One of the benefits of entrepreneurship is the freedom of setting your own schedule; there is no clock to punch, no Pocket watchtime card to fill out, and no boss looking over your shoulder to keep you working.  One of the burdens of entrepreneurship is that the responsibility of managing your time falls entirely upon you.

As an entrepreneur you can get more from your time by creating a list of tasks that you want to accomplish every day. Yes, that’s right a To-do list; a plain, ordinary, unglamorous To-do list, the kind you first learned about in junior high school. Don’t discount the To-do list just because you have known about it for years, what you know is far less important than what you do. If you use a To-do list every day or consistently use another time management tool that works better then read no further. But odds are you don’t have a consistent time management program; a To-do list is a good place to start because it’s simple and it pays immediate dividends.

Success expert Brian Tracy says “every minute in planning saves as many as ten minutes in execution. It takes only 10 to 12 minutes to plan your day, but this small investment of time will save up to two hours throughout the day.”

If you have a hard time believing that using a To-do list can save you two hours per day then consider the following reasons why it works so well.

Thinking on paper frees your mind – Knowing what you want to do brings clarity, but attempting to store it all in your head is a path to frustration. The mind thinks approximately 60 thousand thoughts per day so if the thoughts of your most important tasks are stored only in your head they will most likely get lost in the rush of ceaseless thought traffic. Making a list of important tasks frees your mind from trying to remember them. It becomes easier to focus your attention when not relying solely on your memory.

Making a list helps you plan the future in advance – Planning requires that you spend time envisioning the future. Having an idea of what you want the future to look like, and what you want to accomplish, helps you anticipate what needs to be done and how to do it.

Consulting a list helps keep you on track – The success of completing one task could lead to the failure of being distracted by the next opportunity unless you stick to the list. The purpose of creating a To-do list isn’t to lock yourself into a series of actions that you can’t escape. The list is to remind you of your plan and allow you to re-evaluate it if a new opportunity is more promising.

Preparing in advance creates and multiplies momentum – How much of your work time is spent on deciding what you want to do before you begin? By using a To-do list this decision time is reduced to zero. Making a list in advance gives the subconscious mind time to ponder your tasks, this greatly increases the odds of having unexpected creative ideas.

Creating a list enables you to operate on a higher plane – Trying to manage your time under the pressures of the moment is like drawing the map while you are in the middle of the journey. Sitting down to make a list enables you to plan from a quiet reflective place before the day begins. Prior planning allows you to determine which tasks are aligned with your goals and to prioritize them accordingly.

How many lists should you make?

Create different lists for different spans of time. Begin with the biggest tasks that you have by creating a master list that holds all of the goals that you want to accomplish.  Make a list of monthly tasks at the beginning of the month by breaking down items from the master list into tasks that can be completed within the next 30 days.  At the beginning of the week create a weekly list that helps you take action on your monthly goals. The weekly list leads to a daily list, made the night before each day begins.

By contributing writer, Jared Munk