Advertising

Ask the Entrepreneurs: What Do You Cross Off Your To-Do List First?

Ask the Entrepreneurs: What Do You Cross Off Your To-Do List First?
Advertising

Ask The Entrepreneurs is a regular series where members of those involved in the Young Entrepreneur Council are asked a single question that aims to help Lifehack readers level up their own lives, whether in an area of management, communication, business, or life in general.

Most people have a list of actions that they prioritize for at the start of the day, these lists can be created in tools such as Evernote, Wunderlist, Remember the Milk and a host of other tools (Ed: We’re building Listible to help you create lists), but there is usually one thing on your list you want to accomplish first to help kick-start your day. Here’s the question posed in this edition of Ask The Entrepreneurs:

What do you cross off your to-do list first every day, and why does it help you stay productive?

1. Make a Plan

    Before starting on the work of the day, I create an action plan. I list everything that I need to accomplish and review the list along with scheduled meetings. By going over the plans for the day, I am prepared to complete all the tasks on my to-do list.

    Alexandra Mayzler, Thinking Caps Tutoring

    2. Read for Fuel

      I read articles and blogs. I consider continual learning to be a top priority, so I always do it first. It fuels ideas and provides knowledge for the rest of my day.

      Brent Beshore, AdVentures

      3. Whatever the Biggest Priority Is

        As a work at home mama and business owner, my daily priorities are constantly changing. When my work day starts, I tackle the one thing on my list that contributes the most to the bottom line. Typically that means a call with a potential client or moving a new product forward gets crossed off my to-do list first.

        Advertising

        Molly Mahar, Stratejoy

        4. Write First

          First thing first — I write. I spend the first couple hours every morning writing, whether it’s a new ad campaign, email campaign, or a guest blog post. Writing is the most valuable activity I can do in my business, and that’s why I put it first on my list every morning. Identify the most valuable thing you can do for your business — and do it first, before you check your email. Email can wait.

          Pete Kennedy, Main Street ROI

          5. Eat the Frog

            “If you have to eat a live frog, it does not pay to sit and look at it for a very long time!” Do whatever it is that you don’t want to do, but need to do most first thing in the morning … and then the rest of the day is just peachy.

            Derek Flanzraich, Greatist

            6. Prepare Daily Indicators

              Our controller prepares our business “daily indicators” every morning. It’s an overall view of the health of our business. Evaluating the daily indicators each morning is a great way to get focused and keep day-to-day decisions in perspective as they relate to overall goals.

              Abby Ross, Blueye Creative

              Advertising

              7. Check Twitter Feeds

                I use Twitter to catch up with the rest of the world and find out what I missed. It’s not a healthy addiction but it’s a great way to stay up to date.

                Ben Lang, EpicLaunch

                8. Review Growth Metrics

                  As the steward of a social media startup, we’re all about community growth. So every morning I review our growth numbers from the day before — how many sign ups have our reps gotten and are we on track to meet our monthly goals. If growth is stagnating, addressing the “why” is job one for the day. If a community is not growing, it’s dying.

                  Brendan Mangus, Habidy

                  9. First Things First: Email

                    Contrary to a lot of “guru” advice, I check my email first thing in the morning. Once I know everything is in order and moving forward, I can focus on my day.

                    Charles Gaudet, Predictable Profits

                    10. Calendar Check

                    Advertising

                      The first thing I do is look at my calendar to see how I’ve planned my day. Seeing what meetings are scheduled allows me to properly prepare myself and my team members for what we’ll be tackling that day.

                      Zach Cutler, Cutler Group

                      11. The 3 Easiest Tasks

                        I’m not really a fan of the whole “Eat That Frog” concept. I start my day with the three of the easiest tasks on my to-do list. This makes a little dent in my list right away, which makes me feel as though I’m on a roll. I always find that when this is the case, I burn through more tasks than I would when focusing on my biggest list items first.

                        Travis Steffen, WorkoutBOX

                        12. Call Every Teammate

                          We have a distributed team (Berkeley, Atlanta, South Korea, San Francisco). The most important thing I do each morning is talk to each teammate — I want to know how they are, what projects are on their plate, and what I can do to help them succeed each day. These calls create a sense of camaraderie and shared purpose, and provide a great opportunity to set team priorities.

                          Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

                          13. Yoga

                          Advertising

                            20 Minute Yoga is the first thing I have scheduled into my day. Yoga and stretching has so many benefits like improved circulation, strength building, better posture, and many more. It helps me get focused and feel good for the day ahead. I recommend checking out Tara Stiles on YouTube at youtube.com/tarastilesyoga. She has yoga routines you can do in 5 minutes from home.

                            Natalie MacNeil, She Takes on the World

                            14. Write 3 Thank You Notes

                              I start every workday by writing three thank you notes. It is extremely important to show appreciation to those who have contributed to your success in any way. Gratefulness sparks a cycle of positivity whereby which those who are appreciated are likely to provide further assistance in the future. In regards to its role in my daily routine, writing these cards puts me in a more positive mindset

                              Dave Kerpen, Likeable Media

                              15. Ask These 3 Questions

                                These three things gets automatically added on my digital To Do list every day:
                                (1) Who am I required to be today?
                                (2) What is the one thing that I want to enjoy today?
                                (3) What is the ONE thing that I am required to do today?

                                Peter Nguyen, Advertiser360

                                16. Morning Checklist

                                  Each morning, I complete the same checklist: look at calendar, review projects list, answer e-mail, answer voicemails and texts, and clear daily paper file. This has three benefits: It helps me process everything effectively; it makes starting my day effortless; and it allows me to plan effectively based on the most recent information.

                                  Advertising

                                  Elizabeth Saunders, Real Life E®

                                  Featured photo credit:  Laptop (notebook) with cup of coffee and notepad with pen via Shutterstock

                                  More by this author

                                  9 No-Brainer Ways to Track Employee Time Ask the Entrepreneurs: 12 Things Entrepreneurs Should Stop Doing Ask the Entrepreneurs: 9 Best Note Taking Tools Ask the Entrepreneurs: 12 Tips for Mastering Public Speaking Ask the Entrepreneurs: 9 Tasks You Should be Outsourcing

                                  Trending in Productivity

                                  1 5 Values of an Effective Leader 2 How to Motivate People Around You and Inspire Them 3 The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work) 4 30 Practical Ideas to Create Your Best Morning Routine 5 Is People Management the Right Career Path for You?

                                  Read Next

                                  Advertising
                                  Advertising

                                  Last Updated on July 21, 2021

                                  The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

                                  The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
                                  Advertising

                                  No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

                                  Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

                                  Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

                                  A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

                                  Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

                                  In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

                                  Advertising

                                  From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

                                  A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

                                  For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

                                  This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

                                  The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

                                  That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

                                  Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

                                  Advertising

                                  The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

                                  Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

                                  But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

                                  The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

                                  The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

                                  A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

                                  For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

                                  Advertising

                                  But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

                                  If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

                                  For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

                                  These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

                                  For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

                                  How to Make a Reminder Works for You

                                  Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

                                  Advertising

                                  Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

                                  Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

                                  My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

                                  Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

                                  I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

                                  More on Building Habits

                                  Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

                                  Advertising

                                  Reference

                                  [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

                                  Read Next