When founders get overloaded with tasks

Building startups is tough. As founders, we always have hundred issues in tens of categories on our todo lists. That’s stressful. It seems we have to finish those hundred tasks immediately or the world will crash. So we multitask, shuffle and hustle. Quite often, it drives us crazy. I’ve had many of such days when I’m not sure, where to get started or how to do all that.

Photo by Keoni Cabral

Photo by Keoni Cabral

Not good. Research shows that multitasking between tasks lowers your productivity by 40% and IQ by tens of points.

Faced with too many tasks, what happens is we start working on small easy tasks just to get the todo list shorter. That’s human. But it’s not very productive.

So what’s the solution? Just kill most of your task list. Keep just 5-7 most important things on it. The less, the better. Some keep just 3. Some 1 or 2. If you can do 5-7 big things per week, you’re amazing.

The main rule is: never do things that are not on your 5-7 big things list. Don’t even think about the other tasks. Sure, you can keep them in a separate file or hidden in your task manager, but get them out of sight and out of mind.

If you take the time to sit back, relax and think, not all of those 100 things are important. You could actually achieve much more by better prioritization and limiting the number of items on you todo list. Here are some of my old blog posts on the topic. First one is more generic, the other two about methods to manage your priorities better:

I’m using our own Weekdone team management tool to manage my personal productivity, mostly my big weekly goals, objectives and tasks. What had happened today was I had been human again and listed around 15 items I have to do this week there. Welcome, stress!

So what I did was to leave just 5 items there and moved the others to a “Plans on hold” area. Now the only thing I can do is accomplish one of those 5 goals. As that’s done, I can choose an additional task from plans on hold, but not before.

Luckily one of my tasks was to do more blogging, so I could share this post with you.

How do you as a founder manage your huge todo lists? Do you use any tools or processes? Do you just use a mental task list and trust your gut feeling of what’s important at any moment?

The author, Jüri Kaljundi, is a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Weekdone weekly employee status reporting service. Try out Weekdone for free and be up to date with your team’s progress, while increasing your productivity.

2 Comments

  1. Hey Jüri,

    nice entry! Actually we were feeling quite similar this week, a bit overwhelmed by our tasks. We rearranged our pin-boards and introduced 4 categories. We decided to just care about “urgent” and “time-boxed” tasks for one iteration. Furthermore, we are working on our task descriptions. I wrote a short article about that:

    http://www.tryerr.com/2013/05/hansei-1-tasks-should-be-smart-too.html

    Cheers
    Roland

  2. We manage our tasks on a Google Spreadsheet, but as time passes and team grows, we need to move on sth like weekdone.com. But my tasklist isn’t anywhere near 5-7 tasks and every day brings in some unexpected tasks. Will give it a try, although my gut feeling says it’s gonna be hard.

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