Time stays long enough for those who use it.“
– Leonardo Da Vinci

Your plan depends on your goals
Do you know what you are going to do tomorrow? Do you know what you are going to do next? In order to be more effective, you should have a plan for the next day and what tasks you are going to do then (so, now you know what word you shouldn’t ignore ;).

However, this depends (at least partly) on your goals.

Do you know what your goals are? If not, you should take some time now and start putting your thoughts on paper.

Take some time in quiet environment to see where you are now and where you want to be in the future. Then just put those goals to a list. Eventually, the sub-tasks that you have to take in order to reach those goals become partly the basis of your weekly and daily action lists.

You might have many goals and if this is the case, you should then review this list often to see have you already accomplished them or not.

For example, let’s say that you have a blog, but don’t have an e-mail list yet. However, your goal could be, that in 30 days from today’s date, you have written your 10-page free report, started to capture e-mail leads and have 30 readers on your list.

From the previous example you could see, that the goal was exact. It addressed what you wanted to do and when you wanted it to happen. The more specific the goal the better (I didn’t address an exact time goal here, since running your first marathon it’s all about crossing the finish line first :).

Task list is the key

I like to keep three kinds of lists available. First, there is my goals list, which is divided between 1-3 year goals and 5 year goals. These goals give me much broader view of where I’m heading and they in turn help me to realize what steps to take on weekly and daily basis.

I keep these goals always easily accessible, so that I know where I’m headed. However, I’m always willing to tweak the list if necessary. For example, if I realize that a certain goal doesn’t resonate with me anymore, I take it out from my list.

Then, there is a weekly list, which consists of all the tasks I like to accomplish that week and from those tasks I create the daily list. I try to list these tasks on each Friday.

Finally, there is my daily list, which consists of daily tasks. I create it the night before I go to sleep.

“I have three lists: Goals list, weekly list and daily list”

You have different ways to create and manage your task list, for example on paper, as web-based list, mobile phone version or having a whiteboard. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll describe a paper version here, since it is the simplest one to implement. All you need is a pen and paper.

Task list characteristics
My task list has these certain characteristics:

Only a maximum number of tasks per day
Non-working day (*)
Certain tasks are grouped to a certain day of the week
I don’t include self-explanatory things to my list
When the task is done, it is crossed-over
If a task is not done, it is moved to another day

(*Exception to the rule: Normally I take Friday off and don’t work on my business. However If I have a deadline I want to meet, I might work on Fridays as well.)

Some pointers to my list:

Only a maximum number of tasks per day: 7 (the total number of tasks depends of the day)
Non-working day: Friday is my day when I’m not working on any projects or there are no sports activities (*Exception to the rule: if the deadline requires, I might work on my personal projects on Fridays as well)
Certain tasks are grouped to a certain day of the week: For example all the household chores are done on Sunday
I don’t include self-explanatory things to my list: I could include things “like have a lunch” or “take out the trash”, but why bother, since I know when to do those things anyway.
Tasks that are done are crossed-over

“Limit the amount of tasks on your daily task list”

You need to decide what is important and what is not
One thing that is very important is to decide what task on your list is worth your time.

The problem I had when I started putting my tasks to a daily list was that it included too many small tasks, which eventually consumed all my energy and I had hard time of accomplishing everything. Right then I needed to decide, which of those tasks were the most important related to my goals, and which ones could be done at a certain date, by batching (grouping tasks together).

I’m actually a big fan of “big rocks” metaphor (told by Stephen Covey in his book “First Things First”). It’s about how you should fill up an empty jar with big rocks first (your most important tasks). The rest of the content that fits in is smaller rocks, less important tasks.

The point being, if the smaller rocks were already in the jar and you tried to put all the bigger rocks after that, they wouldn’t fit in. So, your important goals/tasks would be left out. That’s why my principle is to focus on big rocks first and group all the smaller tasks together if possible.

3 characteristics of a good daily to-do list
There are certain characteristics that I like in a well-balanced daily plan (or to-do list if you will). As a matter of fact, the previous sentence already revealed one good characteristic that it needs to have: well-balanced.

Its well balanced

I have been tweaking and optimizing my daily plans for years and I now have a good idea what does a well-balanced list looks like. It covers various aspects of your life, which in turn provides wellness and clarity for your daily activities.

For me I get the most satisfaction of including these elements to my daily list:

Working on my personal projects

The balancing part is important – whether you work on your business full-time or part-time. I believe that each of those three elements support each other and nurture your creativity which enables you to develop your business even further.

Its not overstuffed

Good to-do list is not overstuffed with gazillion tasks in it. This is something that I had to learn by tweaking and optimizing it for couple of years, until I got it right.

Fewer tasks there are and more meaningful they are related to your goals, the better you feel about yourself when you have taken action on those things.

You could overstuff your list with tens of tasks and even if you accomplished all of them, you would just feel overwhelmed and exhausted. You don’t want to choose that route.

For example, when I’m working on my business part-time, it is important that I want to include tasks which bring me the biggest rewards. These include for example blog commenting on other blogs or publishing content (written/video) to my blog weekly.

It has daily important tasks in it
If you haven’t really figured out what goals are, please do it now. Constructing a daily to-do list is much easier after this and it brings clarity into you daily actions.

Once you have nailed down your goals and where you want to be in the next 1-3 year timeframe, you should consistently include sub-tasks related to your goals in your daily plan.

This is the only way to keep the ball rolling and even if you did just something small related to you goal, it is still much better than doing nothing at all.

Businesswise, those important tasks are the ones that will bring you biggest returns. These could be for example getting traffic and exposure to your blog, relationship building with others, e-mail list building or creating new products and services for your audience.

Main takeaways from this are:
Plan, plan, plan! You need to have goals and your daily tasks are action steps towards your goals
Have three kinds of lists: Goals, weekly list and daily list
Have a balanced task list – don’t overstuff it!
Fitting together a family life and building your online business may be tough. Try to find time slots when you can work on your business, for example when your partner is on his/her own hobbies.
Give time for your family as well – they are the most important people around you

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