Why organize your day before it starts?
Although it seems simple enough, organizing your day before it starts is a very powerful practice. It helps you define your main goal for the day and forces you to prioritize.
Simple enough right? How many times have you actually done it? Can you recall a day were you did this and a day when you didn’t do it? What are the main differences between a day with a plan and a day without a plan?
How are working days without a plan?
Without a plan for the day (a plan is more than a list of tasks for the day) any working day can become a set of reactions to everyday situations. Answering phone calls as they come in, answering e-mails as they come in, receiving unexpected visits, hearing problems from your employees, etc. and running around trying to solve them. Sounds familiar?
This is a reactive day. We simply react to all the stimulus that our world brings to our table that specific day. The next day becomes more of the same, and so on. By the end of the week you will find out you have been very busy, but with a sense of not achieving your goals.
How should a day with a plan be then?
Either your day should be planned the night before or be the first activity you do once you get to work. A good plan for the day should include:
Empty your head from all the things you have in your mind for that day: meetings, calls to make, customers to visits, etc. Once it’s out of your head and in paper or digital form you don’t have to think about it all day long
What’s the most important activity you need to accomplish that day to be able to say that you had a successful day when driving back home
Number the activities from most important to least important
Finally (and this is the difficult part) accept that you might not be able to achieve all that you want that day and decide what are you willing to leave for tomorrow.
Whatever is left from the list as pending should go into your next day’s list, and go into the same process again. By the end of the week you will have a clear sense of how you prioritized and how this process has facilitated you to achieve the most important results you wanted for the week.
Just remember, what you list for the day are things that can realistically be achieved that day. For example: Call John, meet with 3 sales prospects, find someone to fix an IT issue, etc. Don’t list things that are actually projects unachievable for one day like: define company strategy, or create a 12 months personal training plan.
It’s simpler that you think
We plan ahead all the time, we simply are not conscious of it. Imagine taking a walk in the park. The park has a trail through which people either walk or run, everybody is planning ahead while walking or running. It’s just that we are not conscious of it!
We do not plan each step, but we know we need to make a right turn or a left turn up ahead before we reach the point where we actually make the turn. This is planning. One of the basic functions all human beings learn when they start crawling between the age of one and two.
Putting it in practice
Close your eyes; imagine yourself walking in a park. The trail is the path you want to follow in the medium term for your company and the next 10 steps is your next day. Simply look around, list what you see and what you need to do to make those next 10 steps. Do you need to make a turn or just keep walking? Is the terrain flat or is it slippery? Are there some small rocks you need to be careful with?
Your next day are your next ten steps. Don’t think about how long will the walk take you or all the possible obstacles you might find, just think of those next ten steps. Think of it this way and you will find planning your day is easier than you thought.
Practicing this will provide you with: a) A clear view of what’s going on for your day and b) the gratification at the end of the day that you achieved, at least, the activities you had assigned the highest priority to. Remember, everyone would rather have a day in which one important goal was reached instead of a very busy day that was not focused on what’s really important.