What if you could start the day and know immediately what to do first?
What if you could be sure the first thing was the best thing? The secret to avoiding the time bandits is to identify worthy activities and get started on them first.
Put everything away before the end of the day
Tomorrow begins today. For some, that may mean at the end of the workday. For others, it means before retiring at night.
Our goal is not to “get it all done,” but to get it all under control. You’re comfortable giving 100% of your focus to the task at hand because you know what else is asking for your time.
It all starts with taking everything that’s lying around, making decisions about what to do with it and putting it in your system.
Clear the paper and any other physical items from your desk. If there’s something that requires action, put it in the Tickler File. If not, file it in your reference system. Return books to the shelf. Every item on your desk serves as a distraction from the task at hand. Having a clean workspace allows you to focus on one thing at a time.
Clear all of the “In” places in your world. Identifying all the places where work shows up is critical. I wrote a blog post that listed 18 examples. Feel free to use it as your starter list: frankbuck.org/room-at-the-in/. For me, any “to-do” in paper form goes in the Tickler File. Any to-do in digital form goes in my digital task list. Reference material in paper form goes in the filing cabinet. Reference material that is digital goes in either OneDrive (for documents) or Evernote (for notes).
This session is not the time to “do” the work. It’s the time to make decisions about how your commitments fit together so your day has a “flow.”
You’ll decide how best to schedule tasks across the coming days. The process goes quickly. It’s also happening at a time of day when your energy is generally low. You’re still able to be productive and set yourself up for a successful tomorrow. You’ll start tomorrow knowing exactly what to tackle first.
1. Tickler File. Pull tomorrow’s file. Take care of anything that can be handled quickly, such as placing items in outgoing mail. Add any task to your task list based on what has appeared in the file. Arrange items in the order you plan to handle them. Place the stack in “Pending.” If your first task tomorrow relates to any paperwork, leave it in the center of your desk where it will be the first thing you see in the morning.
2. Organize the Task List. Look at what tasks remain undone. Change the date on any task that needs to be moved to the future. Reword any task that is “fuzzy.” Look at the tasks dated for tomorrow. Adjust the dates of any that need to be postponed. Adjust the priority of tasks so they appear at the right time of the day.
3. Select the “Fab 5.” If you could only get five things done tomorrow, what would they be? Put them at the top of the list. Tackle them first. If you must move on to something else, keep coming back to them at every available moment during the day.
As humans, we do what’s easy. If we start the day with the most important tasks already defined and organized, we’re much more likely to start the day with success that is likely to carry us through the day.
For an expanded version of this article, along with a video, visit: frankbuck.org/tomorrow-starts-today.
Frank Buck is the author of “Get Organized!: Time Management for School Leaders.” "Global Gurus Top 30" named him #1 in the Time Management category for 2019. Dr. Buck speaks throughout the United States and internationally about organization and time management. You can reach him through his website: FrankBuck.org. Follow him on Twitter @DrFrankBuck.