Have you ever looked at the clock at 5pm and felt like the whole day just got away from you? Have you ever felt like an entire day was wasted on minutiae instead of truly important tasks? Have you ever worked 8-10 hours (or more) only to realize that your most important task for the day is still not finished?
Here is one way you can prevent yourself from having another “one of those days:” plan your day the night before. This simple strategy only takes 5 minutes, and it will help you be incredibly productive every day. Just follow these 3 steps to plan ahead:
1. Note. Begin by looking at your calendar and noting any scheduled commitments you must attend (i.e. conference calls, meetings, etc.). Write each of these commitments/times at the bottom of a piece of paper.
2. Prioritize. Then, ask yourself this magical performance question: “If I only had one other hour tomorrow, what would be the most important task (MIT) for me to spend my time on during that hour?” It’s imperative that you are honest about answering that question. The most important task is often not the most enjoyable. It’s also essential that you know how to answer that question. If you are not clear on how your performance is being measured in your current position, schedule a meeting with your manager immediately.
3. Repeat. After identifying your MIT (most important task), ask yourself the same question to identify the next 2-4 most important tasks to complete the following day. In general, you want to aim for 3-5 key tasks for your day that have been broken down into 60-minute increments. It’s important to break down larger tasks into smaller timeframes to make them more manageable.
Rather than trying to plan every minute of your day in advance, it’s wise to leave yourself 1-2 hours of time (for unanticipated commitments, emails, and so on). When you are finished with this simple 3-step process (note, prioritize, repeat), you will be left with the following:
- A schedule of your appointments, meetings, calls, etc. for the following day.
- A concise list of your 3-5 most important tasks for the following day (ranked in order of importance).
Pete Leibman is the Author of the new book titled “I Got My Dream Job and So Can You” (AMACOM, 2012). His career advice has been featured on Fox, CBS, and CNN, and he is a popular Keynote Speaker at career events for college students and young professionals and at conferences for people who work with college students and young professionals.