Before YOU start
Bring your Weekly Canvas, which contains your goals for the week. You want to ensure that your daily activities align with longer term goals.
1: your Biggest Win
Firstly, write down the single biggest win that – if everything went pear-shaped and you achieved only that – you would be happy. This is not necessarily the most urgent thing. It’s the most important to you. It might be something you have procrastinated about or you just need to start but not necessarily finish.
A big win builds momentum and motivation, making you more productive.
Don’t confuse urgency with importance
2: Think Now to Execute Later
Using your Weekly Canvas, write down your next 3 important objectives so you’ve four daily goals in all. For each goal, do the following:
- Think: What three steps must you take to progress? It is so important to think now to allow focus on execution later. This reduces mental effort and avoids procrastination when your brain is less fresh later.
- Timebox: Give each a deadline by which you must complete. This focusses your mind to ensure the day doesn’t get away.
- Recover: Decide how you’ll celebrate or rest after each win, e.g. a walk, meditation, coffee, sunshine etc.
Make it easy for yourself. Each activity is either thinking or non-thinking. Non-thinking you can do at your desk preferably after lunch so denote with NT or PC. Thinking tasks you can denote with T and you can do in a quiet space outside. Always seek the opportunity to take work outside. This keeps you fresh. Days where you spend time outside are much more satisfying.
Four By For – four goals, by a certain time, for a simple reward or rest activity.
Four goals each day might seem small compared with a typical long to do list. There are good reasons for this. Most people can generally kick 2-3 big goals each morning and 1-2 in the afternoon, accounting for overhead such as emails, calls and meetings. This might be different for you.
- Help: Note down anyone you need to contact today to get help, make decisions or move goals forward. This can be face-to-face, calls or – as a last resort – email. You can do this walking between tasks or after lunch.
- Learn: Consider any lessons from yesterday and write down how you might save time today. Maybe you will keep email closed until 12pm.
- Cheat? Try to identify where you might get a quick win or gain something with minimal effort. I call these free bets.
4: Stuff you cannot Ignore
Now think about administrative tasks or overhead. This is stuff not directly aligned to your goals that you still need to do. Write down…
- Meetings: Some contribute to your goals or help others achieve theirs. Some are overhead you can try to minimise. Try to schedule meetings during the post-lunch fade if morning is your most creative time.
- Admin: This is any emails, housekeeping, quick tasks or any requests you need to send. Bundle and do them standing up at your desk after lunch.
- Tonight: Anything you need to leave until you’re home. Try to avoid this so you can switch off in the evening.
5: Schedule it!
Finally, schedule all activities from the card into a specific time slot as shown below.
- Translate intention into actions.
- Prevent your day being derailed.
- Keep it realistic.
As you schedule, you see what is possible ahead of time and adjust. This avoids disappointment at the day’s end.
Executing a good Day
A great day after planning might go like this. You do not open email until lunchtime. You spend the first two hours achieving 1 or 2 big wins. You take a break. You then get another win before meditation and lunch. After you Lunch your way to Wellbeing, you go to stand-up mode. You open email for the first time and do all of your admin, sending any requests you need to. You then close email immediately. You move onto your next one or two big wins. Finally you review the day to complete any last-minute items you absolutely must get done. You quickly preview tomorrow and process email for the last time before you leave. You avoid checking emails, instead processing them to get to an empty inbox. This includes extracting anything so you can avoid email tomorrow morning.
If you’ve read My Top 10 Commitments for Stress-free Productivity, I’m sure you have that red notebook on your bed for gratitude! Add today’s achievements, what worked and why. This helps you to celebrate and to gradually improve how you plan as your brain brings these into the next day’s planning.
Little Tips for Motivation
Here are a few things I’ve added to my Daily Card that work for me.
- Call it “A Good Day” rather than “Daily Plan”. This helps start positively because you can sense the satisfaction you will feel at the end of this day.
- It has a “Will do” list rather than a “To Do” list. It just feels like you’re setting the priorities and have control rather than having something forced upon you.
- Use check boxes so you can tick things off. This builds momentum, creates flow and really encourages you by celebrating the little wins during the day. You get a dopamine rush and a reward…which I am about to take now after publishing this!