For a busy entrepreneur, whether inexperienced or seasoned, nothing is as messy and menacing as his or her to-do list. It is ever-growing like that fabled CVS receipt (or the lesser known but just-as-long Shoppers Drug Mart receipt). You need to create fresh content at what seems like the speed of light. You need to tweet, post, pin and otherwise engage on the regular. You need to plan upcoming posts or videos or, preferably, both. You need to circle back about that sponsorship opportunity. You need to carve out time to network. And when will you answer all those reader or viewer inquiries? When?!
Though your tasks may be multiple, multifaceted and feel as though they’re multiplying, there is hope. In the era of Marie Kondo, anything can be decluttered.
The soft-spoken Japanese organizational guru has helped millions achieve order—and a meaningful life to boot—through her cult-favourite book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and the equally well-received Netflix series Tidying Up. Kondo schools her audience on how to declutter everything from small sock drawers to sizeable storerooms. Known as KonMari, her approach is predicated on gauging each individual belonging’s worth by asking, Does it spark joy? Anything that doesn’t pass the test gets tossed. So simple.
While you can’t strike out all the to-dos that fail to delight you—alas!—you can get your tasks on task with ease. All it takes is four coloured highlighters and two straightforward questions: Is this important? And, Is this urgent?
Sceptical? Our workload auditing method is adapted from The Eisenhower Matrix, a prioritizing tool developed by former U.S. president Dwight Eisenhower—and he was a pretty busy guy. Here’s how it’s done.
Pull out your dreaded list and four different-toned highlighters. Designate each hue to one of the following categories: important; not important; urgent; not urgent. Working your way from top to bottom, assess each line item individually. Take the time to consider whether it is important or unimportant as well as whether it is urgent or not urgent, highlighting accordingly as you go. When you’re done, every line item will fall in one of four two-tone colour-coded groups (Kondo would be so proud!) to be addressed as outlined below.
- Not important, not urgent: Delete. Is there anything more satisfying than crossing something off your to-do list? (Objectively, no.) Simply put, if you’ve identified a task as neither important nor urgent, it has no place on your checklist. Should some urgency or significance arise surrounding it in future, it can always be returned and reassessed. In the meantime, clear this visual, mental and emotional clutter from your sight and your consciousness.
- Important, not urgent: Schedule. It need not be today, it need not be tomorrow, but these things require doing. Commit to these duties by pencilling them into your calendar to a later date. Set alerts to prevent the to-do from blind-sighting you when its time comes and to ensure you follow through on completing it.
- Not important, urgent: Delegate. Maybe you’ve got a business partner or a spouse who occasionally pitches in, someone in your life who can lend a hand. Or perhaps you can outsource through a local temp agency or an online creative marketplace like Fiverr. If not, it might be time to put “find extra help” at the top of the to-do, whether that means hiring staff or bringing on an intern. Errands that aren’t critical ought to be delegated, so you can free up your time for—you guessed it—what’s most pressing and paramount.
- Important, urgent: Keep. This is the select group of tasks that deserve your immediate attention. Transfer these to a fresh list. Take a moment to admire your suddenly achievable goals. Feeling motivated? We thought you might! Now get to work.