Taking 15 minutes to quietly, consciously plan out your day.
It’s amazing the difference it makes to getting things done and feeling good at the end of the day.
When I don’t do it, I become easily distracted. I procrastinate alot. I tend to jump into things that give me instant gratification. I forget things I have to get done.
When I do it, I tend to work on the right things. I’m more likely to tackle difficult pieces of work and see them through. I have a better balance throughout the day. And more often than not, I feel pretty good about how the day went.
Over the last few years, I’ve dropped much of the longer term goal setting and planning I used to do. I still put a bit of time into thinking a few years out from time to time, but I mostly focus on what to do today – now.
Goal setting and organising yourself can feel overwhelming – particularly if you’re coming from a place of not practicing it. So here is a simple approach you might want to try:
Always maintain 2 lists – a personal and a work list.
They should contain all of the things you want to get done. How you structure your list is up to you. In it’s most basic form, it can be just a list of all the things you need to do. Throughout the day, when and as you come up with new things, jot them down on this list and forget about them.
When you wake in the morning, before you do anything, set aside 15 – 30 minutes. Take a step back and consider how you want to spend the day. What would a happy and productive day look like?
Refer to the two lists. Take a clear page in a notepad and start writing down things you want to get done today. Just a random list of stuff is fine. Try and remember these three things:
- You only have a finite amount of time. Be realistic.
- Aim for a balance. Get a good mix of both work and play into your day.
- Do something active. Even if it’s just a walk or stretch.
So, now you have a list of stuff to do today.
Take another clear page and break it into AM, PM and EVENING. Work through the previous list you wrote and move the items to those three blocks.
If you find your list was too long, that’s fine (it happens to me quite a lot). Just make sure the three time blocks look reasonable. Move anything you have now decided not to do back onto the two main lists you maintain.
Remember to schedule some gaps. Being back to back all day sucks. You need a bit of time to think and take a breath, or you’ll feel completely drained by early afternoon.
Take one final look at it. Does it feel like the right things to focus on? Would it make you feel happy if you got to the end of the day and you got those things done? That’s the litmus test.
It sounds simple, but I would guess that less than 5% of people consciously think about what they want to get done each day and consider the structure of their day.
It’s an easy and very effective way to over perform at work, feel on top of your personal life and be happier. Try it.
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