Build in Better Daily Focus
Do you ever head into the office feeling like you’re walking into a sort of fog? With so many tasks and responsibilities to tackle, the enormity of it all feels like some heavy, unmanageable, cloudy mass. Perhaps in just going through the motions of the morning or reacting to unforeseen needs of the day, you may regularly struggle to see what really should be done because, in your mind, it all needs to be done. But is that really the case? At MAP, we commonly coach our clients on how to identify what’s vital and, importantly, to plan more effectively around that not just on a long-term basis but on a daily, short-term basis. As discussed more fully in our new book, The Disciplined Leader, planning is a disciplined aspect of management that forms needed direction. Providing clarity about your goals and how you’ll achieve them, even just a few simple, yet consistent planning activities can have a huge impact on your productivity. That’s because, as the well-known time-management author Alan Lakein says, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”
Here are three ways to get better at the sort of micro-planning I’m talking about here—the kind of good, consistent planning that takes place for each day:
Set daily goals—for tomorrow. Before you end your workday, take five minutes to outline your top-three goals for tomorrow. Since they are goals and not strategies, these three things should be broad in nature, for example: 1) schedule the upcoming business conference; 2) set up three job interviews; and 3) choose new advertising campaign. Whatever you choose for your day’s top-three goals, make sure they are three goals that you need to accomplish and realistically can accomplish. If an item falls outside the realm of what’s possible, determine what is and set a different goal relative to that.
Identify key activities. The strategic activities you choose for your day should support the vital goals you’ve set. The key is to pre-determine which activities will facilitate the success of these goals, for example: 1) call the conference center’s schedule coordinator to pick and confirm the conference dates; 2) contact the three potential job candidates to determine interview times and, once set, send each person a calendar reminder; and 3) meet with the marketing assistant at 1 p.m. to make the final ad campaign decision. In addition to identifying your key activities, write down any other activities that you know need to be done for that particular day, or tomorrow. Note, these might be recurring tasks, such as checking in with staff for a weekly accountability report to support your broader, long-term goal to create MAP’s system of accountability.
Attack your calendar. To ensure these goals and activities fit into your daily regime and boost your odds of success, always review what’s on tap for tomorrow. Take a look at your calendar at the day’s end to avoid surprises, such as a forgotten meeting or overlooked deadline. A consistent habit built around a daily calendar review will also enable you to recognize if something on your daily goal list is more vital than another task currently slated for tomorrow. In that case, you will have a greater ability to move things around to allow for the time and focus that’s needed.
What other planning approaches do you use to create better daily focus in your job?