Endless Task List? What To Do First… When You Don’t Know What To Do Next

 

I used to be a productivity MACHINE. What the hell happened?! When did things get so off track? What changed exactly - and why?

As I'm writing this, I feel completely overwhelmed with the number of things I should be doing right now. Or the number of things that need to be done, and what order they should be done in. What to do first, what to do next, etc.

I find myself multi-tasking between tabs, between computers even, hopping up to do a quick chore, then coming back, only to start all over again.

Have you ever caught yourself doing that?!

(I'm guessing YES, lol)

I'm a master multi-tasker mind you, and there's nothing wrong with that, but there's a big difference between handling multiple tasks in stride... and a complete lack of focus. In the former, you are being hyper productive. The latter - means you're doing a lot of things and not actually accomplishing anything at all. πŸ˜›

Productivity Tip: The Micro-Tasking Solution
Break everything down into small "bite sized" tasks that you can do in a matter of minutes, and focus on one micro-task at a time.

I mentioned in my last note that I've been feeling overwhelmed & frustrated lately by the endless number of tasks & ideas in front of me, and that I aim to TACKLE that monster (overwhelm) and get back to focused productivity.

How's that going so far?

Eh, not so great. Or maybe not so bad. I keep going back and forth about that πŸ™‚ lol. That's what overwhelm and distraction will do to you: it'll make you constantly second guess yourself. It also makes it VERY difficult to focus on and complete a task.

This blog post is a great example. Every time I sit down to it (for the last four days, mind you), it keeps growing and changing directions on me.

I finally had to sit down this morning and make an outline for it, a "table of contents" if you will - and decide what should be included, what should be left out, and what should go in another blog post of it's own.

Blogging Tip: Every piece of content you create should have a purpose. Ask yourself what points you want to make, and WHY? How do those points serve you, and how do they serve your audience?

I got up early this morning, but I've been struggling to finish this blog post for hours. During which time I've also washed the bedding, swept the floors, brought in the rugs I hung out to dry, made breakfast (and took photos of that breakfast for my food blog), plucked my eyebrows, made another pot of coffee πŸ™„ Need I go on?! *sigh*

I questioned whether I should even write this blog post. It's actually already written, well mostly - it's outlined. Why should I publish it? Why should I not publish it? What's in it for you? What's in it for me? Does it benefit either one of us?

As I continued writing, deleting, editing, and processing my thoughts about it through all of that, I decided to go ahead and finish it - and include all of the tips & thought processes I'm using to COMPLETE this task...

Because I feel confident you'll get some useful take-aways that you can USE, especially if you've been feeling unfocused and overwhelmed lately yourself.

Task Tip: Question Everything What's your objective? WHY do you want to do (or feel pressured to complete) this task or that task?

If that task will benefit your business, and also be beneficial to your audience, complete it. If not, chuck it. If you're unsure: put it on the back burner until your objectives are more defined.

I spent some time this morning analyzing my Done Lists for the past week, looking at how I spent my working hours, and also making note of what I accomplished and what I did not accomplish.

A "done list" is the opposite of a "task list" - it's where I move tasks once they're completed. I keep a running "done list" as I go, otherwise known as a Time Log.

It's a great way to analyze your productivity and also determine how you could be better spending your time. In the process you'll start to notice "repetitive tasks" too, which are things you can (and should) ultimately outsource.

It also challenges me to stay on task, because at the end of the day I want a "done list" I can feel GOOD about. πŸ˜‰ One that is full of priorities, not just meaningless tasks.

It's a disciplined practice, but it definitely makes for a more mindful work day.

I'll share with you how this week played out for me: what I worked on, what I do when I get "stuck" (frustrated/overwhelmed), what I accomplished, and why...

 

How do you figure out what you should do FIRST when your mind is spinning with a million ideas about what to do NEXT?

The way I prioritize my tasks is very simple: money tasks & deadlines come first.

Anything that results in direct revenue is a high priority, as is any true deadline or time sensitive task. Everything else can wait.

Deadlines are obvious. Some things MUST be done by a certain time. I'm not referring to your own made-up deadlines about when you think a task should be completed, but rather those things that are truly time sensitive.

I always start every day with a money task. If I have a full work day full of obligations or time sensitive tasks, I'll do a quickie: the easiest task that I can accomplish in the least amount of time for the best results.

If I have a freeflow work day, I'll choose a more creative money task that will benefit my business the MOST - such as product creation.

Business Tip: Set aside 15 minutes at the beginning of every day to focus strictly on monetization, or the Money Tasks in your business.

The key is to pick ONE thing, turn everything else off, then simply DO IT.

Stay on it until you get it DONE. Every time your mind starts to wander, simply reel yourself back in to that ONE thing - until it's FINISHED.

It takes serious discipline, but it's worth training yourself to do (and practicing on a regular basis) until you MASTER the ability to choose and complete high priority tasks one after the other.

 

What I Accomplished This Week

Over my first cup of coffee every morning I check messages & notifications across the web and on my phone for anything I need to respond to or answer real quick.

