When working with different individuals it surprises me how few actually put much thought and effort into working out what the key priorities are for the day. Where people adjust their productivity thinking to include this activity they find the results are well worth the time invested.
The level of detail you want to go into will depend on you the individual. There’s a strong argument that says over structuring the day is counter productive for the modern way of working. I think I’m inclined to agree. However, simply hoping that all your key priorities are going to get the right amount of attention is likely to be a high risk strategy for success.
More likely you’ll end up with living with chronic stress and undelivered plans.
So what is the goal here? The goal for me is simple but not necessarily easy. Thinking about it from three perspectives is likely to help:
Schedule all of your key priorities
Build in capacity to cope with unplanned demands
Take account of when you’re at your best
Schedule all of your priorities – this area is one many people overlook. Of course this assumes you know what your priorities are. It’s beneficial to include all of the different components of your life for consideration. It’s not just the work commitments you need to think about. For example, overloading the end of your working day when you’re supposed to meet a friend or pick the kids up from school is going to generate stress and not allow you to concentrate effectively. The end result is you fail to perform at your best in multiple areas not just the obvious one e.g. the kids waiting for you. The power of a weekly plan will dramatically improve your ability to understand your daily priorities. In the 7 habits of highly effective people Stephen Covey encourages people to schedule their priorities and not their time. This one point alone can have a profound effect on your productivity.
Build in capacity to cope with unplanned events -to think that what’s being suggested here is that every minute of your day needs to have a detailed plan associated with it, is wrong. How much structure that’s required will vary from job to job and environment to environment. Having flexibility to cope with the demands of the unpredictability of modern world is essential. As an example if you work in a customer facing role then it’s likely that you’ll need to allow a greater proportion of your time to respond the their adhoc needs. The daily plan is a reference point to help you bring back order and focus if you get knocked off course.
Take account of when you’re at your best – taking a step back to understand when your energy is at its best is a really beneficial exercise. Armed with this knowledge you’ll have the opportunity to schedule your challenging tasks for the point in the day when your at your best. Equally import is to use the times when you’re at a lull in energy to crank through some low ‘brain power’ activity.
With the above activities considered you may also find it useful to setup your day with a daily checklist. I can hear people thinking that this seems like overkill. In my experience, having a list like this will mean you consistently raise the percentage of days when you’re teeing yourself up for a focused day of productivity.
What approach do you currently use for teeing up the day that others could find beneficial?