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Originally posted in the February 2015 issue of Impact

If you are like virtually every other business owner in America, I know one thing about you: You try to do too much. Yep, I said it. You are an overachiever. You work too hard, you don’t like to say “no,” and you try to do everything at once.

What's on your action list?One other thing I know about you is that sometimes you fail. Pushing yourself to your limits means that things fall off the plate from time to time, and sometimes you might not even know it happened.

While I know no cure for the overachiever, one simple trick that has helped many Type-A personalities is an action list. We have all heard it before, and there is a reason—it works.

Making an action list looks like this:

  • Commit to using an action list every day. This can include revising an existing list, or creating a new one from scratch. Write down an actionable item, which can be completed in its entirety that day. An example of an actionable item may be: “Return call from Mrs. Smith” or “Complete documentation for all daily patients.” If the action item pertains to a large project that will not be completed that day, write down only the portion that you will complete before nightfall.
  • Prioritize your list so that the most important and/or most achievable items are completed first. There is some psychology to this act: It is important that we see ourselves making progress throughout the day on our action items. Focusing on bigger, intimidating items, such as writing a new contract, before smaller more achievable items, such as returning a phone call, may be an inspiration killer that can demotivate even the most passionate go-getter.
  • Cross off items as you go. I am a techie and as much as I love my gadgets and apps, I make paper lists for one important reason: Nothing feels better than drawing a line through something I have accomplished. If you prefer to do this electronically, more power to you. However, whatever the method, make sure it brings you immediate pleasure that you want to replicate again and again.
  • Carry your list over from day to day. If you do not get something accomplished on your daily to-do list, do not despair. Also, do not forget it. Carry it over to the next day so that you have a means for not letting any important items fall from your radar.

By taking a few minutes each day to create an actionable workflow around your important to-do items, you’ll find that this small investment reaps big rewards toward your new end-of-day mantra, “Hey, I actually got something accomplished today.”

Try it and let me know how it goes!