There’s one extremely critical skill that I never seem to hear anyone talking about: list management.
This skill may not sound sexy, but there is absolutely no way an entrepreneur can succeed without obsessively maintaining updated lists of all resources and projects that will contribute to his or her endeavor’s success.
Below are several examples of lists that I have built over the past few years at Brainscape. I’ve divided them into two types: People Lists and To-Do Lists. If you don't have these lists going already, get started now.
1. Existing investors' and advisers' skill sets
It is important to maintain a list of your existing investors’ skill sets to help you remember whom to ask for particular advice or favors. Keeping your investors engaged, and remembering to catch up with them individually from time to time is your secret weapon to multiplying your army of evangelists.
2. Potential investors
Potential angel investors or venture capitalists should be added to a potential investors list as soon as you hear about them. Even if you are not currently fundraising, keeping a log of your conversations with potential investors will make your life much easier once you are ready for your next fundraising blitz.
3. Existing partners
If your business has any content or distribution partners, it is important to maintain great communication with them. A simple spreadsheet -- listing all your partners, the nature of your partnership and the key champions within the partner company -- can help you remember when to send them exclusive company updates, holiday cards or any other helpful correspondence.
4. Potential partners
Whether you’re logging ideas for dream introductions, or just keeping track of conversations you’ve already had, a central list of potential partners can keep all your corporate development activities organized. Just be sure you’re targeting the right person within the potential partner organization.
5. Potential acquirers
Maintaining a list of your potential acquirers, getting introduced to the right people in their organizations and logging your conversation notes are important activities to prepare your company for an eventual exit.
6. Journalists you know
You never know when your company may do something that is “story worthy.” Keeping an updated list of all your journalist buddies can help you quickly get the word out when the time is right.
7. Journalists you want to know
There may be a handful of influential journalists who regularly write about your industry. Keep a list of them! If you regularly comment on their posts, retweet them and favorite them, they’ll eventually notice and engage you in a conversation about what you do.
8. CEO friends
Your fellow entrepreneurial buddies can help you by giving confidential advice, can serve as potential partners on key initiatives, they can attend your startup’s parties and they can introduce you to your target investors when you’re ready for the intros.
9. Awesome talent you know
Did you just meet an amazing engineer who you'll eventually want to hire as an Android developer (once you raise some money)? Or perhaps an amazing future vice president of sales who loves your company and wants to stay in touch? Don’t lose touch with these people. Keep them in a separate contact list. You never know if you may need them.
10. “People to update”
Sometimes you just want to blast a whole bunch of “relevant” contacts with an important update about your company. Having an up-to-date master list of these people—which might include investors, entrepreneurial friends, journalists, friends and even your family—will make this update process much easier.
The second type of lists that startup founders should maintain is to-do lists. Startup to-do lists come in many flavors:
1. Short-term CEO tasks
Things you need to do in the next few days. I personally use Gmail’s built-in Tasks feature for this, and I have an iPhone app that allows me to access this list on the go.
2. Long-term CEO projects
Things you need to do “eventually.” I use a Trello board for this. I generally sit with my executive team each month to re-prioritize this list and to make sure I’m working on the right things.
3. Short-term product tasks
Things your product team is currently working on. This helps you remember what’s important before you bother them with a trivial new idea. If it’s not an emergency, add it to the product backlog.
4. Product backlog
Features that you hope to “eventually” build. At Brainscape, we generally don’t have a detailed long-term road map, since we prefer to re-assess the product backlog every few weeks and determine which items should be added to the short-term tasks.
5. Pending conversation agendas
Talking points for your upcoming weekly team and/or individual meetings. I like to have at least two to three bullets ready for all my scheduled discussions. I tend to just keep these talking points on a written notepad by my desk.
6. Your email inbox
Any emails representing longer-term projects should either be immediately transmitted to another form of to-do list, or should be “snoozed” to come back to later (by using a tool such as Boomerang, Mailbox or Google Inbox).
7. Blog posts to write
Ideas for articles you’d like to write, either for your blog, LinkedIn and/or for a major publication as a guest author. You should add to this list whenever a good blog post idea pops into your head. You can chip away at this list either by scheduling some regular weekly writing time or by just saving the list for whenever you have some “down time.”
8. Marketing ideas
Ideas for slogans, ad campaigns, giveaways, contests, promotional videos, email blasts, brand ambassador activities and any other marketing initiatives that you might want to explore at some point. Brainscape maintains a shared Google spreadsheet where everyone on the marketing team can add their ideas and review priorities at our weekly meetings.
9. Books to read
Novels or nonfiction books that will somehow make you a better entrepreneur. This list often tends to grow faster than you can attack it. One useful tool is to record the person who recommended the book to you, so you can remember to thank them once you do read it (even if it is years later).
10. Future business ideas
Ideas for companies that you might want to start one day, when or if you ever exit your current company.
Having spent a lot of time with entrepreneurs over the past few years, I have found that the most successful founders tend to be those who are most obsessed with keeping such lists for everything in their lives.
Even founders who have suffered from ADHD (which actually tends to be a common entrepreneurial trait) are typically very good at maintaining organized lists—possibly because they once had to compensate for forgetfulness as a student. If you don’t think you are good at lists yourself, feel free to copy some of my list ideas as a starting point, and you’ll find that it gets easier and easier over time.
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This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editor.