Introducing EntrepreDAD: Why you should make a to-do list
There's a really dangerous misconception out there in the world.
It goes something like this: in order to be a really successful entrepreneur, you can't also be an excellent spouse or parent. That kind of thing usually takes 60-70 hours a week worth of work, and then the family gets whatever is left over.
I'm here to not only help tell you how you actually can be all of those things, but how to get better at each and every area.
Our mission through this platform (and the upcoming podcast) is to provide helpful tips and advice from real-life experiences to help you reach goals in every area of your life.
One of the biggest things that business-people struggle with is feeling overwhelmed by all they have to do. When that happens, you end up being less productive just by trying to be too productive, and everyone around you suffers from your excess stress.
Keeping a to-do list keeps the mind off of the large volume of work to be done, and helps you focus in on the task at hand. If you can decrease your scope to one thing at a time, the big picture can get a little smaller.
Here are four more reasons why I keep a to-do list, and why keeping a to-do list is a great idea for you and your business.
It Helps you Remember Names
It has been said that the sweetest sound to a person's ear is the sound of their own name. I am a firm believer that learning people's names is a great way to make an impression on them. It's so important to my business that I've bought courses on it to get better at it. I know people who can walk into a room of 3250 people and know everyone's name by the time they leave. Bill Clinton is one of the best ever at this.
I record people's names in my field notebook as soon as I meet them. I also write a little note about them or a distinguishing mark on them that will help me to remember them in the future. So, if you see me writing in my little field notebook, I'm not being antisocial. I'm probably writing down someone's name or referring to it so I can remember your name.
It Keeps you Organized
Even world-class jugglers can only keep a few things in the air at one time. Lots of business owners fail not because they couldn't get any business, but because they couldn't keep track of all the things they had to do to keep that business. Like we said earlier, a to-do list can streamline the tasks required for running your business, and help keep you focused on what's right in front of you.
Gets it Out of your Mind
I love this one. An overworked mind is a threat to your business. Even if your list of tasks is ten miles long, getting it down in writing will help ease some of your stress. Once it's on paper, you don't have to store it mentally anymore, and you can move on to the next thing.
This is one of the main reasons I have a list. I have a notebook that goes with me everywhere I go. In case I don't have it with me, I also have a "field notes" notebook to keep in my pocket.
Getting thoughts, ideas, and things to do out of my mind helps me focus on what is in front of me. Sometimes, I'm with my family and want to preserve that time to be with my family. If a thought or something that I need to do pops in my mind, I can't focus on being with them. I try to always be present when I'm with them.
When I coached college football, I coached with a guy named Justin Shannon. Justin used to be a GA at Mississippi State under coach Jackie Sherrill. Part of Justin's responsibilities was to make sure that coach Sherrill had everything he needed during the game on the sidelines. When we worked together at Tennessee Tech, Justin walked into my office and saw my lists, my list that I carried on the practice field with me, and that I always had a pen with me. He said it reminded him of Coach Sherrill.
He told me that during games, Coach Sherrill would have a list going and be constantly writing on it while the game was going on. If you were watching it on TV, it looked like he was taking notes about the game. Justin said that wasn't it at all. He was taking notes of things that he needed to do. For example, some of the things he would write on that piece of paper would be things like this: buy dog food, get oil changed, or take shirts to cleaners.
When I asked him what the heck he was doing writing about dog food in the middle of an SEC game, Justin said that coach Sherrill was getting it out of his mind. He felt like if he wrote it down, he knew that he could always go back to that piece of paper to take care of what he needed to take care of. If he didn't write it down, his mind was preoccupied in another way, and he couldn't focus on the task at hand.
It Keeps you from Forgetting
If a great idea pops in my mind, I may not be able to act on it immediately. I want to put it down on paper so that I can refer back to it later when I have time. The last thing I want to do is have a million-dollar idea come into my mind and have me forget about it, or not document it and lose out on an opportunity.
I'm new in the digital age. It's awesome to have things in the cloud, but I spend enough time staring at a screen doing research or working. I appreciate the act of physically writing something down. There's a ton of research out there connecting the act of writing or typing something to remembering whatever it is you wrote. Your visual, motor and memory processes are all governed by different parts of the brain, but writing engages and connects all three of them. You're much more likely to remember something you've stored in writing than you are just trying to remember it.
You Always Have Something to Go Back to
I'm not a digital guy, so I keep my to-do list in a notebook. But no matter how you store your to-do list, you gain an advantage by having something to refer back to if you need it. It could be right when you're about to start working on whatever's on your list, or two weeks or two years after you've already done it. If you consistently make a to-do list, it'll still be there when you need it.
Sense of Accomplishment
There is something very fulfilling about striking an item that you just completed off your list. I love the feeling of setting a goal of finishing a task, completing the task, and then marking it off of my list. I love starting my day with a full sheet in my notebook where nothing is crossed off and then laying my head on the bed at night knowing that all (or just about all) of my list was completed. It may sound silly, but it's the little things in life.
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If you want to start making a to-do list to manage your day-to-day tasks, here are some tools that I recommend:
The notebook I use
The field notes notebook I use
The field note cover I use
- Thomas Cox