There are 24 hours in everyday. We have to divide those hours somehow between all of the “stuff” of life. Even thinking about all of the stuff we have to do can be daunting. Here’s a sample of things that I did in the last 24 hours:
- Ran 4 miles
- Did three loads of laundry
- Worked 9 hours
- Three Meals
- Wrote a blog post
- Slept 8 hours
- Picked up new couch we bought
- Got cash from ATM
- Researched and picked up new pair of running headphones
- Covered up our roof top deck furniture because its going to rain for a couple of days
- Carried 50 pounds of dog food from the car
- Logged our purchases in our budgeting app
- Researched refrigerator gasket replacement parts
- Helped prep lunch for tomorrow
- Chatted with a couple of friends
- Read part of a new book
- Hung out with Courtney
That is a full 24 hours and I’m sure I forgot some of the stuff I did. I bet if you wrote down your list yours would be just as packed as mine was. I know for sure I did three other things in the last 24 hours that you should incorporate into your daily life. These three things take me less than five minutes to do on most days. I guarantee that if you do these three things everyday you will reduce stress, increase productivity, and be fully present in every moment.
Plan Your Entire Day
The first thing you should do everyday is make a plan. I have a plan for every single day of my life. Weekends, Holidays, regular days, it doesn’t matter. I have a plan.
I think about the 24 hours that I am about to have and I make a plan for them. Not everything on the list above made it into my plan. (I’ll cover that in a minute.) I don’t just wake up and wing it everyday. I think about what I want to accomplish.
Do I always execute the plan as written? NO. That’s a fools errand. Some days I have more control than others and my plan is executed perfectly, but more often than not I have to adjust my plan. Someone is late for a meeting, I burned my lunch and have to spend more time cleaning up and remaking a new lunch, the dog tracks mud on the carpet at 7am.
The difference between what I do everyday and what I bet many of you do everyday is that I can easily look at my daily plan and understand quickly what is going to have to get moved or shuffled around. There is no freak out. I don’t have time to freak out, so I have the plan.
The plan does not freak out, the plan has no emotion at all. The plan is there, quiet and waiting.
List Your Most Important Tasks
Over 100 years ago, Ivy Lee (no relation), created this simple method for being more productive. Many other productivity experts have used portions of it in their own work. Lee suggested these steps:
- At the end of each workday, write down the six most important things you want to accomplish tomorrow. Only six.
- Rank them in order of most to least important.
- The next morning upon arrival at work start on task number one and work until it is completed. Then move to the next task.
- At the end of the day whatever is left over can be placed on the list again.
I have modified this slightly for modern times. I don’t believe there is a way to separate work life and personal life into neat little buckets. Life happens 24 hours a day. Sometimes your kids have things at 2pm and sometimes you need to go to a work dinner at 7pm. Instead of trying to fight it embrace it. Here is how I think about it today:
- Everything that must be done at a certain time goes on my calendar. All calendar appointments are equally important. Yes, personal and professional appointment are equal. (Workouts, Doctor’s Appointments, Kid’s Activities, Client Meetings, Internal Meetings, ALL MEANS ALL!) Once it is on my calendar it takes a pretty extraordinary circumstance for me to move it.
- I choose the three most important daily tasks personal and/or professional that are not on my calendar and focus on completing those tasks. Michael Hyatt calls these “The Big Three”. Call it what you want, it is all a derivative of Ivy Lee’s method. Stop for a second and contemplate what it would mean if you did this for just a week. In those 7 days you would put focused effort behind the 21 most important tasks in your life. You couldn’t help but be more productive.
- As things pop up during the day I jot them down for review. It is amazing how many of these little tasks pop up during a day that can keep you from what is most important. It is also amazing how many of these little tasks that felt so important in the moment, just seem to lose importance as they age. Don’t get fooled in to believing that urgent things are important just because they are urgent.
Collect Your Thoughts
I’m not talking about meditation or stopping to think. I’m talking about LITERALLY collecting your thoughts. We have all been in a meeting at work and into our brain popped a thought like this: “I should ask my neighbor to borrow his leaf blower this Friday before the party.”
Remember how we talked about the “mindsweep” exercise? Think of this as the next level of that. Instead of waiting until you start getting stressed, just write it down immediately. Create a collection of your thoughts throughout the day. This will allow you to get that thought out of your head, onto a piece of paper, and then your mind can return to the task at hand.
Many days I have three or four of these thoughts written down, some days I have fifteen or twenty. At the end of the day I spend a few minutes getting them put into my task management system where I know they will be waiting for me at the right time and place.
Be Where Your Feet Are
Tom Coughlin was a Super Bowl winning coach of the New York Giants. He preached this to his team over and over again. “Be where your feet are!” I doubt he made it up, I’ve heard it many times in many places. It seems so difficult to put into practice. Just look at the list of things I did in the last 24 hours!
I promise that if you do these three things you will be more present in your daily life than ever before. So much of our mind can be filled with the “stuff” of life that we miss the moment we are in. We are thinking about a work task while we are playing catch with our kids. We think about calling the plumber about that toilet that seems to run all the time while we are in a meeting at work.
If you plan your day, choose the most important things to do, and collect your thoughts, your mind will be free. You can finally be where your feet are.