, no matter how big or small.
Over the next 14 years in business, I have revised that list many times as my situation has changed and my business evolved. My most recent reincarnation of the list includes an area to list the 3 most important things I need to get achieved first, followed by ‘other tasks’, an area to list invoices/admin I need to attention and a specific area for personal tasks as well as a “Freestyle” area which is for my inevitable doodling.
I use it every day, and will check it first thing in the morning and last thing at night to see what is on my agenda for the next day and I feel comfortable knowing that I can work through my list and all my prioritised tasks will be done and I won’t forget anything important.
I have included a copy of my current to-do list here for you to download and incorporate into your daily routine. It may even inspire you to create your own design incorporating specific sections that you need for your ultimate to-do list.