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An 18-Minute Plan for Managing Your Day

https://hbr.org/2009/07/an-18minute-plan-for-managing

hbr.org

An 18-Minute Plan for Managing Your Day
Yesterday started with the best of intentions. I walked into my office in the morning with a vague sense of what I wanted to accomplish. Then I sat down, turned on my computer, and checked my email. Two hours later, after fighting several fires, solving other people's problems, and dealing with whatever happened to be [...]

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Set Plan for Day: 5 min

Set Plan for Day: 5 min

Before turning on your computer, sit down with a blank piece of paper and decide what you can realistically accomplish that will further your goals.

Take your calendar and schedule those things into time slots, placing the hardest and most important items at the beginning of the day.

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Refocus: 1 min every hour

Refocus: 1 min every hour

Manage your day hour by hour. 

Set your phone or computer to ring every hour. When it rings, take a deep breath, look at your list and ask yourself if you spent your last hour productively. 

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Review: 5 min

Review: 5 min

Shut off your computer and review your day. 

What worked? Where did you focus? Where did you get distracted? What did you learn that will help you be more productive tomorrow?

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Managing our time

Managing our time

It needs to become a ritual. Not simply a list or a vague sense of our priorities. That's not consistent or deliberate.

It needs to be an ongoing process we follow no matter what to keep us focused on our priorities throughout the day.

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Confront the things you’ve been putting off. If you keep putting things off, you'll feel guilty and that makes you want to avoid them even more. You will get stuck in the “doom loop” of anxiety and avoidance.
Break this loop by identifying the tasks that you’ve been avoiding, break them down into smaller tasks and schedule the next step for the following day.

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Plan the Rest of Your Day

When you don't feel like working on your tasks, take a few moments to plan your day.

Even if you do it as a form of procrastination, to postpone doing the actual work, it will help you...

Smaller Manageable Parts

Break the project you don't want to start into smaller pieces.

Breaking it down into small tasks and adding those to your to-do list isn't exactly fun, but it is less overwhelming than working. And it's also useful: When you finally do get around to starting, you've got a strategy.

Clean Something

Clean something every time you don't want to get started on a work project. Don't listen to a podcast or turn on the radio. Just clean. Make it as boring as possible, so that your mind wanders.

This does two things: it delays actually working on your project and it gives you time to think, possibly generating ideas that will come in handy whenever you get back to the project you're trying to put off. 

Make planning a habit

Make planning a habit

Some mornings we feel motivated to create a to-do list, but that is often the exception. We need to get things done, even when we feel disengaged.

Start by setting ...

Align your to-do list with goals

  1. Break down your big goals into daily tasks. You can't add "Get in shape" to your daily to-do list, but you can add "spend 30 minutes on my bike."
  2. Consider your week as a whole. You likely have multiple goals. Some goals benefit from daily activity, while working towards others a few times a week can create momentum.
  3. Add your have-to-do tasks last. We often fill our to-do lists with have-to-do tasks that crowd the whole day. Adding it last forces you to fit your have-to-do tasks around your goal tasks.

Have one daily priority

Many of us start our mornings with dozens of things we need to get done, but later realize that we haven't crossed any of them off our lists. We did get stuff done, but none of the things we planned.

A balm against hectic days that pass without progress is to choose a single activity to prioritize and protect in your calendar. If you struggle to select your top priority, ask yourself, when you look back on your day, what do you want the highlight to be? That's your priority.