» How to Shorten Your To-Do List

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP. Alan has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.

Coming back from WeddingWire World Chicago I was reflecting upon all of the great wedding professionals I met and the wonderful ideas they heard and the connections they made. I was sure they all went home with a huge to-do list for their business, and it dawned on me how overwhelming it can sometimes seem when there are so many great ideas and so little time to implement them. So, how do you choose where to start?

How to Shorten Your To-Do ListHow do you shorten your to-do list? First, differentiate your “to-do” list from your “today” list. Your “today” list consists of day-to-day business and personal items like ordering supplies, taking the kids to school or walking the dog. Your “to-do” list consists of those bigger picture items that help you grow, personally and professionally.

So many ideas, so little time

I can relate, as I’m also an entrepreneur with a small business that has grown significantly over the past few years. Shortly after I joined the National Speakers Association I was at a conference in New Orleans; it was 2½ days of non-stop sessions, social events and networking. On the last day, before we all headed home, the president of the association, Marc LeBlanc, left us with a very powerful thought.

He told us to write down all of the great ideas we had heard, both onstage and off, and prioritize them in the order in which they’ll have the greatest impact on our business. Number them 1, 2, 3 and so on, then – and this is where the magic happens – he told us to keep the top 3 things on our lists and then get rid of the rest of the list. And he meant to physically get rid of it.

See the forest AND the trees

He told us we should only have 3 things to focus on, because when you have that short list, you can actually get them done. It was hard for me to conceptualize, because I (like many of you, I’m sure) had a dry-erase board that was packed with things I wanted to do, but admittedly they were things I had also never even started. So, I erased that white-board (I took a picture of it first, just in case!) and started fresh. It was liberating, but a little scary at the same time.

What happened next was empowering: I actually started to get more things done by having fewer things on my list! You see, when you cross off one of thirty things on a list it feels good for a second…until you see the rest of the list. When you cross off 1 of only 3 things, it feels great. If you have a big project, break it down into smaller bites and put those on your list of 3 things.

What about the rest of your big list?

When you make a list of things you want to do, it reflects what is important at that moment in time. However, when you start to do some of those things you’re no longer in that same place and time. You’ve moved, evolved, grown and progressed to a new place. If you were to make a new list, how many of those things that were languishing on your big list would appear again? Very often the answer is not many. They’re just not important anymore, so why have them on the list at all? If they’re still important, they’ll show up on a future list – one in which they’ve made it to the top 3 in importance.

Does it really work?

Yes, I can tell you from my own personal experience, as well as from many who have heard me speak about this (including in my mini-book “Don’t Paint the House”), that it really does work. You can actually get much more done by focusing on fewer things at once. You know that you can’t do it all, so don’t try, but also don’t get bogged down by looking at a list of things you’re not going to get to.

Try it yourself

Sit down and make a list of all of things you want to get done. I’m not talking about the weddings and events you have coming up; I mean the bigger picture things (although this works for things big and small). If you’re trying to make a new website, break it down into smaller projects (getting the photos together, editing one page of text, interviewing website designers, etc.). If you’re looking to expand your business or take on an employee or partner, break it down into manageable steps.

Once you start doing this it becomes a way of life. You’ll be getting more done, and you’ll be less stressed because you’re not looking at a huge list that can feel like it’s mocking you for not getting to it. Show it who’s in charge and slash it down to size! You’ll be glad you did.

For more tips for being more efficient, watch my webinar, “Are You Too Busy to be Successful?” or catch it any time in the Education Center.