A typical day in business (and in life) contains a curveball or two that throws you off your plan. A customer complaint gets elevated to you, an employee matter erupts, negative press on social media requires an all-hands-on-deck meeting, an urgent project from the CEO lands on your desk, an unexpected expense requires your time to reallocate resources, a call from school asking you to come now to pick up your sick child.
These unexpected demands on your time and energy create days that can feel busy yet unproductive. You feel drained without the satisfaction of feeling accomplished. It’s a lose-lose. Since you can expect these unexpected demands, how can you ever feel victorious at the end of the day?
The trick is to declare victory by noon every day. Start by identifying your “one thing” for the day. Your “one thing” has a two-sided definition. If you accomplish it, even if lots of other things do not get accomplished, your day is still a victory. If you do not accomplish it but get lots of other things done, your day is still a failure.
All tasks are not created equally. Each task has a relative impact on your most important goals. Unfortunately, it is easy to be seduced by tasks that are easy to complete because they provide an immediate sense of accomplishment even though they are not helping you move the needle toward your most important goals.
For example, let’s say that a new project management system you must roll out by year-end is your one thing, but lots of small daily demands predictably chip away at your time. If you let this persist, you will complete many tasks, but you will have been unproductive by year-end because those tasks robbed time and energy from your most important goal – to roll out the new system. Those things that are most important rarely feel urgent until they become urgent, and that is not a fun or victorious day.
We are not suggesting that you eliminate all other tasks; rather, simply schedule your high-impact tasks. Even though these tasks might not be as fun or interesting as other tasks, the feeling of victory by noon is worth it.
Try checking your email in the morning, then, not again until you have completed your “one thing” for the day. I realize most people start feeling queasy just thinking about that concept. I am not opposed to email if it does not prevent you from achieving your most important goals. It took me personally experiencing the dark side of email obsession to recalibrate my “one thing” each day.
This daily planning transcends your work goals. Consider what it takes for you to declare victory personally and professionally by noon. Is exercise, prayer/quiet time, or reading important to you personally? If so, plan your day to do those tasks even before you start your workday. If I get my workout and quiet time done in the morning, I count my day as a victory even before my work starts!
Once you declare victory by noon, you will find yourself more relaxed and better able to effectively handle unexpected tasks in the afternoon. Even with a horrible afternoon, you are still victorious by the end of the day.
Games are won by preparation, and champions are made through preparation. So, prepare for victory each day. Not only will you declare daily victories, but they will accumulate into project, career, and life victories.
For more on how to sharpen your focus and boost your results, check out Stick with It: Mastering the Art of Adherence.