How satisfied are you with the progress you’re making on your goals?
Do you wish you had more hours in the day — so you could FINALLY make progress on them?
If you’re ready to try a new approach, I’d like to share a few strategies with you that may help.
Several years ago when I was a C-level executive at a software company, I was working toward ambitious goals – and always trying to squeeze 3 months worth of work into 1 month! I knew that working longer hours wasn’t the answer.
Instead, I discovered a few strategies that turned out to be game-changers for how I approached my goals.
Strategy #1 – Schedule time for strategic planning
Imagine yourself as the CEO of your own company.
To be successful, you’d set aside time to reflect on your overall vision for the company, current progress and recent setbacks. You’d identify short-term goals. You’d align your time with these important goals, right?
The same is true for you, right now.
Schedule at least 60 minutes each week, ideally in the morning on the same day each week to devote to your strategy planning.
During this time, reflect on YOUR vision, YOUR progress, and set YOUR goals.
For myself, I’ve always found early Sunday morning to be an ideal time for planning. By that time, I’ve recharged my battery and I’m feeling energized about future possibilities.
What day and time will work best for you?
Is there a specific time when you’ll feel at your best each week?
Strategy #2 – Create a plan for the month
Now that you’ve set aside time for planning, your first step is to identify your top 3 goals for the upcoming calendar month.
By focusing on only 3 goals (not dozens), you’ll have greater focus on your priorities throughout the month. You’ll be able to make more progress, faster, when you focus on a small number of high priority goals.
Next, evaluate your schedule for the coming month:
- What commitments or deadlines do you have to meet?
- How many days are actually available to work on projects?
- Where will you be facing unique challenges in your schedule (i.e. business travel)?
Next, decide on the level of detail you’d like to include in your plan for the month.
For example, when I create a plan for the month, I usually use increments of full- or half-days. (I avoid getting too granular by leaving small tasks out of the plan.)
One of the benefits of having your month sketched out in advance is that it helps you accurately access what’s on your plate. By doing that, you’ll also know how much bandwidth remains for new assignments.
Without this accurate picture, I was usually overly optimistic about how much time I had available “after tomorrow” or “next week.” I’ve needed to develop stronger muscles around learning to say “no” or “let’s look at a few options.”
Strategy #3 – Create a plan for the week
During your 60-minutes of weekly strategic planning time, create a plan for the upcoming week.
At this point, you know what your top 3 goals are for the month. Now it’s time to identify where you’ll work on these goals during the next week.
Identify your #1 priority for each day.
Yes, you’ll work on many things each day, however, this step will provide clarity and focus.
Ideally, you will work on that #1 priority at the start of the day, while you’re clear headed and have lots of energy.
Strategy #4 – Create a plan for tomorrow
At the end of each day, write out your plan for tomorrow. Decide exactly when you’ll work on your #1 priority for the day. Just having it on your “to-do” list isn’t enough.
By doing this, you’ll be able to “hit the ground running” first thing in the morning. You can immediately put all that brain power to good use on your highest priority — and the start of your day is the ideal time to get an important assignment done. Before the events of the day wear down your battery!
If you start your work day without a plan, it’s far too easy to default to reading email between meetings and simply reacting to what comes your way.
And, if you create your plan in the morning, you’re using up precious battery power on the plan when it would be put to better use on your #1 priority.
Strategy #5 – Assign categories to days of the week
Do you have tasks that never seem to bubble up to the top of your list to get done?
What are the tasks on your list that you never seem to focus on?
For me, anything that’s challenging or requires creativity goes to the top of my list. Everything “administrative” automatically goes to the bottom. As a result, certain kinds of tasks or projects never get enough attention.
To tackle this, I’ve assigned a category of work to each day of the week. For example, if it’s Friday, I know it’s time to clean out my inbox and tackle all that “administrative” stuff that accumulated through the course of the week.
What I love about this strategy is that it’s completely transformed how I manage my “to-do” list. And, instead of feeling guilty about little tasks not getting done, I give myself permission to focus on the top priorities of the current day, knowing I’ll get to those little tasks on their designated day.
EXPERIMENT WITH THESE STRATEGIES
I didn’t start off using all 5 of these strategies at the same time. Like you, I’ve kept an open mind. I’ve read countless articles and books on productivity. I’ve followed some of the gurus and experimented to see what worked best for me.
I encourage you to do the same. Experiment. See what works for YOU.