Identify dreams. Check! Transform dreams to goals. Check! Prioritize goals. Check! Refine goals into to milestones. Check! You’re done, right? Remember work hard?
We get work done and accomplish goals because we spend time doing what’s important. None of us are perfect planners and projects never go as planned. Disasters send our plans into chaos. These uncertainties ensure that our plans go awry. The techniques below ensure that no matter how your plan unfolds, you’ll do what you prioritize, first.
Prioritize and Plan Each Day, Week, and Month
Try a daily planning and re-planning routine. Some experts recommend you review your on-going plan at the end of every day:
- Review what you finished today. Check it off your list.
- Collect what still needs to be done, estimating the amount of work to do.
- Sort the list by highest priority.
- Clean up your calendar for the next day. If it’s Sunday, then do this for the next two weeks. If it’s the first Sunday of the month, then do it for the full month.
- Ask whether all your obligations align with your priorities
- Cancel anything that is not aligned with your goals, if you can
- Delay if you can’t or don’t want to cancel
- Delegate anything you can give to someone else
- Count up how much time is left in your day.
- With a prioritized list of tasks, and your how much time each will take, look at the time you have, select the tasks you want to get done tomorrow and include 1 or 2 more to do if you get done early; use a a file, a piece of paper, or a spreadsheet (my favorite).
Execute Each Day
Morning of the next day dawns. Get ready to get important things done! Open your list.
- Find your next “free period” on the calendar, even if only 15 minutes.
- Write the start time next to the highest unfinished priority item
- Set your timer(an app or your phone) to the time you have or 30 minutes, which ever is less.
- Focus on only that task until done or the timer goes off. If you lose your focus, then stop yourself, write down the distraction, and get back to task. Writing the distraction down let’s you put it away for a while and clear your mind of anything except the task you’re working on.
- Check the calendar
- If something is scheduled, go do it
- If not, is this your fourth break in a row? Take 15 minutes to relax, get a snack or drink – set your timer
- If not your fourth break, take a 5 minute break, then set your timer
- Unless you’re done with your list and calendar, go back to step 1.
Here’s an interesting thing that happens. When you work the most important tasks first, you’re building a habit. The habit stops your procrastinating because the general approach never changes, although the specific activities do. This approach succeeds in school, work, and life.
If at first you under-perform, assess your work to identify where you need to improve. Use the method faithfully, and adjust as needed when you have experience. Check out our article on coaching, Free Guide to Improve Anything – How to Give Feedback That Works, and apply it to your own work.
When you’ve reached the end of a month, quarter, semester, or year, it’s time to assess your goals: Keep Self-Accountability by Assessing Your Goals Regularly.