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How to Work Efficiently Using To Do Lists

I’m sure you’ve heard of the saying before “the money is in the list”. Well, I’m here to confirm to you that it’s 100% true, but not in the way you may think.

If I had to share my number one productivity hack ever, it would be this: USE LISTS!

I’d love to say this is a trait I picked up from some super internet marketing guru, but when you work in a kitchen as a chef, there’s one thing and only one thing that keeps you sane – the list!

Back when I was cooking, the very first thing we’d do was to all sit around the chef’s table and go through the menu to discuss what needed to be cooked that day and what needed to be added to “the list”.

We’d all then allocate several tasks to each other and place our names next to that specific job on the list. The next few hours were spent frantically trying to get your list done and ticked off before lunch service. We had a saying in the kitchen about the “5 P’s”: prior preparation prevents poor performance, which is basically saying make a list, get it done, and avoid any mistakes.

Fortunately, this trait has been one of the biggest assets I’ve carried over to my entrepreneurial career. Lists are the single most important cog in my work day, and I’d be completely screwed without them.

I get a lot of people asking me how I manage to handle so many ventures and businesses/websites at once, and sometimes it truly is a struggle, but my lists are the one thing that keep me organised and on my job. The other single weapon in my arsenal that helps me get everything done and grow is the incredible Basecamp CRM, which is basically a list management software, but I’ll review that in another post.

Here’s how I organise my day to day tasks via lists:

My personal Lists:

Beside my desk, each and every day, I maintain 4 important and crucial lists. They are as follows:

mylistsshadow

To-Do’s:

The most important list you could ever make. A to-do list should include every task you need to do on any given day to progress your business. Each time you have a “thought” or someone reminds you that you need to get something done, add it to that list! I constantly have about 10-20 tasks that I’m working on upon my to-do list, and I always start with the hardest task first. This way you get the hard to-do’s out of the way and move on to the easier tasks in the afternoon/evening when you may be feeling sluggish. Every time you complete a task, cross it off and start a new piece of paper each day as re-writing your to-do list will help you feel motivated to get shit done!

Schedule:

I’m old school here as I don’t tend to use a calendar too much. This list is used for me to write down all the calls and meetings I need to attend in the coming weeks. Often spanning across several pages, I sort them by date order and assign a time, date and name to each input. Once I’ve had that call or meeting, I simply put a cross through it and move on to the next. I could use a calendar app here, but I spend most of my days staring and working on these 4 lists so I find it works better for me to store this information here.

Potential Clients:

This is my little black book list. At Landing Page Guys, we get several hundred enquiries a month via referrals, our website, and other means for website development work. Each time a new lead comes through I make a note of their name, date and enquiry so I don’t forget to follow up. I also use this list as a personal challenge to myself to see how many of the incoming leads I can “close”. They stay on my list until I’ve closed a sale with them and then they are removed and moved onto our client side list on the CRM. This is my favourite list to work on late at night in the UK when the US is in full swing and I have my sales hat on!

Payments Owed:

Again I’m sure there’s an app or software that automates this for you, but these 4 lists have got me to where I’m at today and never failed, so this is what works for me. You see, at Landing Page Guys, often clients will request 50/50 payment terms, meaning they will pay a 50% deposit to initiate the work and then 50% on completion and handover. This means we are often owed many thousands of dollars so this list serves as a great place for me to note down what is owed by which client. It also serves as a nice sign of inspiration when I see all the 00000’s that are coming our way!

These four lists truly are the biggest asset and help to my everyday business. I’ve perfected a list strategy that helps me get work done, maintain current work, and work on potential leads and payments, all from 4 small note pads. I LOVE LISTS!

