August 22, 2011

Triage – Otherwise Known As Tackling Your To Do List

Perhaps it was the full moon last week, but every entrepreneur I talked with (myself included) was feeling overwhelmed with the sheer amount of stuff that our respective businesses were demanding.   My own personal to do list has sticky notes attached to it with even more to dos and it feels like for every one thing that gets crossed off four more are added.

The truth of the matter is that entrepreneurship has always been a bit of a juggling act where you try to turn something you love into a viable business, run the business side of it without losing your mind, and do it all with grace, charm, and a happy family life.   It brings to mind the image of a duck who looks so calm and collected on top of the water and yet is paddling frantically underneath.

Personally, last week my own to do list got so large and unmanageable that it threatened to stymie me completely.  I normally pride myself on being able to keep all those balls in the air but all of the sudden my juggling act appeared in jeopardy.   It finally dawned on me that there are times when focusing on the big picture is important for an entrepreneur but by the same token, there are times when you have to focus on the gritty details.  In my case that meant looking at the list and deciding what needed to get done right away, what could wait, and what might not happen at all.     It meant that  a few noncritical phone calls went unreturned and a business meeting was pushed until later in August, but that freed me up to make sure that the ads that were due today for a major b2b holiday publication were exactly as I wanted and were submitted on time.

Sometimes in our efforts for perfection and success we entrepreneurs forget that we’re merely human.  Do you have any suggestions on how you manage an unmanageable to do list?

2 comments on “Triage – Otherwise Known As Tackling Your To Do List

  • Nancy Fortner on said:

    I am enjoying your posts, and usually find at least one nugget of information applicable to my own small business. Moreover, since a home-based business can be a pretty solitary pursuit, I feel reassured to know that others experience similar challenges and joy in creating and running their own small businesses.

    I would only add to your post that I try to be “in the moment” with whichever task makes it to the top of my to-do list, and let myself enjoy and complete it or get it to the next level, rather than allow stray thoughts about the many tasks still to be done dilute the effort or pleasure of the one I’m working on. This helps reduce the stress of a long to-do list that never seems to get shorter, and lets those endorphins make me feel good about a job well done.

    Rather than stress out when I am forced to multitask, I try to get into the challenge of juggling, and remind myself that I’m good at it and that I accomplish more in some days than many people get done in a week.
    The small-time entrepreneur is often the line worker as well as the manager of that worker–herself–and must remember to cheer herself on with pats on the back along the way.

    • smallfoodbiz on said:

      You bring up a great point about staying focused on the task at hand. I know that sometimes in the midst of a task my mind can wander as I start thinking about everything else that needs to get done and that not only keeps me from completing the first task well but also makes me more wound-up then I need to be!