The summer went by in a whirlwind and here comes the mad dash of September to year-end. Doesn’t it just seem like you say goodbye to summer and five minutes later you land in December?
I know that for me, and everyone reading this, one of the big challenges is staying focused when everything is moving so quickly.
This Monday Morning Practice is about planning. I find that nothing helps my attention and productivity like a good plan for the week and the day. With my strategy for the week mapped out (subject to change of course!), and my to do list in front of me, I no longer need to think about the future or the past. I can focus on now, and the task I am working on at this moment. When it is done, I take a short break, revisit the plan, and move on to the next item.
At the beginning of each week, begin the day with a quick planning session:
- Review priorities and upcoming deadlines.
- Identify one, two or three big projects you want to move forward in the coming week. This is what Steven Covey referred to as your “big rocks”.
- Decide the one to three of the most important tasks to complete during the day. Write them on a slip of paper and keep it visible on your desk. Aim to get one or more of these tasks accomplished by noon. Your top three might include a big rock (see above) as well as other urgent matters that have come up.
- Every morning for the rest of week, revisit the plan and choose your top three tasks for the day.
Our days are filled with email, phone calls and fighting fires, and it is easy for those “important but not urgent” projects to be pushed aside. There will always be emergencies to take care of, but this habit helps you to keep your focus and to dedicate time to your priorities.
It is important also to understand that the plan, and the tasks you focus on, are subject to change. This ritual provides a guide but it isn’t a strict guide. Celebrate what gets done each week, and give yourself a break for what doesn’t. We no longer live in a world where it ever all gets done!