Stapleton is full of type A folks that like to get stuff done. I know that because I look around and everyone is seemingly as busy as can be. But are we making progress towards the big goals we want to accomplish?
It often doesn’t feel like it. I know I can get in a routine of just running around checking things off the checklist to subconsciously get a short term buzz. It feels good to check things off the list, but if they’re just little shallow things we’re really not getting anywhere. In fact, getting little productive things is really just “creative avoidance”, a small easy win that makes us feel good but really doesn’t get us any closer to the big goals.
By big goals I mean personal and professional goals like getting in shape, starting a side business, getting a degree, etc. Something big that takes a while.
So how do I get more productive and actually move the needle on the larger projects that matter? This is something I’ve been working on for a while and I’ve tried a lot of things. But I won’t bog you down with a bunch of time management ideas, I just want to share one simple habit that I’ve found highly effective:
Before you go home from work take 15 minutes to write down the 2-3 things that you will get done the next day, no matter what.
Sounds simple, right? Well give it a shot for a week and I think you’ll experience that it’s not as easy as it sounds.
What are the benefits of writing these 2-3 most important tasks down?
- Your mind will be able to rest that night. You have a plan in place for the next day and your mind won’t spin all night about what you should do next. You will be more present with your family and more able to relax and let your mind take a break.
- You will wake up the next day with a mission. You know what needs to be done, rather than opening email and letting the world give you their to do list. Take care of your 2-3 most important tasks that move you closer to your big goal first and then handle the business of the day.
- You will be making progress towards your big goals which feels good. Your small progress will fuel you to take more steps and before you know it you’ve accomplished some of those big goals! You can’t wait for some magic block of time that you’ll be able to use to crank out the big goals all at once. Life is not going to give you those big chunks. Baby steps on a consistent basis will get you there.
- You’ll get better about saying no. If you know your mission for the day and you’re committed to getting it done you’ll be able to say no to distractions that come up each day that could stop you from making progress. Be committed to checking these things off your list early in the day, then you can be open to opportunities that pop up throughout the day.
- You will avoid “decision fatigue”. This is when you are wasting all your energy trying to prioritize and decide what to do. If you ever feel like you spend half you’re work day figuring out what to work on you will know what I mean. Will power and good decision making are limited, which is why you need to spend your energy getting key tasks done, not trying to decide what to do. Its the same reason Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg wear the same outfit almost every day, they realize they have a lot of decisions to make and the more they can predetermine those decisions the better. (not sure what I’m talking about, read this article) By having your 2-3 things set the day before you wake up on auto pilot, saving the decision making ability and will power for other stuff.
You may be tempted to write out 5 items, even 10 maybe. Trust me, stick to 2-3 max and you’ll be more likely to have success. It’s amazing how many distractions will pop up to keep you from even accomplishing those 2-3 tasks.
I think as you try this out you’ll see that some days you just can’t get your 2-3 things done. This happens, the baby gets sick, you have a “fire” at work that takes the whole day, etc. Don’t get frustrated, just move them to tomorrow and get them done.
The keys to this are you are establishing your intentions for the day and you’re keeping your tasks manageable. It won’t always work perfectly but I can tell you from experience you will make significant progress towards your big goals if you implement this simple habit in your life.
(Side note: What if you taught this to your kids? Do they have a big goal? Help them break it down into some steps and help them take those steps little by little. What a huge life lesson they would learn way earlier than we did!)