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home : business : business February 06, 2016

1/26/2013 9:59:00 PM
Prioritize revenue-generating tasks on to-do list
SCORE Counselor

Question: I think of myself as an organized businessperson, but the more my business grows, the more I seem to be scrambling to accomplish all the tasks I need to complete. Can SCORE give me some practical ideas for handling my burgeoning to-do list?

Answer: Time is a precious commodity for every entrepreneur.

With all the responsibilities of managing and growing a small business, the hours and the days can easily slip by, sometimes leaving one to wonder just how much they achieved in a day.

Entrepreneurs have traditionally used a to-do list as their time management tool. According to professional organizer and productivity expert Julie Morgenstern (, marking off completed items may provide a sense of satisfaction, but it may not be as productive as you think. "You're tempted to start with small, easy tasks, or things you're in the mood to do," Morgenstern says. "Often, however, they're things that won't drive your business forward."

Instead, Morgenstern says entrepreneurs should prioritize tasks based on revenue, a concept she calls "dancing near the revenue line."

"To combat the 'junk box' effect of a master to-do list," says Morgenstern, "I recommend creating what I call an "intelligent" to-do list, one which goes way beyond just asking what you need to do.

A practical to-do list also addresses how long each item will take, and when you are going to do it, so that you can make realistic plans for each day. You should always prioritize form the top down, but don't neglect the two- and three-step items. They all contribute to your business."

Answering email may be among the one-step tasks you complete during the "quiet" hours of the morning. The problem here, Morgenstern says, is that it costs you control over this valuable time of the day. "Open it and you're forced to react to what the sender wants," she says. "If you don't start the day with you in control, you'll never get it back."

Instead, devote your mornings to the most critical task that will benefit your business. "It may be things that you're tempted to put off - strategic planning, writing a proposal, analyzing financial numbers, or evaluating your marketing strategy," Morgenstern says. "Once that's done, then you can 'roll up the shades' and open for business."

Dane Findley ( recognizes that prioritizing by revenue is not always apparent. "Tasks such as sending out a resume, writing a hand-written thank-you note, or returning a faulty item to the office supply store - these are potentially revenue-producing activities, too. Basically, any activity that encourages others to refer you clients or customers is potentially revenue-producing."

Be practical and realistic when it comes to laying out each day's to-do list. A list that has more tasks that can be reasonably accomplished in a day only serves to bog you down and make you less productive.

"That can lead to a lot of frustration when you find yourself waiting and waiting for actions that may not occur for a while," Morgenstern says. "Focus on smaller number of critical things each day and release the rest. You will feel a sense of release and focus."

If you find yourself struggling with your time management, contact your SCORE counselor for guidance.

Coming March 23 is "A Basic Introduction to Do-it-Yourself Social Media for Business." Cost: $25. Contact Northern Arizona SCORE at 778-7438, or

ICT - Arizona Society of CPAs 180x150
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