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Getting it Done: The Right Way to Approach Tasks

Peter Lohmann
Peter Lohmann

A to-do list is your worst enemy for getting The Important Stuff done. Prioritizing what will help you make progress toward your most important goals (you may call them Rocks if you run on EOS) requires more than a to-do list or calendar, where all tasks have equal value.

They all take the same amount of space, and are presented alongside every other mundane task you’re supposed to complete that day! This is not helpful in the least. It’s actually a lie — a proper to-do list would allow you to assign importance to each task and present them differently. Picture a 72-point font demanding “Hire Salesperson” and a 10-point font requesting “Book Car Detailing Appt.”

The problem? Our brains love a quick dopamine hit from checking off tasks, so we gravitate to the quickest and easiest ones first. Then, by the end of the day or week, you’re staring at your hardest, most important tasks with no energy or focus left! This is all backwards. But that quick satisfaction Type-A “get ‘r done” folks get from completing tasks is a hard habit to break.

Email is the worst distraction. Email is correspondence. It’s not work. It’s not important. Stop being a slave to your email inbox! It saps your focus by turning your day into 400 micro-decisions spread out across eight hours.

Here are some suggestions. I’ve struggled with this personally and still don’t have a perfect solution. Still, let me share some things that have been working for me:

    • At the end of the day, grab a sticky note and write down the two to four most important items that you need to get done tomorrow to build your business. When you get into the office in the morning, start working on these things immediately. DO NOT open your email! Continue until they’re all finished, then resume your normal workday.

    • Block off one day per week on your calendar as a “Focus Day” (stole this idea from Strategic Coach). No meetings or calls allowed that day. Use this time to work on your Rocks and other important priorities.

    • Stop checking email before lunch. Make it a rule and tell your team. Use the morning, when you are fresh and at your best, to work on high-priority tasks.

    • Consider assigning time on your calendar to work on specific projects or tasks (this does not work for me, but I know it does for some).

    • Have other people such as your team, assistant, coach, spouse or anyone you trust to help hold you accountable. Tell them what you need done and by when. Ask them to check in and give you Big Trouble if you don’t finish when you said you would.

    • Use hard deadlines as a force to act. Find ways to tie your most important tasks to dates that MUST not be missed. EOS is helpful with this (quarterly rocks).

    • I use a tool called “Mailman” that holds all new email (except for some VIPs) and only delivers those new emails to my inbox three times a week.

    • Create a “Do Not Do” list for items that are of secondary importance. This will help stop you from working on them.

Entrepreneurs certainly feel like we have never-ending to-do lists (because we actually do). Part of maturing as a business owner/operator includes developing intuition for what fires are safe to let burn.

Peter Lohmann

Peter Lohmann

I’m the co-founder and CEO of RL Property Management, a residential property management company in Columbus, Ohio. I’m also the co-owner of Criterium-Liszkay, and engineering firm located in Columbus. I live in the Olde Towne East neighborhood with my wife and young daughter.

Small business lessons from inside a growing property management company by Peter Lohmann.