Do you know for certain that what you are doing today is the best use of your time? If not, here are eight tips to ensure every day is a day worthy of being called good.
- Don’t Look At Your List — You read that right. A todo-list worth doing is a todo-list worth deferring. Let your first hour of the morning be todo-list free. This time is exclusively reserved for establishing the proper foundation to approach the day. Consider spending time in meditation and/or prayer, journaling, and exercising. Every morning is an opportunity to embrace the gift of life anew. Life is not about getting stuff done, but rather about leaving the world better off from when it began that morning. What is the one thing you can do this morning that will leave someone you will encounter feeling as if they are better off for having spent time with you?
- Clarity is Key — Ready, Set, …. Wait, What am I suppose to do? If your todo-list is full of vague cryptic todos, you’re starting out on the wrong foot. Your todo-list should present clear and concrete steps to success. Begin each task with a verb like, “Pay medical bill,” or “Research Audi A4 on Consumer Reports.” Tasks like, “medical bill,” or “Audi A4” give no direction, and without direction the mind will naturally gravitate toward skipping it. The clearer you are with your todos, more likely it will be for you to do them.
- Simple is Super — If you had two tasks on your list, one being to take out the trash, and the other to do your taxes, which one would you most likely choose? While tax evasion is pretty scary, taking out the trash seems more appealing. The reason why we avoid doing things is because the defined action is not concrete enough. Home field advantage is always to the task that requires the least amount of deciphering. To give every task equal weight, ensure every todo is a single step action, relegating multitask todos to projects. Instead of “do taxes,” a better action might be to “Scan all receipts to QuickBooks.” Now this task competes nicely with “Take out the trash.” Heck, I might even do both!
- Ready the Resources — If the task needs any additional resources to be completed, add them to the task itself. If you have to call someone, add the number to the notes section of the todo. If the todo refers to a document, either add the document directly to the note section as an attachment, or give the precise location of the document. Research has shown that if we have to search for anything to finish the task, we will naturally skip it for a less complicated one. By placing all todos on an equal playing field, we have the freedom to choose the best one rather than the simplest one.
- Overcoming Optical Overload — Preparing for your day by looking at a list of 150 todos is like finding inspiration through meditating on your educational loan. It just won’t happen! Simplify your list by filtering it. Defer what can be responsibly deferred to a future date, delegate what you can, delete any old irrelevant tasks, move wish-list todos to a “maybe/someday” list, and group the rest according to contexts. Have an “Office Only” list and “Home Only” list of todos. Consider having a separate list for errands, calls/texts, communications, et cetera. The goal is to break things down into bight-sized pieces to make your list more manageable. After all, what is the point of seeing what I need to do at home when I’m at work? All that does is reduce my focus, making me think of things that are outside of my control. Stay focused, stay clear, stay happy!
- Start — You have a clear, concrete and filtered list. Now what? Start! Rather than aimlessly checking off todos, block off a period of time each day to work on that which is most important to you. Ask the question, “What is the one thing I could do today that would make everything else in my life easier, or unnecessary, and make me happier?” Do not stop until this question is answered concretely with a single action step. Now start! Everything else can wait until later.
- Breath and Be Better For It — Amidst all of this, remember to breath. Take a 15-20 minute break every 50-90 minutes of your work day to remain focused and creative. Get outside and take a short walk if the weather is nice. Connect with co-workers, friends, and family. Meditate, pray, journal. Set an alarm and make sure to stick to these breaks, and know what you are going to do before the break. Do this and you will have greater creativity, more focus, but most importantly you will embrace your humanity. Times of solitude are life-giving but isolation is life-draining. Connect with others regularly, and you will be more connected with yourself.
- The Prepare Protocol — To ensure the mornings remain a time of todo free mental and spiritual renewal, plan your tomorrow tonight. Take 15-20 minutes each evening to look over your calendar and todo-list. This is a time to confirm appointments, select the one thing you will work on during your designated block of time, and to simplify your list to a more management size. Your tomorrow is now ready to work for you rather than you having to work for it!
Good luck and here’s to a day worthy of being called “good.”