Are You a List Maker?

Hey small business owners – how do you keep track all of the items on your To Do list?

I’ve seen a wide variety of methods.  Some use a good old-fashioned notebook.  Some use post-it notes.  Then there are all kinds of apps out there to help you keep track of projects and your progress and any ongoing tasks.  I’ve tried Basecamp, Asana, Trello, and Podio among others.  Or perhaps you are a fan of the bullet journal?

My Life is Run by My To Do List

I have always been a huge fan of any To Do list – paper or online.  And I have to admit, it’s become almost an obsession.  I have been using the app Todoist for quite a while now.  It allows me to create recurring items, to assign priority order, to create different projects and even to see how many items I have completed over time.

When I am on a call with someone and a task comes up or I say I will follow up in two weeks, I just stick that task or follow up reminder in Todoist and know that it will be there for me when the date pops up.

And when I sit down in my office at the start of the day, I can see what I assigned to myself for the day and what I should be prioritizing.  So each day, I pull up that list for the day and get to work crossing things off that list (or pushing them out to the next day).  I know my day is done when the list is empty and Todoist tells me to relax and enjoy the rest of my day.  Thanks, Todoist!

Directionless with no To Dos

Then late last week, something terrible happened.  The app crashed.  When I opened the program, all I saw was this:

Broken To Doist

And when I logged on through my browser, I saw ancient lists and recurring items, but nothing from the past couple weeks.  I had a mild sense of panic, but I did what anyone else in my place would do.  I googled “What happened to my Todoist list?” (Yup – “google” is now a verb in my opinion, with no need for a capital G).

Google had all sorts of suggestions but nothing that solved my problem.  I spent much of Thursday just staring at my screen, unable to make progress without my handy list as my guide for what to do.  And then I made an attempt to recreate the list online in Todoist.  And then I decided to try the Reminders app on my Mac as a backup.  And then I remembered that I hated the Reminders app and that’s why I was using Todoist.  So I decided I’d have to resort to pen and paper, even though that means I can’t access that list when I’m not in my office.  I was a wreck, really.  Those of you who follow a “To Do” kinda life get me, I’m sure.

 The To Do Epiphany

As I wrestled with this major dilemma that left me rudderless at my desk, I started to think about how dependent I really was on that darn list.  Why didn’t I arrange for some sort of back-up?  What will happen when I don’t follow up with people I said I would follow up with?

Then my mind shifted a bit, as I started thinking about what was actually on these lists.  And which items I crossed off and which ones I kept postponing.  The items I accomplished were typically things that either were easy to complete (yay, check that one off!) – or had a very clear deadline for a client.

And which ones was I not getting to?  The big picture ones.  The strategic ones.  The items that likely were too big to belong on my To Do list in the first place.  Or at least should have been broken down into tiny steps that I could cross off – rather than “create marketing plan for online business owner roundtable groups” or “monetize my Five For Friday videos”.  How the heck do I ever cross that off?  I mean, eventually I will get these things done, but it’s not one little item I can finish in a day.

From To Do List to Vision Board?

I’d love to tell you that I learned my lesson and now I have a giant poster hanging on my wall full of my BHAG in vision board format, complete with photos of happy business people clipped from Inc. or Fast Company magazine and piles of money that I hope to make by helping out these happy business people.  That way every time I look up from my computer I am reminded of where I am headed.

But no, I am sucking it up and using my Reminders app.  After all, I still need something to keep me on task or I might forget something important.  But I did learn an important lesson from all this drama.  I do really need to lift my head up to see where I’m heading.  And then I need to take that giant goal and break it into tiny tasks.  I can’t change my compulsion for checking things off of my To Do list – but I can use it to my advantage!

How Do You Move from To Do Item to Vision?

Now that you know my compulsions and my goal for 2022 (lots and lots of tiny steps to get to where I want to be) – I want you to think about your own plans for 2022.  What can you do differently to help you move your business goals along?  As I’ve discussed before, we all struggle to manage the wide variety of tasks that pop up from day to day, which makes longer term planning harder than it sounds.

It can be far too easy for each of us to just keep doing what we’re doing, even though we know that the world around us is changing (fast!), and we will need to address that at some point.

What is your vision for your business?  And how can you start moving in that direction?  How can you start with the broader, bigger goals?  And then how can you break each goal into manageable, bite-sized pieces so that you can actually make progress with them?

If you are struggling to hold yourself accountable to your vision, consider joining a Virtual Business Owner Roundtable Group with your peers.  I am starting two groups in 1Q 2022 at a reduced monthly rate – one for industrial B2B business owners (with under 50 employees) – and one for Direct 2 Consumer businesses (with under 5 employees).  Contact me for more information!


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