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21 Jun 2022

Managing your to-do list as a small business owner

The measurement of time was created by the Ancient Egyptians with the invention of sundials to help organize their lives. Since then, time impacts everything in the world, days, hours minutes and seconds all tick away, time stands still for no man, including you the independent business owner and your ever-growing to-do list.

Running a high street business is more than a full-time job, this role dictates owners wear “time stealing” hats that cover multiple roles at the same time, directors, sales and marketing specialists, merchandisers, customer service, accountants, the list goes on. You become masters of multi-tasking, juggling long checklists, whilst trying to ensure customers, business, personal and family goals are achieved.

If you are too busy trying to achieve everything at the same time, you are less likely to succeed because you aren’t focused.

How can you create more time in a busy day?

It may come as no surprise that organization is the key here! As with the Ancient Egyptians, reinventing the way you create your to-do list will allow you to prioritise the more important tasks and not waste time on tasks that don’t require your immediate attention.

Make a list

I can envisage eyeballs rolling as nothing new here, and you are right. The difference is how you plan your list, how you effectively work through and control the list, enabling you to achieve your goals now and in the future.

“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!”

Analysing the immediate requirements and challenges affecting your business, enables you to prioritise each point, identify an instant solution and own the task..

Apply the following thought process when analysing the challenges you face.

1. Map your business area

Your business is broken into a number of key areas. (e.g. finance, customer care, product, sales) Each of these areas needs to be working well for a successful business. Every business is different so begin by making a list of these areas within your business.

2. What challenges are you facing?

For each key area of your business, ask yourself, what are the urgent issues you are facing or barriers that exist to achieve a specific goal you have set.

3. What’s the immediate fix?

Work through each challenge and ask yourself, what can I do right now to start to address this challenge, you may not be able to fix over night but there will be something you can do or delegate someone else to do to start the process.

4. Future improvements

Once you have planned any immediate actions to address your key challenges, think about the larger, more longer term actions you need to set in play to fully overcome your barriers and create growth. These larger projects may require you to delegate actions or organize a team to work on it. For each of these larger projects, set some specific measures on what you need to achieve, by when and who needs to do what.


Business area – Operations

Challenge – Business insurance renewal due

The clock is ticking, no time to source renewal comparisons.

Let’s be frank, not the most interesting of tasks and the easy option is to auto renew but is this the best action for your business. Doing nothing may cost you more in money and time.

Immediate Fix

Set aside a couple of hours to research and reach out to at least one other Insurance providers to your current one as a comparison. Make sure you compare both price and cover as well as any service reviews you can find. With a good provider it shouldn’t take long to switch. Choosing the right insurance partner now will pay dividends saving you both time and money over the next 12 months.

Future action

Save the date – Create a renewal date reminder on a to-do list for the months ahead, or better still make sure the insurer you choose notifies you prior to renewal. Make sure you give yourself enough time to research a selection of providers before deciding who to go with. Choosing the right insurance partner now will pay dividends saving you both time and money over the next 12 months.

Saving the date will also provide you with peace of mind that last-minute searching will not be required and cause distraction from key tasks the next time it’s due. Clear list and clear mind.

At Expression Insurance our automated renewal date to-do list contacts customers 6 weeks prior to renewal, providing our best price (including additional discounts from great Google reviews). By having our own inhouse to-do list customers do not have to set reminders to discuss requirements for the following year.

By working methodically through these steps, analysing the problems and how they need addressing as you go creates much more clarity on what should be on your to do list.

This in itself won’t give you more hours in the day but will focus the time you have better on doing things that move the business forward.

Balancing work, life and to-do list

Building a high street business is tough, taking time, effort and long hours. It is important to remember the need to be patient and kind not just with your business but also yourself, balancing work, life and to-do lists, and in doing so avoiding burnout.

To be effective as a business owner you need to be able to think clearly and this is where balancing the evolved to-do list comes into play giving you the time to work smart.

Taking time out of each day to plan, review and work through your priorities coupled with implementing some of the points below, will help contribute to the work life balance needed for a successful business.

Delegate – Trust your instinct, you have successfully hired and trained your employees and therefore have the confidence in them to delegate tasks. Delegating will free up your time to action your to-do list and in doing so freeing up space in your mind for business creativity.

Set schedules and stick to them – As a time poor indie business owner it’s all too common to think you do not have the time to take a break, but research detailed in has found that taking a break can be very beneficial for you and your work.  Micro-breaks, lunchtime breaks and longer breaks, have all been shown to have a positive relationship with wellbeing and productivity, giving thinking time and ‘head space’ to effectively tick off tasks.

·       Create a timetable for break times ensuring you stick to these times

·       Set an alarm on your watch or phone to prompt you and your team

·       Plan to do something you enjoy during your break, visit a local high street clothing store, enjoy a coffee in a café or lunch in a fellow independent restaurant.

Once refreshed and recharged you will be ready to tackle the things to be done.

Quick tips and reminders

Where to put it - its important you are comfortable with where the to-do list is created, be it notebook, spreadsheet or app whatever works for you, if you don’t like it you won’t stick to it.

Separate it– creating separate lists for work and for personal/home is important in keeping a clear focus on both areas of your life

Note it – write down your task as soon as you think of it. Once noted it frees up brain space to be used for other business priorities.

Date it – allocating a completion date to each task gives you more accountability to complete it and helps you prioritise and plan weeks/months/years ahead.

Review it– start each day by casting your eye over the list and allocate in order of urgency

Tick it – tick it off or score it through. Marking a task as completed provides motivation, pride in a job well done and peace of mind that, finally the completion of an overdue task.

To sum up psychologist and author Dr David Cohen our love of to-do lists down to three reasons: they dampen anxiety about the chaos of life; they give us a structure, a plan that we can stick to; and they are proof of what we have achieved that day, week, or month.

The key factor is how you create your list, does this benefit you, your independent business and your work life balance?

Some business owners will steer clear of this way of creating a to-do list due to thinking it will prevent flexibility within their working day. For time management expert David Allen (author of gettingthingsdone : The Art of Stress-Free Productivity), believes anyone with a full schedule and no structure will struggle to cope. A system is needed – and scribbled notes on hands won’t cut it.

If you want to find out more about how Expression supports independent business owners who love their business visit

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