Drowning In To-Dos

Get Your To-Do List Done with the 10-10-30 Rule

How often do you get to work, dive right in to putting out fires, and come up for air around lunchtime only to realize you didn’t finish ANYTHING on your to-do list? Do you also have days where you don’t even know where to start?

Use the 10-10-30 rule to keep from drowning in your to-dos

One of the things my coaching clients struggle with most is sitting down at their desk in the morning and feeling like they have control over what to do first. An effective to-do list is just one piece of the puzzle; You also need to devote a little time every day to review and revise your to-do list and re-center your priorities. At Skillway, we created a simple method we call the 10-10-30 rule:

  • 10 minutes at the beginning of every day to review and adjust your to-do list
  • 10 minutes at the end of every day to plan and prepare for tomorrow’s to-dos
  • 30 minutes at the end of the week to reflect, work on your calendar, and plan for next week

A client of mine started following the 10-10-30 rule a few months ago. He said of all the to-do list tips and time management hacks he’s tried, this one had the biggest impact on his business—a “complete game-changer!” When you’re trying to get on top of your to-do list, these little chunks of time at the beginning and end of your day will put you back in the driver’s seat.

10 Minute Daily Kickoff

Start every morning with 10 minutes to focus on your to-do list. Does anything need to be re-prioritized? You’ve probably taken a quick skim through your email already. Is there anything in your inbox that needs more preparation to tackle? Any fires that popped up overnight that will affect your previous plans?

In order to feel productive, what do I need to accomplish today?

Each morning, I always start with this question: “In order to feel productive, what do I need to accomplish today?” As I discuss in my article How to Make An Effective To-Do List, prioritizing the tough task on your to-do list and tackling it early will give you energy and confidence for the rest of the day.

10 Minute Daily Wrap-up

At the end of the day, ask yourself what you could have done to be more productive. We all have days that get away from us! If you don’t take time to reflect, changing your habits can take forever.

If it’s important, you’ll find a way; if not, you’ll find an excuse.

Next, deal with your to-dos. Transfer any open items from your existing list to a new list. This practice will reveal the items on your list that you’ll never do. If it’s important, you’ll find a way; if not, you’ll find an excuse. Rewriting your to-do list daily keeps you from ignoring tasks day after day. Add any new to-do items to your list, prioritize them, and recycle the old list. Now you’ve got a fresh list of tomorrow’s to-dos so you can hit the ground running!

30 Minute Weekly Recap

At the end of every week, it’s time for a recap. Did you do everything? Is there anything you need to reschedule for next week? Is there anything you missed that could be done before you leave for the weekend? Looking forward, what needs to be tackled next week? Is your calendar up to date?

These thirty minutes include your Friday Final Fifteen, time to truly hold yourself accountable and ask if you’re meeting your personal goals. It’s not always necessary to schedule your 10-minute blocks (it’s okay if you do), but the final 30 minutes of the 10-10-30 plan should definitely be blocked off in your calendar (I’ve had a recurring appointment on Friday at 3:30 for several years). It’s easy to throw in the towel at the end of the week, but you’ll thank yourself every Monday when you have a clear vision for what’s ahead!

Make time to Reflect, Revise, and Repeat

I’ve seen some highly successful people who have neglected to set their day up with time to reflect and review their to-do list. Their assistant schedules everything, they’re good at their job, and they think they can just show up and dive in—but they end up winging it all week long.

News flash: No one can roll into work five minutes before their first meeting and expect to stay on top of things! You might have to get to the office a little earlier, but carving out some personal time for planning is worth it.

If you’re feeling powerless over your to-do list, try the 10-10-30 rule. I hope it works as well for you as it has for my clients and me! When you make a regular habit of reviewing and adjusting your to-do list at the beginning and end of every day, you’ll feel in-control and productive. And setting time aside to reflect really helps you notice patterns, change bad habits, and improve your approach.

Until next time—go sell some stuff!


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