I’ve had productive days. I’ve had unproductive days. I’ve even had some super-productive days. What was the single biggest factor in boosting my productivity? The list.
I used to get to work and dive right in to whatever project seemed the most urgent. I’d often end up frustrated at the end of the day as other projects fell by the wayside and were delayed. Years ago someone told me that I should make a list of all of the work that I wanted to accomplish that day. My thought was, “I don’t have time to make a list.”

Untrue. The reality is that I don’t have time to not make a list. The five minutes that it takes me to make my list are the best way for me to spend 5 minutes. They are the key to productivity. Those 5 minutes give me the chance to sort the important from the urgent, order my tasks in the most logical manner, and give me pause to consider how I might create the most structured and profitable day.

A few years ago I owned a small business that ate up at least 60 hours per week. On top of that I was attending night classes 30 minutes away to get my MBA. In addition to that, my wife was in the midst of a high risk pregnancy with our 3rd child. I was able to successful navigate those potentially stressful years because I faithfully made a list. At the beginning of each week I made a spreadsheet that went from 7:00 a.m. to 1:00a.m. each day. I then took the time to schedule everything: work, meals, study, study breaks, classes, time with the kids, etc. By adhering to the schedule I could get through my days productively.

Your list might not be a spreadsheet. It could be a notebook, organizer, PDA, online calendar, smartphone, sheet of paper. Whatever it is, use it regularly and it will become your friend. Do it every day for a week and you will find that you were more productive than you expected. Do it for a month and you’ll never look back.