Opinion: Get on top of the never-ending to-do list

Opinion: Get on top of the never-ending to-do list

Sharon Fleming, owner of Thompson Travel Portadown, Northern Ireland gives her top tips for a productive work and home life

Credit card charges, tick. End-of-year accounts, tick. Abta/Atol returns, tick. Insurance renewals, tick. Payment card industry compliance, tick. Package Travel Regulations…almost ticked.

Then, and importantly, in between all that is staffing, sales and suppliers, and the list goes on.

But I suppose having an actual to-do list gives me an advantage over those who don’t prioritise.

As an independent agent, it’s not uncommon to feel like the list is never-ending. At any level within the travel industry, there is always a constant juggle with time and what needs to be done first. Then you have to achieve a level of sales that gives your company a reason to exist in the first place.

We all start our days with the best of intentions before we are interrupted by an unexpected meeting, or something that takes longer than we expect – and those emails just keep coming.

I’m the same as everyone else. Finding time is just impossible so I take five minutes – yes, just five minutes – at the end of each day to write down the things I really need to do the following day. If I don’t, I forget, or it just keeps being shifted to the next date with a space in my diary.

So here a few tips on how I make my job a bit easier and more productive and still find time, this week at least, to run twice, go to the gym three times and do a pilates bootcamp (the last had to be scheduled to actually happen). One week with no evening events means one whole week of trying to lose the weight from all those lovely supplier evenings, trips and parties that have been back-to-back recently.

1. Write down the priorities for the next day

Make sure what needs to be done first is at the top of the list, even if it is the hardest. If you tackle the hardest thing first, then the rest of your day will be much easier. But don’t write down more than six; productivity consultant Ivy Lee decided that 100 years ago, and it works. Crucially, always write your list at the end of the day when you are being realistic, not optimistic.

2. Don’t start your day with your emails or you won’t get anything else done

Emails are usually what others want from you so if you start with those you will never get anything else done. Schedule time in your day to check them and respond. What’s urgent for someone else may not be urgent for you.

3. Cancel pointless meetings

Make sure you need to go to meetings and that the correct people will be there. I hate meetings where nothing is achieved; they are just talks about talks. If you need to give out information, type it up before the meeting and circulate it instead of spending longer going over something for ages during a meeting. Set a time and stick to it.

4. Set realistic deadlines

5. Cross things off your list once you have done them

One thing that is important in all of this list-making is to assess the value of what you are doing. There is urgent work, then there is important work. Is it valuable to your business?

My weekend list is easier, and only takes me two minutes: family and friends; gin; sleep in; spend time outside; more gin; repeat.

And then there is the Package Travel Regulations…

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