Entrepreneur Life – The “Upgraded” To-Do List

This weekly post details the changes in my business I have made over the last few years in pursuit of “work life balance” and transitioning to working 30 hours a week. I own 5 companies that own residential real estate rentals, a national website for out of state real estate investors, a real estate brokerage company in two states, and one of the largest real estate education event platforms in Chicago. I went from working 80 hours a week to working 30 hours a week (most of the time) by making small adjustments to my business.

Week 2 – The “upgraded” To-Do List

I live and die by my To-Do list and I started following the “getting things done” method a few years ago which was a huge impact on my business. Of course, I was too busy to read the actual book on time management, so I bought the cliff notes version LOL. I keep a dedicated notebook for my to—do list and carry it with me everywhere. The method has been quite effective and the major takeaways which I implemented were:

Write everything down – Literally everything should be written on your to-do list as we spend too much brain power trying to remember things to do. It took me some time to adjust to this but it really helped me not stress out over what to remember. I had to keep reminding myself that I put it on the list so I could stop stressing about it, and that was a mental safety blanket for me.

Anything that takes less than 15 minutes do first thing in the morning – It gives you a sense of accomplishment first thing in the morning and you are already mentally “ready to go” for the day. It also makes the rest of the day seem more manageable as there are less things to do. I get great satisfaction by crossing things off my list and seeing how much is done.

Break up large tasks into manageable tasks – This was incredibly impactful yet I still need to remind myself to do it all the time. For example, it is tax season so I have five LLC returns, a Schedule E, two Schedule C’s, my personal return, my husband’s return, and I do my mom’s return, a total of over 300 pages. If I write “taxes” on my to-do list I look at it and cringe. That is easily 25 hours of work and I am not in the mood for such a large project and I procrastinate. But when week one I put the five LLC returns on the list as individual items, it is only a 45-90 minute task for each, easy! Then week two I will put on the Schedule E and Schedule C’s – done! Next thing you know I am crossing things off my list and getting it done early.

Anything not done gets moved to the next week, but only for 2 weeks – So if I don’t get something done this week it goes on the list for next week, but you can only do that twice. If you are putting off something for 2 weeks either you need to break it up into manageable tasks or it is not important and needs to be taken off the list. This helps with my procrastination, as if I didn’t do it for two weeks I need to suck it up and get it done or just take it off the list. And by setting a time limit it gives me that challenge I need for self-motivation.

Every Monday morning, I write a new list in the notebook and categorize everything under the appropriate business. Starting a new week with a fresh list helps me feel like it is a clean slate. I have a section for personal, my rental properties, my real estate brokerage, Turnkey-reviews, and The Midwest Real Estate Networking Summit. Every morning I review the list with my morning coffee and plan out my day.

I also write in how long it should take me next to tasks and this helps me feel pressure to get it done, even though I am really timing myself against myself. When you are self employed and work from home you can get lazy because there is no boss looking over your shoulder or anybody around you working hard to motivate you. Tricking myself into believing I have deadlines helps me get more accomplished in less time.

It has been 2.5 years since I started using this method and I am on my second notebook of weekly to-do lists. It helps me focus and feel accomplished, but every few months I start slacking and have to re-commit to following the method and my productivity gets back on track.

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