Have you ever stopped to wonder what the most critical part of your day is? Or are you simply too busy fire-fighting to even consider the matter?
Even posing the question is a useful exercise. It’s a pattern-interrupt that can pull you out of the hurly-burly of the present moment and force you to start thinking strategically.
Let me save you some valuable thinking time and suggest a firm answer – the most crucial part of your day is the time you spend defining your areas of focus for the time at your disposal. This article will share some crucial tips on how you can tame your to do lists.
1. Begone Dull KPIs
Many readers’ eyes may already be starting to glaze over at this point. Perhaps you suspect the dread acronym KPI is lurking somewhere on the horizon. Or that the subject of group calendars is about to hove into view.
Rest easy. Nothing could be further from the case.
What we’re referring to here are not vague, hand-waving attempts at organisational planning handed down from the C-Level suites. We’re talking about simple, daily tasks you take a small amount of time to define in writing and then commit to executing on.
2. The Nature Of The Beast
Let’s start with identifying the true cause of the problem at hand. What lies at the root of most people’s time management issues is a simple but tragic fact – they place no fundamental value on their own time.
Now you may, at this point, be indignantly protesting that you’re different, that you prize your time extremely highly. Perhaps you’re spitting out your coffee as we speak and proclaiming that your only problem with time is that you don’t have enough of it.
I invite you to look deep within yourself and ask if this is really true.
Do you, for example, already have a task planning strategy that you religiously execute every day without fail? One that is already bringing you success?
If the answer is no, you are not taking your time seriously enough.
When you finally realise just how important your time is, your entire approach to planning your day will fundamentally shift. You’ll be prepared to invest time to save time and tempting distractions such as excessive social media use and compulsive email checking will vanish from your life.
You’ll need a simple set of rules to keep you on track though. Something to ringfence your focus and protect yourself against the innumerable time thieves – both mechanical and human – that modern life confronts you with every day.
3. The Power Of Negative Thinking
Your first task is to stop wasting time dithering over voluminous and demoralising To-do lists. There is a time and a place for overviews of outstanding tasks and a time and a place for action.
Begin by scrapping any guilt-laden, outstanding To-do lists you have lying around and replace them with a five item To-don’t list.
What’s a To-don’t list you ask? It’s a list of things you don’t do.
Pick your top five bad working habits, write them on a Post-it or index card and put them somewhere prominent you can’t avoid seeing while you work.
Remember, you are the person who knows yourself best. You already know what you shouldn’t be doing. Get it written down and stop doing those things.
Congratulations. You have taken the first step to a better you.
4. Simple Achievable Goals
The next step is defining your top priorities on a daily basis and acting on them. Momentum and execution are the key here. As General George S. Patton so succinctly put it: A good plan violenty executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.
Let’s make this incredibly simple. Do the following two things each weekday:
- At the beginning of the day, write down the three main achievable things you want to accomplish that day.
- At the end of the day, review how much progress you made on the items. If necessary, move an unfinished task onto tomorrow’s provisional list.
Reserve 45 minutes either late on a Friday, or whenever suits at the weekend, for reviewing your performance during the week. Jot down things you did well and note where you could have done better. Don’t beat yourself up.
That’s it. From there on out, simply rinse and repeat.
Commit to doing these simple exercises for a period of 30 days and your working life will change forever.