Most of us have too much shit to do. Right? While there are a lot of advantages to running your own business and being your own boss, always knowing what to do next is not one of them. I remember working for people. It was great. “Here are your tasks. Rinse. Repeat.” But now that I’m the one calling the shots, it’s gotten a little more complicated.

Add to that the fact that a good portion of my time is spent trying to manage the lives of two children whose combined age is just one more than the number of tacos I put on a plate on taco night and the head begins to spin. I’m currently working on a (I hate myself just for saying this) self-help book to help guide freelancers, parents and small business owners figure out their next move, but since that book is a little ways off from being published, I thought I’d drop the abridged version on you.

Find the next most important thing to do…and do it.

I know it probably sounds like I’ve oversimplified this here. Many of us are used to using algorithms more complex than Apple Music suggestions to try to figure out the exact order we should use to attack our day but there’s really only one step that makes sense; the first one.

Now before I get into how to figure out what the step is, I’d like to answer an objection that you’re likely to have. “But Mike…are you saying I shouldn’t plan anything?”

No. Not at all. Plan. Plan your ass off. I’m not saying that at all. Here’s what I’m saying.

Let’s say that I know I need to do the following things; write 4 blogs for a client, write 3 blogs for another client, write 1 blog for another client, write 16 blogs for my own platform, finish 4 web projects for clients, design a board game, update my website with some new projects. This is, by the way, my real to do list right now.

I’ll start by saying, “is anything time sensitive?” The answer is yes. Those 3 blogs I need to write are time sensitive. The to-do list stops there for me. Sure, I still have the list. I write it all out. But I don’t prioritize things. It’s a waste of time. I can write a blog post in the amount of time it would take me to catalog and rank my tasks.

When I’m finished writing those 3 blog posts, I’ll take a VERY quick scan of my tasks. Is there something that jumps out at me? Yes. I have a couple of web projects that I need to clean up. Which one first? Well, I’ve given a client a timeline…so THAT one.

And so on and so on.

When you look at your to-do list, you’re going to find things that you WANT to do and you’re going to find things that you NEED to do. Needs come first, then wants, then everything else.

And with that, I can check another task off my list.