4 To-Do List Myths Plaguing Your Creative Agency

Running a growing creative agency is a juggling act, especially when it comes to managing your to-do list. Is your to-do list never ending? Is it always on fire? Do you work and work and work, yet it never feels like you are ever on top of your list? This is a common problem for agency principals. If your to-do list owns you more than you own it, you are not alone. Here are 4 to-do list myths that will help you break free of your to-do list shackles and give you more time to be creative and successfully grow your agency.

Myth #1: If It’s Important, It Takes a Long Time

All agency directors are swamped with burning tasks, including reports and presentations for meetings. I have seen many an agency executive spend hours if not weeks prepping a report, often to have it looked at for just a few minutes. What’s worse is often the creative agency executive knows people are not going to spend a lot of time looking at the report, but they put lots of time and effort into it because it is important. Usually, when I look at my to-do list I organize it in order of importance and how long I think a task will take. I usually assume the longer it takes the more important it is because its a “big” task. But more often then not the most important tasks, such as following up with a major client or clearing up that invoice inaccuracy with a vendor, are quick and easy, yet we put those tasks off to do more “important” time consuming jobs.

The truth is that just because a task is important does not mean it will take a lot of time or that it should take a lot of time. So stop putting off important tasks that can be done in minutes and most of all stop spending lots of time on a task just because it is important, when really you could just focus and get it done really quickly. Use my mantra – FDM: Focus, Deliver, and Move on!

Myth #2: A To-Do List is Where You Keep Track of Tasks

Of course your to-do list is where you keep track of all the thing you have to do – that’s why it’s called a to-do list silly. Right?! Well, that’s what most agency owners do and it doesn’t work because the list just ends up being a never-ending list of tasks with no priority or sense of urgency. The problem with your to-do list being a place where all your “to-do” tasks get tracked is that you end up with an unfocused and overwhelming list that you’ll ultimately just ignore.

So, the first step in taking control of your to do list is to stop putting things on your to do list! Really, I’m serious. Just because a task comes your way doesn’t mean you have to agree to do it and then diligently put it on your to-do list. When a task comes your way you can delegate it to someone else or you can also make the decision not to do it. You would be surprised at how many tasks you say “yes” to and how many of them you could actually say “no” to.

In a day there should be never more than 4 things on your to-do list: 2 must-dos that day and 2 must-dos that week. These to-do items should be selected carefully and relate to your strategy and goals. If you diligently manage your to-do list in this way, you will find that you will get the things on your to-do list done and that you will actually make progress on your overall goals.

Myth #3: A To-Do List is Actually a To-Do List

Hear us out on this one. The biggest myth about a to-do list is that it is actually a list of all the things you need to get done and will get done. The reality is that your to-do list is a wish list of all the things you would love to get done or even worse all the things that you should have said “no” to, but didn’t. Implement strict guidelines as to what goes on your to-do list – no wants, wishes, or shoulds. The list should be solidly based on the most important work that must get done immediately to achieve your objectives (don’t’ forget about the rule of 2 from myth #2)!

Myth #4: Having a To-Do List Makes You Organized (and Therefore Effective)

Yes, it’s true that a to-do list might really help you stay organized and get a lot of tasks done. But there is a big difference between being effective and being efficient. There is no point being efficient on a task or project when the overall work isn’t effective in moving your agency forward. I have seen agency executives be very efficient at getting their to-do list done. The problem was that none of the tasks on the list were important tasks that helped move the agency forward and other important tasks such as actively monitoring Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and managing burning HR issues were ignored. Make sure that the 2 tasks per day and 2 tasks per week that end up on your to-do list are the essential work that will move your agency forward, not just insignificant tasks that you can feel good about getting off your to-do list.

Dispelling these myths can help you to be productive (in the right areas) and effectively manage your agency. I would love to hear your to-do list myths and tips.

This article was written by former Function Point team member, Alon Sabi.

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