Landing Page Guys Lists:

Would it surprise you if I told you that our everyday operations at the Landing Page Guys is run on a single list? I’d like to introduce you to the magnificent Basecamp CRM. This little piece of kit is solely responsible for the growth and organisation of everything we do. We use Basecamp and its lists on both client and company sides, and here’s a sneak peek of how it helps:

lpglistshadow

Internal Management:

As you can see from the image above, we have between 20 and 100 tasks/jobs running at any given time. To think we used to manage this with emails? Now we separate all aspects of our day-to-day operations into lists within Basecamp. We have a list to discuss potential client briefs, a list for design work, a list for development work, a list for integration, and so on. Each task simply progresses from list to list upon completion of its sub category. For example, a task may start in the discussion list until we have a firm brief, we’d then move it to design, once design is confirmed it moves to code, and so on. As you can see below, we’ve nearly completed 1000 list items. That’s not 1000 landing pages either as some sub tasks can be a multiple of up to 20 pages. We’d never be able to handle the volume without Basecamp and lists!

Client Portal:

Similar to the way we handle the internal management of tasks, we mirror this in a client’s Basecamp. If you’re an agency or regular client of the Landing Page Guys, then you’re set up with your own client CRM. We have exactly the same sections as the above (named differently) to help manage the progression of your jobs. From pending tasks to current tasks and completed tasks, all are handled with, you guessed it: lists! Little do the clients know, but their simple landing page could have been on 5-10 lists before it’s delivered. I love our system!

Lovecars Lists:

For Lovecars, again we work entirely to lists.

This is something I introduced when we came into the company to make us all work more efficiently. The first thing I did was set us up on Basecamp!

lovecarslistshadow

Now we have internal lists whereby we can collaborate and allocate different tasks to different members of staff and be able to keep on top of what’s going on. We also use lists on the developers’ side of things, utilising another great CRM called pivotaltracker. Everything that needs to be done on the development side is loaded up into lists within the system and placed in order of importance.

Once our developers have finished with a task, they will mark it as done and we will then accept it and remove it from the list upon checking and confirmation.

This article, from a list!

I could go on for days about many other instances whereby we use lists in our companies, but that’s for another day. I will also break down and review Basecamp for you guys as it truly is a life saver.

Oh yeah, even this article came from a list!

I have my own personal Basecamp just for my blog whereby I list out all my content ideas and write simultaneously on multiple articles at once. Once they are completed, I remove them from my list and add them to another LIST for my content editor Francine to edit and post up. Once she’s done, she will tell me via our internal list and it then gets posted and removed!

I’m beginning to sound like a list freak, but seriously, USE LISTS!

Thanks for reading!

Please share and leave your comments below!

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  • cubedcubie

    Wow! I never thought lists could be so versatile. I certainly do use lists since they’re good for productivity though. Checking off an item feels like you did something! 😛

    But four lists?! This person must be a micromanagement master! Well, I might start using lists more in my personal life after reading this.

    • It will sure as hell make your life easier :). 4 Lists work for me.

  • Kritnae

    I love this article! I live by my daily lists because it is the only way that I can organize and make sure I’ve taken care of everything. I own my own business and also juggle the job of being a wife and mother. If I didn’t have a list I would be lost! I use a monthly list as well. I have one for business goals and a separate one for my home and family. They really do help things flow better and make you more productive.

  • atlmom5

    I love this article. As a mother of five and a former childcare provider, I know the power of having a list. I used to have a list for household stiff and one for my childcare business. If Being able to organize your life and goals really does take a load off of a person…well, me atleast.

  • Sigit JH

    Hi. Thanks for sharing. This article helps me to write more than i expected.

  • The Mad French

    Hey Oliver,

    Thanks for all the valuable tips in this article.
    You’re 100% right about the lists.

    I’m using myself a list for my personnal projects, another one for my clients and for each client there’s also multiple lists…
    I have a poor memory so I write down all the things I must do, even if it appears stupid at the moment.
    I’m really considering making lists of lists at this point ahah.

    Btw, thanks again a ton for the great inspiration you’re giving me through your blog.
    I’m currently reading all of your posts and each one is a real gold mine, both by their advices as the motivation they provide.

    You really are a model for me to follow !

    • Thanks @themadfrench:disqus I really appreciate it. Please comment on any posts you find helpful.

      • The Mad French

        Hey Oliver,

        I will have to comment on every post then ! 😉
        Sure, I will do it.

        Have a nice day mate. 🙂

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