Immediately after that I dig into my money task then my highest priority task (if they are not one and the same).

I don't let anything distract me while checking what came in overnight, by the way. If I see something of interest (but not a priority), or get GREAT ideas, I make note of those things to come back to later.

Productivity Tip: Keep a running "Idea List" in Evernote or on paper where you can jot down great ideas, things you want to read or research, blog post topics that come to you, etc.

Those ideas can be revisited during your downtime, or between tasks, but should never be allowed to derail you from the task at hand.

There are a number of things I have to do & keep up with daily, like: priority emails, Facebook, my private forum, blog comments & social media replies. Plus eating, taking photos of my meals, and sharing those - because I'm a food blogger. πŸ˜‰

Facebook is a high-converting platform for my business. I don't actually use social media personally, as in: I don't read content streams or have personal accounts. I mainly just "share & respond" there - period.

This week I've published 4 blog posts. This one will make 5 and I am writing one for my niche food blog today too - for a total of 6 blog posts this week. One of those was a paid/sponsored post, but all six were monetized.

I also hosted two live Brainstorming Hour sessions (Monday and Thursday), got two cool media requests & responded to those, had two one-on-one consulting sessions (Monday and Friday), did two different time-sensitive affiliate promotions...

Plus I drafted quite a few GREAT blog post ideas in addition to the 6 I actually wrote & published (or will have by the end of the day).

My housekeeper came Tuesday, the lawncare team Wednesday, I ran to the city for a personal errand Friday (a 2+ hour round trip). I hiked Piney Creek Falls and Fall Creek Falls this week too. πŸ˜‰ I also had company in and out, did my daily work tasks, got the bills paid, took the trash out on time, and even showered daily (lol).

Then I sat down and analyzed my "done lists" for the entire week, made notes for improvements, and organized my task list for the week ahead.

Yet I started my day feeling & thinking THIS:

I feel like I'm spinning my wheels and not really getting anything done. πŸ™

Pfft. πŸ™„ πŸ˜›

Learn to ignore your inner critic.

Go by FACTS, and use those facts to constantly improve.

If you aren't keeping a Time Log, or working strategically through prioritized tasks, you won't have any facts to work with - or any way to analyze your productivity.

 

Here's a cool video from my Piney Creek Falls hike on Wednesday:

 

If you find yourself frustrated, or truly BLOCKED, the best solution is to step away from it all and take a mental break.

There's actually science behind how "taking time off" will improve your creative thinking skills. Which is why I took off after lunch on Wednesday and spent the rest of the day chasing waterfalls. πŸ˜‰

 

When Tasks Take Longer Than You Expect...

On Tuesday of this week it took me ALL day just to write TWO blog posts. One here on ClickNewz, and one on my low carb blog.

Some blog posts are quick & easy, some seem to take FOREVER to finish.

I also had things to do around the house, I had company that day, my housekeeper was here for a couple of hours, plus I had email & blog comments to catch up on.

I drafted my next two blog posts too, so those were ready (and faster/easier to finish). But for the most part, my working hours were spent writing those two blog posts - because they were both longer than usual posts.

That's okay though! Blog posts are always worth the time invested, because the content you create ONCE (no matter how long it takes you)... is permanent content that will work for you long term.

The same goes for product creation, or any other task for your business. Once it's done, it's DONE - and will continue to produce results.

So it's definitely worth the time you invest to FINISH those tasks. πŸ˜‰

Because unfinished tasks produce ZERO results...

 

Profitable Interruptions Are Allowed! πŸ™‚

I've mentioned how important it is to focus and stay on task, and to discipline yourself to practice that daily. However, there are always exceptions - and my one acceptable exception is what I like to call: profitable interruptions.

This is the reason a strict schedule doesn't work very well in my business model. I prefer to keep a fluid schedule and work in Priority Time Blocks instead - to allow myself the opportunity to pursue those "profitable interruptions."

For example, I found out yesterday that Alice Seba discounted the Writer Help Wanted service dramatically, and that it was a time sensitive offer.

Even my low carb audience is interested in work at home jobs & ways to supplement their income online. I know this because they've taken a big interest in my online business lifestyle that allows me to travel, hike through the week, etc ~ so I took a moment to share the deal with them as well.

That's called "affinity marketing." πŸ˜‰

WHW one of my FAVORITE products - or services. Hmm, it's both!

I'm a member myself, and everyone I've ever shared it with has LOVED it, so it's definitely a sale I wouldn't want *anyone* to miss.

Here's my note on that, in case YOU missed it.

So that was worth "adding a task to the list" and getting sidetracked from the list I already had laid out yesterday. Not just for myself, because it was a money task, but because it can really benefit the people I shared it with.

 

Another example were the two COOL media requests I mentioned getting this week. One was for a print magazine and the other for a popular news site (Huffington Post). Both of those were for my @LowCarbTraveler niche, and press attention is definitely a nice perk to building a large audience & presence online. πŸ˜‰

Those were time sensitive requests/inquiries of course, and both stand to really boost my exposure and help build my business - so again: they were worthwhile "profitable interruptions."

