Young entrepreneurs – and teens in general – are bombarded with plenty of distractions and ways to procrastinate. The Kantner Foundation knows that you are busier than ever. School alone may take up an enormous amount of your time. Now you want to start a business (or have one going already) and make yourself an entrepreneur. We say go for it!
Yet, as your pile of responsibilities increases, you may start to feel overwhelmed or even panicky. Things that started as fun might now seem like just one more weight on your young shoulders.
Before you quit everything and hide in your bed for the rest of your high school career, consider creating to-do lists. Think of to-do lists as being the team manager of yourself and delegating your responsibilities to specific times of the day and week. Take all of those weights off your shoulders and organize them according to urgency. We promise they’ll seem much more manageable once you have a to-do list to follow.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO TRUST YOUR MEMORY
As we said, you probably have a lot on your plate. School, home, friends, extra-curricular activities, and your entrepreneurial start-up. We know you’re bright and energized, but even the best of us lose track of what’s happening in which parts of our lives sometimes.
A to-do list offers you a baseline to keep you on track no matter how distracted you get. Have to deal with a family emergency? Suddenly have more on your plate than you thought you’d have? Your to-do list is always there to remind you of your priorities, as well as the regular day-to-day things that need to get done.
Having a to-do list makes it a lot easier for you to streamline multiple commitments and projects at a time. You can divide your to-do list into categories and arrange tasks by priority. This way you make sure things that need to be done no matter what will get done, and things that can wait aren’t using up your time and energy.
A TO-DO LIST FORCES YOU TO FOCUS AND PRIORITIZE
If your list of personal strengths doesn’t include time management, a to-do list will become your secret weapon. No more being late, no more forgetting important deadlines, no more last-minute sprints to get things done. Time management is an important tool in the young entrepreneur’s toolbox. Mastering a to-do list is the key to that tool.
Even if you are a whiz at time management, creating a to-do list shows you how to break your tasks down one at a time, which in turn prevents you from feeling overwhelmed. By focusing on one list item at a time, you force yourself to avoid distractions. You can even avoid interruptions by making sure everyone around you knows you are hard at work right now, or by briefly turning off your WiFi so you don’t hear all the pings and dings of people tugging at your attention.
CHECKING THINGS OFF IS GOOD FOR YOU
Do you know that feeling of finally being done with a thing? It’s freeing, right? You have this amazing sense of pride and accomplishment! Imagine having that feeling all day long, every day, and every week!
As you check off the tasks you’ve completed, your self-esteem will increase and you’ll feel more confident in your ability to get stuff done. The proof that you can do it is right in front of you! You’ll be less stressed and anxious. In turn, this will free up space in your brain to be more creative, which is good for business, school, and pretty much all other aspects of your life.
SET DAILY AND WEEKLY GOALS
Create a master list for the week: things you want to make sure get done by Friday. These can be things like a school assignment that’s due, contacting a potential investor, or setting up your business’s social media accounts. These tasks are not necessarily day-to-day things, nor are they emergencies. They do, however, still need to get done. Write them down on your to-do list.
Daily lists work better for things like homework, chores, sleep, and exercise. Yes, make sure you include self-care on your to-do list! Every minute of your day does not need to be “productive.” Taking plenty of breaks to move around, meditate, or just hang out for a while, can help you be more productive by “resetting” your brain rather than draining it.
Some informal studies even show that having a to-do list can help you sleep better at night. Better quality sleep helps you feel more creative and more energized during the day. That’s just what young entrepreneurs need!
STAY CONSISTENT, IMPROVE CUSTOMER SERVICE
Look back at the tasks you’ve accomplished on your to-do list. The ones directly related to your small business. Do you see a pattern of what worked best for your business? These things are visual reminders of what you’ve done that have successfully moved the needle on your business so you can keep pushing forward.
Your to-do list can also help you provide your customers with optimal service by reminding you to follow up on inquiries, send out new orders, and respond to reviews. Your customers will see how on the ball you are and will appreciate your responsiveness.
Set weekly tasks to update your business’s social media accounts, as well. This can mean scheduling updates ahead of time or writing them on the spot on a certain day. Whatever method you choose, consistency allows existing customers and potential customers to know when they can expect to see fresh content on your sites. Maybe Mondays are for writing out Tweets, Tuesdays are for taking photos to post on IG, and Fridays are the days you respond to customer emails. However you do it, to-do lists are there to keep you consistent and relevant.
To-do lists are not meant to become yet one more thing you need to do. Rather, they exist as a way to organize your thoughts. Sort of like outsourcing your brain so you can focus on the task ahead of you, rather than stressing about all the things at once.
Will you be one of the next recipients of a Kantner Foundation college scholarship? If you are a Florida high school entrepreneur, click here to learn more!