Take Back Control Of Your Day

Action, Goal achievement, Get what you wantDo you sometimes feel you need super powers and a cape to get through all the demands on your time?

You’re not alone. I’m right there with you. Based on the popularity of time management systems, calendar products, courses, webinars, workshops, notepads with built-in prioritization tabs… I’d say you and I have lots of company.

Either you run the day or the day runs you. Jim Rohn

Did you know, the average worker spends 28% of the work day handling email? Whoa! I don’t know about you, but email is nowhere to be found on my goals list. Take a look at these statistics from Tech Crunch:

  • Average number of email words written per person in 2012: 41,368 (about the size of the Lord of the Flies novel)
  • Average messages received in 2012: 5,579
  • Average messages sent in 2012: 869

I know of only one way to power through the crazy demands on our time to get to the meaty action items that will make a difference: Make a power list.

Working With A Power List

Start each day by committing to completing three tasks attached to important objectives before you go to sleep. There are two significant bits to that tip. The number of tasks and their relationship to your important objectives.

You might think that three is too few. If you try it, you’ll find it’s actually tough to consistently achieve three per day. Remember, these are tasks that play into your larger objectives. We’re not talking about returning that phone call you’ve been dreading. Submitting your overdue expense report doesn’t count. Neither does finishing your staffing plan for the coming year. Those are all things that need to be done, but they’re not power goals.

One of my objectives is to publish an e-book. Here are the tasks I’ve completed that are stepping me toward my goal.

  • Investigated ePub software and selected file type for finished product
  • Attended a class on self publishing
  • Made a list of possible subjects and titles
  • Researched subjects and selected one
  • Gathered ebook samples to serve as examples of what works and what doesn’t work

Did you notice that these are small, bite-sized chunks of the larger goal? I’ve replaced apprehension and pressure over a big goal with a sense of excitement that grows with each little accomplishment. None of these tasks had urgency attached to them. By that I mean if they didn’t get done, no one would go hungry, payroll wouldn’t suffer, and the building wouldn’t fall down around us. And that’s exactly why it’s so tough to get these power goals done. Other more urgent things will compete for your time and attention.

This method aligns with David Alan’s system called Getting Things Done. One of his beliefs is that we undo ourselves by making to-do lists that are not doable. He teaches that you can’t do a project – you can only do the individual steps associated with that project. And yet, that’s not how we plan our days. We write down impossible things like ‘buy birthday presents for cousin Ollie’s twins’. That’s a project. We should write down only the next action, which might be  ‘phone cousin Ollie to see if there’s a certain gift the twins are hoping for’.

So far, we’ve talked about getting your important objectives accomplished by chunking them down into doable, single steps and committing to completing three items each day. That’s going to help you with annual objectives at work and with your larger life goals. But there’s one more significant benefit to setting three daily power goals.

Once you’ve decided to crawl out from underneath the tyranny of the urgent, you will become more discerning and more selfish with your time. That’s a lovely place to be.

What three things could you get done today that will move you toward achieving your important objectives?

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