When I read Stephen Covey’s classic book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, his “Putting First Things First” habit made a permanent impression.
In that chapter, he points out the folly of trying to manage time and says we should be managing ourselves instead. He advises that we look at the roles we have in life, then the goals we have within each of those roles, and then create a schedule for the week that allows us to fulfill the goals within those roles.
It was life-changing, and I recall suddenly finding more time to connect with family and friends. I became much happier without sacrificing getting things done. If anything, I became much more efficient and productive.
As leaders, we can fall into a trap of being driven by the priorities others impose on us, as well as the things other people put on our schedules or try to get us to do. (If you have ever felt over-committed to even worthy activity/causes, you know exactly what I mean.)
Although I think I do a pretty good job of being a scheduled person, I find myself needing to re-dedicate to the schedule, not the to-do list.
By the way, that’s not to say I don’t have a list of things I want to accomplish in a day. But it is driven by the schedule, and not the other way around.
The schedule is usually developed in advance (by the end of the prior week). Each morning I take out a 3 x 5 card and on one side note just 3 to 4 things that, if I were to get them done, would lead to a very successful day.
On the other side of the card, I list the one thing (of the list I just made) that would truly make it a successful day if I were to accomplish it. As soon as I’ve done that one thing, I check it off and flip the card over to the other items.
As a student of scheduling, I was happy when my good friend and colleague Jeff Ziemer shared an article with me entitled Be a Schedule Builder, Not a to Do List Maker.
The author, Nir Eyal, goes through the pitfalls of allowing lists to drive our lives – and drive us crazy!
Nir also provides many resources, including a video on timeboxing, that will help you optimize your time. Click here to read it.
Once you get into the habit of creating a schedule, you will immediately be able to tame any chaos that has impacted your business life, and your personal life, too.