Most small business owners will have a ‘to-do’ list in one form or another, and for a select few it is all they need as they instinctively trade their way through their current business day, week or month. They manage to regularly achieve what they set out to do, set new goals and targets and make those little breakthroughs which make such a big difference to their bottom line.

But for some owner-managers the to-do list has the wrong things on it – such as tasks which aren’t important and aren’t a priority. And for many others it includes those things that were on their list from last week and from the week before that, and probably the week before that as well. Others are so disorganised they don’t have a to-do list at all, and this includes those business owners who haven’t got a clue about what they should be doing in the first place. In fact in a nutshell, this almost illustrates the entire spectrum of business owners out there:

  • Those who always recognise their priorities and get them done on time.

  • Those who usually know what’s important, but not their priorities, and rarely manage to get them done on time.

  • Those who are disorganised, incapable of prioritising and just about manage to scrape through, usually late, frustrated and exhausted.

  • Those who shouldn’t be in business at all, and don’t trade for very long after they have started up.

Self organisation is something that comes naturally to a handful of business owners, but to most it is something that they need to work at and pay closer attention to. And it can be the critical difference between achieving a profit, just breaking even, making a loss and miserable failure.

Of course it isn’t possible to say exactly what sort of things should be on every business owner’s  to-do list, but if you tend to use one daily or at least weekly then there are some general tips and eye-opening principles which might help you improve your business scheduling, prioritisation and all round self-organisational ability.

Following is a list of ten things which could be and in many cases should be on your weekly to-do list:

  1. What is the biggest priority from last week that you didn’t achieve through running out of time and hence you absolutely must do this week?

  2. What is the most important AND the most urgent priority you need to achieve by the end this week. Something may be important but not the most urgent, and could be urgent but not the most important. But what needs to be done that’s both urgent and important in your case?

  3. What could you achieve in the next hour or two which will free up the rest of your day or even the rest of your week?

  4. What did you avoid doing last week and the week before that but is so important that it’s hampering your progress. Be honest, everyone in business avoids things they don’t like or that cause them stress.

  5. Is there anyone you need to call or speak to face-to-face? This isn’t someone you just need to e-mail or write to, but someone who needs to be spoken to, responded to or asked in order to solve a problem or remove a bottleneck.

  6. Is there something on your list you will genuinely enjoy doing, or you’re looking forward to, and when is the best time for you to do it? For example after you’ve completed that urgent, but stressful task you’ve been avoiding for the last week.

  7. What was your biggest time-wasting distraction in the last week, which you can clear up or make sure doesn’t get in your way this week?

  8. What do you struggle with week after week which isn’t going to go away? Can you get someone to do this instead – a colleague, freelancer or other supplier – especially if it’s important or critical to your progress?

  9. Is there anything useful or new that you should put time aside to learn about this week? Just one hour spent learning something new every week could pay dividends in the long run, but when will you find the time to do it?

  10. What is the one thing that has been unduly weighing you or your business down recently? Unreliable suppliers, awkward customers, late payers and incapable, troublesome staff are things that affect every business owner. Pick one out and do something to deal with it or drop it this week.

Of course it’s not going to be easy for you to immediately adopt or take on board all of the above tips – your business life isn’t as straightforward as that. But realistically you should be able to begin by prioritising and ticking off at least two or three of these sorts of tasks this week and a couple more next week.