There is a famous story in business articles and productivity books. It’s often attributed to different people and the exact dollar figure that the consultant was paid is always different.
But the story goes something like this: A man was concerned that he wasn’t being very productive. So he asked a consultant for a suggestion. That consultant made a profound suggestion that worked! He told the man to do the following: before leaving work at the end of the day, list the top three things he wanted to accomplish the following day. Then, when he got into work the next day, he should tackle them in order, not starting one until the one before it was complete. He was to keep working until he finished all three. Then he could be done for the day.
This story has taken on a life of its own and it is retold in every productivity book, but it never grows old. That’s because the truth of this tale, no matter how fictional the story itself is, is universal.
If you want to be successful in business – whether your business is online or offline – you need to know what you want to accomplish and prioritize it.
Now, the story itself was clearly written in an era when the owner of a business had a plush office and a company car and could come and go as he or she pleased. Nowadays, most online business owners work out of their homes (and sometimes have another job until their small business grows) so the story needs to be tweaked and updated for the modern entrepreneur.
The new moral of the story might be this: Prioritize everything! Rather than listing the top three items to be done, list everything and assign a number (from 1 to infinity… and for most entrepreneurs, the list seems that long!).
Then, get to work. Start at one and begin working down. Periodically you’ll have to re-prioritize as changes occur in your business. Task management programs such as Microsoft Outlook can help with prioritization. Even just a Microsoft Word document with an auto-numbering feature is better than nothing.
If you start working on the first one and keep going until you cannot work any more on it, then move to the next point on your list, you’ll see two things happen:
First, your productivity will increase dramatically because you’ll have started to hone in on doing what needs to be done.
And, second, you will work far more efficiently because you know the most important thing to do and you’re doing it first, before everything else.