"How we live our days is how we live our lives"
– Annie Dillard
Every day counts. With just a few minutes of thoughtful planning every day, you can set yourself up for success.
1. PLAN YOUR DAY THE DAY BEFORE
Towards the end of your work day, take time to recalibrate. Follow up on email, capture commitments and tasks accumulated throughout the day. Then play the next day. You will leave work with a clearer mind. Also, planning the day before ‘jump starts’ the following day--in the morning, you can hit the ground running. Finally, planning the day before enables your subconscious mind to absorb your list and, perhaps, create new ideas for the following day.
2. BALANCE DEEP WORK AND ROUTINE WORK
I created my own ‘Win the Day’ template. On it, I keep two lists--one for deep work and one for routine work. Deep work is creative or analytical. Routine work is more administrative and less taxing on the brain. I recommend a 3/7 rule. No more than 3 deep work tasks (approximately 30-minute periods of concentrated focus) and 7 routine tasks. Meetings and daily operational issues will usually take up the rest of the day.
3. MAKE A CLOSED LIST
Keeping an open list is a working throughout the day to see how far down a long list you can get. That is overwhelming and discouraging. Instead, make your list realistic but somewhat ambitious-- then do your best to accomplish everything on your list. This creates a healthy tension by trying to reach a goal.
4. LEAVE MARGIN
You know the nature of your job and the frequency of emergencies and interruptions. Leave the appropriate amount of white space in your calendar to account for them. Planning every minute or over-scheduling sets you up for failure.
5. MAKE APPOINTMENTS WITH YOURSELF
You schedule meetings and appointments with others. Begin to schedule appointments with yourself to complete deep work. Deep work is important work that has positive consequences, When you perform deep work, do your best to free yourself from devices and interruptions. No multi-tasking during deep work.
6. SCHEDULE WITH YOUR PERSONAL ENERGY CYCLE
We all have our own biological ‘prime time’ and periods of low energy. Schedule your deep work at the height of your energy cycle. Complete more routine, administrative work during your off-peak times.
Taking 10-15 minutes to plan each day saves time, gives you a feeling of control and leads to higher productivity.
“Make each day a masterpiece.”
– John Wooden