There are 1,440 minutes in a day. Well for the purpose of this blog entry, there are 1,440 minutes. The truth is a day is 23 hours 56 min and 4 seconds or exactly 1436.066 minutes in a day, but that complicates things so I’ll leave that to astronomers and those that tinker with the atomic clock.
Out of those 1,440 I want to talk about a precious ten minutes. Ten minutes that affects your stress levels, your productivity, and, perhaps, your emotional outlook on life. Can .006 of the afore mentioned fourteen hundred and forty minutes, or six one thousandths of your entire day have that big of an impact? In a word, I believe, yes.
One boss I had told me to set an appointment with myself. I gave him that funny look that said, “What are you talking about?” He smiled and said, “You set appointments with other people, so set some time with yourself.”
“And what am I to do with an appointment for myself?”
“Plan your day,” he replied.
He made a valid point. Another company I worked for offered Franklin Planners, but before you could use the planner, you had to watch a 90-minute video presentation. The presentation was by Hyrum Smith, the owner of the Franklin Planner. He talked about Planning and Solitude. Ten minutes where you stop and sit alone and think of the coming day: what needs your attention, what do you want to do? That simple ten has made a huge difference in my life.
So set aside 10 minutes. There are several ways of accomplishing this simple, yet difficult feat. First thing in the morning, or as you get to work, after work, before bed. Sometimes more sometimes less, but at least 10 minutes.
When I had an office to work in I found my productive 10 was just after I arrived at work. I’d sit down at my desk and look at my calendar and review what the day had in store. Then I would start to make a list, just as things would pop into my head. Calls that needed to be made, appointments that needed to be made, home projects, personal goals and projects, it didn’t matter, it was all my life and it all needs attention. Although I did start to break up my list into sections top was work, bottom was personal because I used the planner for both I divided top and bottom, so when I was done with work I’d shift focus on my personal tasks.
Once the list was made I would then put an A by the most important things, items that needed to be done, must be done. Then I would put a B next to the stuff that wasn’t a priority but would become important if ignored. (Remember quadrant II things from previous posts?) Then the C things that would be nice to do, but were not a priority.
I remember watching the Video about building the list. The other part of this is self-discipline. Start with A1 and do it. Oh, but I don’t feel like doing A1 right now, and ooh, A2 isn’t much better, B3 isn’t bad though, I like C4 the best. Then you are calling your golf buddies and setting up a T-time, or setting a hair appointment instead of tackling that A1 that you know must be done!
I no longer have an office I work out of, but I do try and get to my desk near the start of the day and list the items that will need my attention at work. Then I do try and take some more time to set up a task list for my personal life.
Taking time to give priorities to the list is important. This list, as Hyrum Smith said in his video, goes from being a “To Do” list to a Prioritized Task List. You’ve set your priorities, you have a plan!
There is no right and wrong way to do this though. Find what works for you and stick with it. But make the commitment to yourself to take at least 10 minutes a day to plan.
The after work method works well. You are about to leave, so take five to think over what has been going on during the day, what is left to do tomorrow? Calls that need to be made? Reports that need to be completed? Meetings that need prep? Jot them all down, then leave. You can forget all about work when you walk out the door because everything is written down and safely ready for you tomorrow. Then the next day review the list for what is to happen that day, give things priorities and then work on checking things off.
There is more to life than work though, so I suggest taking five before heading to bed. Think over the day and what you need to get done tomorrow. Write it all down. In the morning take another five to review the list and assign priorities, and go about your day.
Again this is only .006 of a day. Or .166 of an hour or if you prefer fractions - 1/6th of an hour.
For me it is a few moments well spent, because when I don’t do this, things just come at me faster than I can handle it. Things get forgotten, or pushed aside for the urgent things that come crashing into my life, and the important stuff gets pushed aside, and my boss is calling me wanting to know why things are not done. “I forgot” is not a good answer for anyone’s boss.
What I like best about building these lists is checking the item off when I am done with it! There is that little personal victory in a hectic day. I got something checked off, it is done, complete, over, finished.
Okay, so it is the end of the day and there are items without checkmarks, what to do about those?
Easy, the next day as you meet yourself with your Planning and Solitude appointment review yesterday. Items without checkmarks need to be put on today’s list, or if it something that can be done at a later date put it on that date, then put an arrow next to the item without the checkmark, so you know you’ve moved that task to another day and you know it will be done.
These are not my own ideas, I’ve borrowed them from others, but I’ve used them and they work very well for me. When I’ve taken the those precious ten minutes and sat and planned out what needs attention and then work to check them off the list, my day and life goes a whole lot better. When I fly by the seat of my pants, I usually crash and burn.
Yes there are days I could do better with this, and there are times when I don’t plan at all. When I find nothing is getting done and I am feeling overwhelmed it is usually because I’ve gotten out of my planning habit. My current job is stressful and demanding and it is easy not to plan. But when I make the time, notice I said make the time not find the time, my day and life goes much better.
So make your prioritized task list and discipline yourself to get the hard stuff done and you will find the stress levels in your life will diminish.
So give it a try and see how it helps your life.