How to Streamline your Workflow by Ditching To-Do Lists

A lot of people are surprised that I don’t work off of to-do lists anymore. Yes, I have used them for the past 30 years in business but over these years, I’ve learned so many ways of doing things differently. I am going to share these with you today in the hopes of helping you manage your time and energy better with your business, team and clients.

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Evolving ways of doing and listing down tasks and priorities

Back in the day, the only way I knew to organise my activities was having a to-do list. Next thing you know, I had lists of lists and an overwhelming amount of sticky notes. It was good but it wasn’t helping me focus and prioritise in a calm and well-regulated manner. 

Technology and apps then became available, but all were list-based too. Asana, Trello, Slack, Monday, Flow, and many more apps came to help you with to-do lists and bring in team members to help with each project, add channels, share files, communicate, and help with task progression. These are good apps, but can still be a little bit of overwhelm.

Striving for streamlined and high-performing workflows and teams.

My team and I are still working towards minimising the way we work across platforms and visual workflow tools even with technology and what I know about workflow. We are still making a steady progression towards an optimal high-performing state. The living, learning and productivity is real which makes us aim for quality, continuous improvement and all of those good things in our business.

This is what I encourage businesses to work towards (and we are working on this as well): a smooth sailing workflow where everything is in the right place & time, where we have identified the right things to do at the right time, for the right reason, and give the right impact. Also, having the right people on the team to work on those tasks and projects.

2 things that we do to have a sense of flow and ease are:

  1. Profiling of our team
    We have a profile of each one to know where each other’s strengths and challenges lie. We constantly map our roles, responsibilities and capabilities.
  2. Bringing in team members to complement the skills we already have.

This gives us the best possible chance to get everything done to serve ourselves, our team and our clients.

An overview of how I manage myself and my tasks

I have 5-year, 3-year and 12-month plans for myself and my business. These include plans that are specific and measurable; documented statements on team and client visions; and why we do what we do. These are adjusted from time to time and tweaked as we go.

The 12-Month Plan

My 12-month plan is divided into 10 big projects that will move the needle the most – personally for me and professionally for my business, to deliver and exceed our clients’ expectations. The projects are detailed with measurable financial goals, strategies, action steps, task analysis. Task analysis is very helpful for strategic business planning and managing workflow.

I work in 4-month sprints across the year, which I highly encourage all my clients to do as well. October and November are for forward planning the strategy for the next calendar year. May and June are for checking in on and running a financial overlay over the calendar year. We adjust and celebrate as needed. Business is a marathon and you can’t do business at a sprint pace the whole time. That’s why I have a little point of difference within those 4-month sprints, with 1 month being a point of celebration and renewal.

Monthly Planning

From 10 big projects for the year, I pull down 3 of the most important projects per 4-month sprints. These get allocated, we bring in teams needed, and I book big parts out in my diary for the tasks in the projects.

Weekly Planning

For my weekly planning, I use the Personal Kanban system which I learned about through Jim Benson’s workshop. He also wrote a book about it called Personal Kanban: Navigating the Work | Mapping the Life which I highly recommend. 

You may have seen photos of boards with do/doing, pending and done columns – that’s a glance of Kanban at its finest. The principles are pretty simple – a visual workflow that is shared and gives an overall sense of what needs to be done. Another one of its mantras that has made such a monumental difference to me is to stop starting and start finishing.

I write my tasks on sticky notes which are called tickets. At the start of the week, I bring down 10 tickets I need to work on for the week, group them, and book them into my diary as to what I am going to do where. I work on roughly 3 tickets per day. I pick one, do it, and try to work on it all the way through to completion.

What I love most about it is that it makes me finish things. At the end of the day or week, I’ve got this crumple of paper tickets that represent what I have completed. And that represents the value that I can exchange with my team and clients because I got that really good stuff done.

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