Three Things You Can Do Tonight to Build Better Focus Tomorrow
Do you ever walk into the office like you’re moving through a fog? With so many tasks and responsibilities to tackle, the enormity of your job can feel like a heavy, unmanageable, cloudy mass looming just above your shoulders. Whether going through the usual motions or reacting to unforeseen needs of the day, you may struggle to see what really should be done because, in your mind, it all needs to be done — and now! But is that really the case?
At MAP, we coach our clients on how to identify what’s most important — what’s vital — and, importantly, how to plan and use their time more effectively by using it to address only the most important goals and tasks. It’s important to do this not just on a long-term basis but on a short-term basis; every day. As discussed more fully in our book, The Disciplined Leader, planning is an important aspect of management that creates needed direction. If you don’t know specifically where you want to go, and exactly how you plan to get there, then you’re just flailing around and wasting time!
Providing clarity about your goals and how you’ll achieve them, even with just a few simple, consistent planning activities, can have a huge impact on your productivity. 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 this sort of micro-planning, creating the kind of good, consistent strategy that takes place each and every day and gets you where you want to go:
Set your goals for tomorrow.
Before you end your workday, take five minutes to outline your top three goals for tomorrow. Since these are goals, and not strategies, these things should be broad in nature. For example, you might schedule an upcoming business conference; set up three job interviews; and choose a new advertising campaign. Whatever your top three goals, make sure they are items that you need to accomplish tomorrow and realistically can accomplish tomorrow. If an item falls outside the realm of what’s possible, determine what you can complete, and make the goal more relative to that.
Identify key activities.
The activities you choose each day should be thoughtfully chosen, and directly support the vital goals you’ve set. The key is to pre-determine which activities will facilitate the greatest success of these goals. To set activities toward the above goals, you might call the conference center’s schedule coordinator to pick and confirm dates; contact the three potential job candidates to determine interview times and, once set, send each person a calendar reminder; and meet with the marketing assistant to make the final ad campaign decision. In addition to identifying these key activities, write down any other activities that you know need to be done tomorrow. Note, these might be recurring tasks, such as checking in with staff, or a weekly accountability report to support your broader, long-term goals.
Attack your calendar.
To ensure that you are setting goals and activities which fit into your daily regime and boost your odds of success, always review what’s on tap for tomorrow. At the end of each day, take a look at your calendar and plan the next. This way, you’ll avoid surprises, such as a forgotten meeting or overlooked deadline. A consistent habit of preparation, built around a daily calendar review, will also enable you to recognize which items on your list are more vital than other tasks currently slated for the same day. By planning ahead, you will have a greater ability to focus your time and effort where it’s most needed.
What other planning approaches do you use to create better daily focus in your job?