How to Use a Prioritized Action List (PAL) to Increase Focus and Success

Understanding how to use a master task list / prioritized action list can only be done by truly understanding why you need to create one.  A master task list has one purpose: to help you complete the key tasks vital to running your business at its optimal efficiency and effectiveness.

To get started, list all the activities that must be completed and by what time they need to be done.    Prioritize the tasks, putting the most important at the top of your list.  Focus on the high-payoff tasks that would be best served by you.

If you can minimize the list by delegating – then do so.  In addition, if certain tasks will be better served by someone else, you must delegate.  All tasks on your master task list can be categorized into the 4 D’s: Do It – Delegate It – Delay It – Drop It.  This system makes prioritizing much easier.  Use the 4 D’s everyday in your master task list by choosing one category for each task.

Remember, it is always about taking action that puts you on the straightest path to achieving your goals, and every step you take (or do not take) directly affects how quickly you get there.

Examples of tasks that would fit a master task list

  • Resolve a conflict with a client
  • Review independent contractors or virtual assistants before hiring
  • Train new assistant on proper procedure and job duties
  • Prepare for a seminar/workshop/tele-seminar
  • Client acquisition activities
  • Client service activities


Once you’re clear on the types of tasks to include, create subsections for each of your tasks.  Generally, you should list two to seven subsections under each master task.  In the subsections, list smaller tasks that must be accomplished in order to carry out the master task.  This is a way of breaking down larger tasks, one step at a time.

Start both your master tasks and subtasks with an actionable verb.  This will ensure that you’re clear on the fact that they’re important tasks that must be competed, not just flamboyant aspirations.  For example, let’s say your main tasks are to market your business and interact with clients.

The goal is to accomplish the tasks on your list as soon as you can, so you can clear your head of the distractions.  To aid in that, place the tasks from your master task list into a calendar where you can map out time limits for each task.  As you accomplish your tasks, check them off or cross them out so you get a visual affirmation of your goal achievement.  If you don’t complete all of your tasks in any given day, just carry them over to the next day – or the next available day.

Remember to delegate the unimportant or low-priority tasks to an assistant or employee.  You, as the business owner, should only be focusing on the most vital tasks that are best suited to be handled by you.  Everything else is trivial, temporary, or low-priority, and can likely be delegated to an assistant.

The composition of everyone’s master task list / prioritized action list will differ greatly, but the most important thing to keep in mind when learning how to use a master task list is remembering to not make it overly complicated.  Identify the tasks you must accomplish, break them down into smaller tasks, apply the 4 D’s, and slap them onto your list.  That’s really all it takes.

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