To-do lists are invaluable to your life as an entrepreneur. They improve your productivity by making sure nothing slips through the cracks. However, they need to be used properly. Used the wrong way, they’ll just serve as a list that reminds you of all the things you’ll ignore. In the proper hands, it’s an amazing tool. There are things you can do to make sure you maximize the value of your to-do list.

Organize Items by Importance
To-do lists allow you to become a more efficient entrepreneur by letting you hit the ground running. You don’t have to waste time figuring out what to do. You can take this to the next level by organizing things in order of importance and urgency. Prioritizing your list allows for better time management and makes sure that if you do run out of time, at least the important things are out of the way.

There are many ways to apply this. You can use a modified Gantt chart, which charts out the beginnings and ends of your projects and tells you which deadlines are coming up next. Another way to do it would be to schedule your to-do list according to your preferred work times. For example, if you’re a morning person, put the most difficult tasks early in the day to maximize your productivity.

Celebrate Victories
Celebrating your successes and accomplishments is a great way to maximize your to-do list. Doing that makes your to-do list more than an organizational tool — it gives you the energy to power through everything else you have to do. Have the rewards match the difficulty of the task. Finishing filing five important reports? Treat yourself to your favorite snack. Close a major deal? Have dinner out at your favorite restaurant. These rewards will remind you of what you’re trying to achieve and help keep the grind at bay.

Cross Out Finished Tasks
Part of the power of a to-do list is in how you perceive it. At the start of the day, a full list can give you confidence. With it, you’re sure that you’re not missing anything important. The end of a day is a different matter. Having a seemingly still-full to-do list can be demoralizing, even if you got the majority of those tasks done.

Avoid that downturn by crossing out finished tasks. Crossing them out will give you a sense of satisfaction and allow you to mentally move on to the next task. On a larger scale, looking at a mostly or completely crossed-off list is immensely satisfying and can energize you for the next day.

Break Things Down into Smaller Tasks
It’s easy to get overwhelmed as an entrepreneur. You’re responsible for the health and progress of your start-up, as well as your employees. A lot rides on every decision, so much so that looking at a huge task can be demoralizing. Fortunately, there’s a way to handle that, and it’s by breaking down a big task into smaller tasks.

Breaking things down allows you to get a better idea of what you have to do. Convincing an investor to put money into the company, for example, involves a series of tasks. You need to do your research and see what kind of projects the investor has taken on before. Then you have to schedule it in a place where they’re comfortable, to put them in the right frame of mind. After that you should practice your pitch. The singular task of convincing an investor to your side seems huge. Those three individual tasks are doable.

Use the To-Do List that Works for You
Every entrepreneur is different, as is their approach to work. You can see this in their start-up’s values and in their corporate culture. There may be some overlap, but for the most part, entrepreneurs have their own ways of getting things done.

There are many types of to-do lists from which you can choose, from how items are organized to the medium you use to list them in. Many smartphones have apps that make it easy to make a to-do list and allow for alarms to be set. Others prefer using a simple notebook. Go with whatever works for you.

To-do lists are powerful tools for entrepreneurs, but only if they’re used properly. Use the medium and kind of to-do list you’re comfortable with. Break down big tasks to make them easier to schedule and process. Organize items by importance. If you use your to-do list properly, you’ll find yourself becoming a more efficient entrepreneur.

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