Written by RMI’s MD, Ken Kemp


Most of us probably use some sort of daily sheet where we assiduously write down all the things that we have to do each day and we dutifully cross off each item that we have completed. All the non-completed items simply pass to the next day or to the next list. We are simply in danger of going into ‘tick drive’ where the most important goal is just to tick off the maximum number of completed jobs, whatever their worth or importance to the business.


However, the overriding criterion should be priority – you just know that the very activity you keep putting off has the most value to your business! Get into the habit of writing or compiling your personal list in priority order. Put the key tasks first, as these are the ones that drive you and your business. They will enable you to add value to what you do and separate you from the crowd.


Whenever we discuss this with managers and staff, they all say “Well of course we do this!” and “we know this” and I suspect many of you have just said the same. But how many of you actually do it? I made the assumption at the start that most people run a system, but how many of you actually do run a ‘to do’ list or a ‘today list?’ If not, then why not? There simply is not a more effective way of getting things done provided you operate it effectively. For example:


  • Complete the list the night before and not in the morning or whenever you run out of things to do. Make it part of your normal day.
  • Restrict the list to five or six key items. Any more, and you will be deluding yourself and the sight of all those tasks may be more of a burden than a motivation.
  • Put all tasks in priority order and complete them in that order, and only move on when you have finished. Otherwise, you will end up with a list of unfinished tasks that will simply be carried forward to the next day.
  • Share your key tasks with your boss, peer group and your subordinates. You may find that someone else has completed a piece of work that can help you to accomplish the task in question. This is not about getting someone else to do the job but simply sharing knowledge to the benefit of all. You will also ensure that someone else is not trying to complete the same task as you.
  • Agree the priority of the task at the beginning. More often than, not the priority of the task is determined by who asks you or who sets the tasks. The higher up the ladder that the request comes from, the more importance it tends to get. This is neither fair nor is it productive. If taking on another task disrupts all the other tasks and plans, then you have say no, or at least explain the potential consequences if you were to do so. Better to declare your hand upfront and not set expectations and deadlines that you cannot possibly keep to. Remember, the more you take on does not determine your worth, but the more that you successfully complete does.


So, in summary:


  • Do run a ‘to do’ or ‘today’ list. It matters not what you call it, as long as you do it.
  • Complete it the night before
  • Restrict it to five or six items
  • Prioritise all tasks and complete them in that order
  • Share your tasks with others
  • Agree the priority of all tasks