Let’s face it: The life of an entrepreneur includes wrangling a ton of tasks.
And, it’s a LOT like herding cats with ADHD…too many things moving in too many different directions.
If you’re anything like most entrepreneurs (myself included), your to-do list has anywhere from 10 – 30 items on it for any given week. Sometimes even more.
And often, the list grows as the week progresses.
If there’s one thing I’m guilty of, it’s being over-enthusiastic about my to-do’s, and severely under-estimating how long they’ll take me to complete.
Which means, by the end of the week, I’ve barely checked off a handful.
As entrepreneurs and solo-professionals, our time is limited. Even when we’ve got a small team, it always seems like there are a TON of things that have to get done.
And you’re right…there are.
But all too often, our most important priorities, like bringing in revenue, get shoved to the bottom of the pile in favor of something else…
…Only to wake up to Friday morning to discover another week has slipped by with nothing to show for it other than a handful of social media posts, a few emails and – if we’re lucky – another blog post.
So how does a tiny biz owner wearing all the hats go about prioritizing and taming an out-of-control list of to-do’s?
You ICE ‘em, baby.
And once you’ve gone through the process, you’ll know exactly what to work on and in what order, every day.
In this post I’m going to share how you can conquer your to-do list once and for all, and prioritize the tasks that will provide the greatest benefit to your biz.
The big, hairy problem of conventional “business wisdom”
How many blog posts or articles have been written about productivity and/or entrepreneurship that sound something like this:
“If it has to happen, then it has to happen first.”
In fact, this little nugget of ‘wisdom’ has most likely been ingrained in many of us from the time we were old enough to do chores around the house. Even now that’s how I tackle the stuff I need to do in my personal life.
And when we’re working for someone else, it’s obviously a good motto to live by, since they’re paying you to essentially check off tasks.
But here’s the thing:
It doesn’t work when it comes to running your own business.
Sure, there are tasks that absolutely must get completed…
…But not in favor of something else that could easily have a much greater effect on your bottom line.
This article states that you should treat all tasks equally, and I couldn’t agree more.
Because not every activity you think you need to do will actually hold the same weight as the next.
That’s where the ICE method comes in.
It doesn’t just help you get shit done, it helps you find and complete the tasks that will actually net you a return on your investment of time.
Now…doesn’t that sound like a better approach?
Here’s how it works
I first heard the ICE method mentioned in a video by Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income, and I’ve been using it ever since.
“ICE” stands for Impact, Confidence, Effort.
The intention behind the method is to prioritize tasks that have the greatest impact to your business, a high confidence level in their effectiveness or outcome, but take the least effort to actually do.
What items will give you the biggest business boost this week that you’re confident in, and won’t take forever to do?
THOSE are what you should be focusing on getting off your list first.
While a sales funnel is an online business necessity, let’s be honest…they’re not exactly quick n’ easy to create and set up.
Which means an item like this – that takes more effort than another which could result in an equally big impact – needs to be deprioritized and tucked into your to-do’s somewhere else.
Using the “ICE” Method
Since impact, confidence and effort can be subjective (because we’re often overly optimistic), I like to take it a step further and assign a scoring system to each of these categories.
That way, I’ve got a quick measurement to base my decisions on.
Instead of simply going through your list and blindly picking tasks, select one to start with as your base point. We’ll call this your Most Important Mission (MIM).
Assign this baby a score of 10-10-10 across the board, with 10 being the absolute best. So, your MIM would have a score of 30.
From there, anything less than that fall below it in the ICE scoring, and in your list of priorities.
For example, let’s say my MIM (most important mission) for the week is outreach – connecting with others to jam with on podcasts and interviews in order to increase my visibility.
Now, I know that connecting with others will have a huge impact on my business and is absolutely the best way to expand my reach, therefore my confidence level is high. I also know it takes very little effort to spend a few minutes researching and sending emails.
The score for this activity will be 30, as we established above, or 10-10-10 for each of the ICE categories of impact, confidence and effort.
In other words, I’ll get the highest return on the investment of my time.
On the other hand, I also have a sales page to create on my list for the week for a new offer.
This one will have a big impact on my business…but my confidence level isn’t nearly as high because it’s new and as yet untested.
So I’ll assign an 8 for impact, and a 6 for confidence.
And, since a sales page takes a lot longer to create than my outreach task, there’s more effort involved.
Which means I’ll assign a score of 2 for effort.
Add these up, and the sales page ICE score = 16.
Compare that with the perfect score of 30 for outreach (my MIM), and it’s a no-brainer which of these tasks I’ll check off my list first.
The higher the overall ICE score, the better.Whatever has the biggest Impact, gives you the greatest Confidence, and takes the least amount of Effort is what should be prioritized daily.Click To Tweet
Want another example?
So based on this comparison, which do you think makes sense to tackle first: The tasks that will have the greatest return for the least amount of effort…
…Or the ones that take the most time with the potential for only a “meh” payoff?
That doesn’t mean I’ll remove writing the cornerstone content blog post completely, it just means I’ll move it down the list or even to another day (or week – ideally you should be batching content creation).
As you can see, scoring your to-do’s in this way will help you determine not only which items are low-hanging fruit for you to check off each day, but also where to spend the bulk of your time in order to get the biggest bang so you’re not constantly working on low-return tasks.
Here’s what to do next…
Okay, now it’s your turn to put the ICE method into action to conquer your to-do list!
Here’s what I want you to do:
Step 1: Grab a pen and paper. Draw 4 columns, one each for Impact, Confidence, Effort and Total.
Step 2:Take a look at your to-do list for today. Identify your MIM (most important mission) – you should ideally ONLY have one of these per day. Assign a score of 30, with 10’s across the categories of impact, confidence and effort.
Step 3: List all other tasks below your MIM, and assign a score for each based on the level of impact, your confidence level, and the amount of effort.
Step 4: Tally them up and prioritize from highest score to lowest.
Step 5: Feel awesome that you’ve now got a clear picture of your daily priorities that will make the biggest difference to your business!Time to put your old to-do list on 'ICE'!Click To Tweet
Over to you
What was your biggest take away or “a-ha” moment from doing this exercise?
Is the ICE method something you’ll continue to use?
Let me know in the comments!