It’s easy to feel optimistic in January. With the year spread out in front of us, we can believe we’ll get all the things on our to-do lists done. Two thirds of the way through, though, it’s easy to feel defeated. With holidays and the end of another year looming, tasks and projects still languishing on the list tend to transform from possibility to burden.
If you’re feeling the weight of things undone this year, it’s not too late to finish strong. You’ll just need two things: A pared down to-do list and a simple action plan.
Here’s how to get both…
Stare down your to-do list
If your list has you feeling stressed, let’s start by staring it down. Take ten minutes to give the thing a good, hard look.
What’s on there that doesn’t really have to be? This might be “someday projects” you could file elsewhere so they don’t taunt you in the meantime. Or things you do out of habit that aren’t as relevant as they once were. Or tasks that could be delegated to someone else. Move all of these off your list.
Now take the remaining items that are more regular, ongoing, or repeat tasks and put these into your calendar or schedule. In other words, move them off your list by assigning them an actual day and time to be done.
Pick a project
What’s left on your list? Most likely you’re looking at some of the projects you’d hoped to tackle this year. Maybe it was revising your website home page, or launching a new service, or revamping your homework handouts. Had you planned to raise rates this year, or clean and reorganize your home office, or finally find yourself an admin?
To-do lists can be a bit like all-you-can-eat buffets. It doesn’t cost anything to pile the food on your plate and it doesn’t take any time to add project ideas to your list. But we pay later in extra pounds and stress. So rather than feeling weighed down and defeated by the lack of time for everything on your list, pick one thing and put it on a separate plate.
Which one project would feel really great to get done this year? Maybe because it’s sat on your list for multiple years in a row. Or because it would have a large impact on your business by moving the needle forward on a major goal. Or perhaps there’s a project that, completed, will make your job easier or save you time—time you could devote to the next project or more downtime for yourself.
Plan your project
Picking a project is one thing. Getting it done is another—and that requires a plan. Follow these five steps to action plan your project and set yourself up for success:
1. Define your project
Without a clear vision of what you mean to accomplish it’s hard to create a solid plan. It’s like asking your GPS to direct you somewhere without typing in the address. To define your project destination, answer these three questions: Who is the audience? (Your ideal client? An established or new referral source? Current or past clients?) What are your goals for the project? (What do you want to have happen as a result—More clients? A higher conversion rate? More clients staying on for additional classes?) What will the finished project look like or do, in detail?
2. Break your project down
What individual tasks will need to be done to complete your project? In what order will you tackle these steps? Split your tasks down into steps you can visualize taking. This will be critical to your success. As one of our THRIVE! members shared recently about a webinar project, “I realized I was procrastinating because I was lumping, so I split down a big task and was able to get started!”
3. Set your rewards
R+ isn’t just for dogs! Decide before you begin how you will celebrate your completed project. Also create a reinforcement schedule, planning smaller rewards along the way. Pay particular attention to project steps you might need extra motivation for, including those you’re likely to find challenging or be tempted to put off.
4. Carve out your time
Projects can easily fester on to-do lists while waiting for extra time to magically appear. Don’t let that happen. Set aside specific blocks of time to work on your project. Looking at your calendar, which days and blocks of time can you commit to your project so you can end your year strong?
5. Schedule your DO dates
You’ve got your specific action steps. You’ve got time set aside in your calendar. Now it’s time to assign each task in your plan to a spot or spots in your calendar. Literally decide, right now, when you will DO each task. This last step is the real secret to successful action planning. (Here’s an extra tip: Always schedule more time than you think you’ll need!)
Once you’ve taken these five steps to build your project action plan, you should be able to see exactly how you will accomplish your project, and when you’ll have it done by. No more leaving this important project to the magical realm of “someday when I have time”!
Take your first step toward a strong finish
If you’re ready to breathe fresh air into the remainder of your year, take an hour right now to choose and action plan a project that matters to you. Or take five minutes to open your calendar and find an hour to devote to doing so. It’s a quick, easy first step toward a strong finish.
Here’s another way to finish your year strong: Join THRIVE! You don’t have to work on your business alone. Get on the THRIVE! waitlist for first access when we open to new members this Fall.