Sigh...another unsettled day.
It started with a bang but ended with a thud. A quick glance at my days todo list reads: design home page, email Sara regarding the upcoming event, brain storm new project ideas, get client web host quotes, draft Tuesday's meeting agenda, buy milk, review sight words with son, and on and on and on.
This used to be the shape of my daily plan. I’d list all the urgent items and try to get them done. All in one day. The list, usually much longer then the sample above, proved to be a recipe for failure. I felt defeated and inefficient daily. Just a simple glance of my old list induced a tea kettle-like sigh. This wasn’t just stuck in a rut, it felt more like buried alive, under a bounce house, with a small army of toddlers jumping on top.
A, B, C, Not As Easy As 1, 2, 3
I’ve tried the A, B, C type methods (A=critical tasks, B=important but can wait, C=not important and can wait) with mild success. However, over time, I’ve found most things begged to be on the A list. This made the list too much to grasp in a single day and was rarely completed. In short, if a task wasn’t an A list item, it had absolutely no shot at getting done. This then made the B and C lists a constant, growing reminder of what I was not doing. Not the most accomplished way to view your day.
I have since devised a different method. I still create my lists of prioritized A (must actions) and B (niceties or maybes) list tasks but I have since dropped the C list. I then try to focus on one to three A list (must) tasks per day, no more. I still keep my grand list of things I want done, but my daily list is much cleaner with only three major tasks listed to get done.
What warrants an A list item?
I would say anything critical to your business, finances or relationships such as deadline driven tasks and assignments (the project launch, exhibit due date, bills, etc.). Include anything that will get you fired, divorced, in hot water, incur a financial lose or other high stakes.
However, I also include things that are important, but not deadline driven, such as business or personal development, future thinking, relationship building, networking, and so on. Think goal setting, designing your new products, lattes with a lost contact or writing an industry blog post.
Keep One For You
I try to save one of my three tasks for one thing that is for me. This can be a hobby, passion or simply something that makes me tick and energizes me. For instance, I have a few passions outside design such as teaching, fitness, reading, music and sports. So, I try to schedule one thing like: a visit to the gym during lunch, soccer with my son after school, or reading my favorite “how to” book before giving up the ghost. These are small items that make the difference between a regular ole day and a truly rocking day.
I can hear you saying: “not possible Eric, I just have way too many things going on to narrow down to three!” I find myself saying the same thing. I remind myself that most things we try to do in a day are not major tasks. A and B list items should never include reoccurring things such as regular meetings and email. Items like those are simply scheduled in windows around my A list times. Never let email, Facebook or the smart phone rule your day again.
Focusing on three major wins a day not only increased my ability to focus but it dramatically helped me feel more accomplished at the end of the day. If you ask me, feeling good at the end of the day is quantum leaps more important than winning a productivity award. Even just 30 minutes on one task just for you, could change your outlook and make the day feel a bit more interesting. A couple days like this in a row make for an interesting week. A couple of interesting weeks, could eventually add up to an interesting life. :)
Worth a try?