A productive day is defined with what you choose to achieve as much as to what you purposefully choose to leave out. Keeping a detailed list of related priorities in your head can be hard, even for the best of us. It’s not the best use of our mental capacity, anyway. There is a great maxim that I quote often – ‘The shortest pencil is better than the longest memory.’
This is all about getting your ‘ducks in a row’ at the start of the day. The simple act of writing down your to-do list and related priorities daily, is a habit mastered by every successful business owner I have worked with. Each may have developed their own slight variation in preparing, but they all do it and they all have the same 4 key elements to them.
1/ The ‘Brain Dump’ – First thing every morning (or last thing at night, which ever works for you) before all the interruptions start stealing your time away – grab your notepad or business diary and start making your list. ‘Brain dump’ simply means writing down the tasks and things that are on your mind without stopping to analyse or sort them. Yes, all of it and without stopping. Keep going until you feel you have everything written down. Personally, I know when my list is done when I have been able to sit silent for 30 seconds and nothing new has ‘popped’ up into my head. (Yes, just like you know that microwave popcorn is all ready and done.) This makes preparing for the day or the next, easier.
2/ The Reflection – Review your list. Asking yourself these types of questions: Are the items specific enough to take actions on them? What are the next best steps? If they are big projects, how can you break them down into smaller steps? What decisions need to be made before you can do the action? Which activities and decisions are the most important to progress to your goals? Who can help you achieve these decisions and actions? Preparing these questions and figuring out the answers will definitely narrow down your list into something that actually looks like one.
3/ Prioritise Your List – Planning your daily actions with documented priorities is as much a key step as the other 3 elements. Specifically choose what you are going to do first on your list and annotate it with a 1, next a 2 and so on. Sometimes it is helpful to group similar tasks together so that you can ‘get on a roll’. I mentioned how other successful businessmen’s procedures vary, but preparing up to this part here is definitely a must in the process.
4/ Take Action – You have done all the thinking, now it is down to actually doing. Starting with your first item, which has been specifically chosen for its importance to progress you to your goals and not just to keep you busy. Your task is to do what it takes to complete it/move it forward and get a result. Cross that out and move onto the next item and so on.
By developing this as a daily habit, you will be arming yourself with a clear head and a clear action list. Which will allow you to work on what is important, and reduce the desire to focus solely on urgent distractions. I have seen this habit implemented by business owners who are struggling with their business and they literally transform their productivity and what they can achieve each day.
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