A good plan is like a road map: it shows the final destination and usually the best way to get there. - H. Stanley Judd
Do you have a plan for how you spend your time each week? Each day? Whether you are a working in the corner office, a tiny cubicle, from your home or on the road, you need to plan how you will spend your time. If you don’t, there’s a good chance you will look back at the end of the day and ask yourself where all the time went and why don’t you have more to show for your efforts.
I know you’re anxious to get down to the nitty-gritty task of getting more accomplished in a hurry, but quick fixes just don’t work. You have to do the prep work and set up the foundation first, and then take small steps each day. It’s very similar to the process of losing weight. If you go on a crash diet, the weight will eventually all come back. If instead you embark on a process of changing your eating and health habits, you can have significant, sustainable success.
If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much. – Jim Rohn
So, how do you decide what to do each day and when to do it? Well, that depends in part on your personality and temperament. You can make this process as simple as 5 minutes each morning to quickly run through it or take 20 minutes to break everything down into GTD categories, context filters, and calendar slots. However, one thing is absolute; you must have a list to work from! No matter which approach you prefer, the linchpin of your system is your task list.
I don’t know anyone, and I truly mean anyone, who is highly productive, effective, and successful without some sort of ongoing list. You might prefer to keep it on paper, your computer or your smartphone – I discourage the use of sticky notes though, they’re too likely to get lost into that void of the “unknown tasks that fall through the cracks.”
1. Start with your brain dump; quickly brainstorm any tasks you need to add to the list. If it’s a simple task add it to your master task list, if it’s a project, break it up into individual tasks.
2. Add any due dates or time constraints.
3. Prioritize those tasks that are due today or are big picture (cash flow, health, meaningful relationships) as “important.” You can rearrange tasks in order of importance if you choose – I just place a star next to the important ones, so I don’t have to keep moving the items on the list.
4. Choose 5-10 tasks to do today; depending on how full your schedule is and how much time you have available. Don’t overload your list. That’s just setting yourself up for failure and then you’ll beat yourself up, because you failed.
5. Do your top priority task first. Get it out of the way. Alternatively, you may choose instead, to do the task you’re dreading most. That will help eliminate the tendency to procrastinate and make you feel a whole lot better about crossing that dreaded task off the list.
Bonus – Schedule a period of at least 30-60 minutes of uninterrupted work or chore time. If you can do this first thing great, if it’s home chores, block out chunk of time in the evening or on the weekend to tackle them. Resist the temptation to be distracted and wander off to do something else. Make yourself focus.