You don't have to wait for the press to come to you, by the way. You can find great PR & media opps through HARO: HelpAReporter.com and it IS smart to seek them out yourself & make strategic pitches.;)

 

What To Do First... When You Don't Know What To Do Next

In my previous convoluted share, I mentioned that business journaling is a daily practice for me, and one I highly recommend to all entrepreneurs.

Starting each day with a "free writing exercise" is a GREAT way to sort out your thoughts - and turn your thoughts & ideas into TASKS.

One of the things you'll discover with free writing is that you process things differently when they're on the paper or screen in front of you, than you do when they're just thoughts in your head.

When things are on your mind, you process them (or respond to them) emotionally. Think: stress, anxiety, overwhelm. When things are on your screen, or out of your head and in front of you, you process them logically. Think: solutions, decisions.

It's an amazing shift!

So when you don't know what to do first, or you're feeling overwhelmed with all of the tasks on your mind, sit down and do a "brain dump" in Evernote or on paper.

Then get those thoughts & ideas organized into a prioritized list!

 

In my post on Strategic Planning there's a video with a lot of my best productivity tips like the "worst case scenario exercise" and why you should "start every day with ONLY three priority tasks" -plus: why business journaling is KEY. πŸ™‚

 

I can't say for sure that I ever figured out the purpose of this post, or whether I should have (or shouldn't have) taken the time to write it. But I DID complete it, and I did manage to share some great tips & ideas with you. πŸ™‚

Now I can move on to the next priority task on my list...

And I should say too: I no longer feel overwhelmed and frustrated. A sense of achievement (like finishing this post) will REALLY boost your mood and your motivation. Now I'm ready to go tackle my list of micro-tasks for the day!

Getting something DONE is the key to getting stuff done.

A never-ending list of unfinished tasks & projects will tank you. Plus it's only the finished tasks that actually produce RESULTS. You just have to get the ball rolling. Pick something, dive in, and finish it. Then watch the momentum kick in!:)

I'm passing the torch to you: It's your turn!

Pick ONE task and COMPLETE it. πŸ˜‰ *cheers*

Best,

p.s. I just realized I used the word "should" twice in the very first paragraph of this post, when one of my favorite sayings (even to myself!) is: "Don't should on me." πŸ˜›

So I'll close with this tip:

Go easy on yourself, but also be strategic & disciplined.

Learn to be a strategic planner. Practice the discipline of staying FOCUSED on a single task until it's DONE... no matter how many times you have to reel yourself back in before it becomes habit to do so.

 

   

 

 

About Lynn Terry

Lynn Terry is a full-time Internet Marketer with over 17 years experience in online business. Subscribe to ClickNewz for the latest Internet Marketing trends & strategies, Lynn's unique case studies, creative marketing ideas, and candid reviews...moreΒ»

Discussion

  1. Thanks Lynn these are great ideas and tips. I've always had this problem. Now I need to start with a money task daily and finish it. Plan, then action it!!!

    • It definitely makes a difference when you start each day with a Money Task and put a consistent focus on those things that will intentionally build your business and increase your revenue. πŸ˜‰

  2. Great post! I really needed to hear this. It was so helpful to see how you break things down and get things done even when you are on overwhelm. I especially liked where you said it was alright if a blog post took awhile to write. I was feeling bad that it often takes a whole day for me to write a post.

    • Thank you, Sandy. πŸ™‚ Most of my blog posts are much quicker & easier to write, but you'll have those that do take longer - and that's okay! Of course many of your posts require some research and sourcing, but they come out SO beautiful. And like I said, once it's published - it's permanent content. πŸ˜‰

      I've always found the easiest way to get past overwhelm, is to just DO the things on your list that are overwhelming you: power through it and turn that (negative) overwhelm into a (positive) sense of accomplishment!

  3. Because of the hundreds of things that want to distract me every day, I like to try to focus on the Big Idea. While the Big Idea is usually thought of as an effective advertising and marketing strategy I think it applies equally to productivity and writing.

    I hope you don't mind if I use your article as an example, but I started reading it on Feedly because the headline hunted at one Big Idea: 'What to do first'. But it's really about 'Ideas to help you cope with being overwhelmed'.

    I enjoyed what you wrote, and appreciated your personal story coming through (and can really relate!) but ended up a bit disengaged because there was no real focus.

    Anyway, just a thought.

  4. Thanks a lot Lynn! I also some times find it hard to catch a breadth, being swarmed by so many tasks at a time demanding my consistent focus and attention and I was often at loss. Your ideas are really great and practical.

  5. If you were able to turn this mega post around, you are doing fine LOL
    On a serious note, great tips here. Thanks a lot!

  6. Lynn, you're right - I've heard the advice of writing down your daily activities multiple times and I did find it useful when I gave it a shot. Most of the wasted time was taking calls that were not profitable. Now, the phone goes on silent when I need to get something done. The productivity boost is night and day.

  7. Thank you for finishing this! It's good to know that I'm not a busy loon; other highly productive people have the same st have the same struggles. Now I know: just finish the job !

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