“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
– Stephen R. Covey
How many times have you reached the end of the day and wondered where it went? The big things you had planned to get done are still sitting there on your to-do list, you don’t feel any further ahead, yet you are exhausted and worn out.
I love the quote above by Stephen Covey, and yes, it is so true. It’s just so easy to drown in a sea of busy work and other people’s priorities (email anyone?) but if you really want to make changes in your life or in your business and move ahead with what’s truly important to YOU, it has got to become your first priority.
Our brains are clearer and more focused first thing in the morning. (and yes night owls, you too!) But the key lies in getting up early enough, having ample time, scheduling your day and ideally being well rested. Because first thing in the morning, early morning, before the world had inundated you with demands, there is quiet time to focus. There are no emergencies and nothing has gone wrong or left you frustrated, irritated and distracted.
I’ve also heard the morning hours referred to as the “Alpha Hours – when the mind is the clearest and most reliable.” (For more on alpha brain waves and neuroscience there is a fascinating article here.)
Knowing this, you want to harness the power of these precious few hours and spend the time on high value tasks. Hint: checking your email is NOT it.
Here are a few simple steps to help you get the important stuff done, move forward productively and have more peace and control of time and energy.
1. Okay, this one is a bit of a cheat, but plan your day the night before. (I use a simple one sheet that you can download here.) You don’t want to be getting up in the morning and spending 45 minutes going through the leftovers of yesterday’s work trying to figure out what you need to tackle first. This is going to pull your focus and take you down the rabbit hole of problem. Even if you just decide on ONE THING – that BIG priority as a first AM task, do that.
2. Don’t check emails or voicemails, start or return phone calls very first thing. Both of these lead to multiple other tasks and distracted thinking. It also puts your brain into ‘problem mode’ where you get focused on dealing with something rather than accomplishing or creating something.
3. Start each day with an intention – not just a To Do list. How do you intend to spend this day? What do you want to get out of it? Do you want to be focused? Driven? Patient? Methodical? Forceful? Relaxed? Or something different? There are days when I might close any one of those things and for a very good reason; because I know what lies ahead of me and what state of being is going to best serve that. Decide for yourself.
4. Use a daily calendar or time sheet to schedule your day in 30 minute segments – you can grab mine here. This is especially important if you are self-employed or freelance. It’s really easy to let the day slip away from you. Put the big stuff on paper first – the things that are going to move your forward on your big goals. And it may only be a single hour out of something that will take weeks, but get going now. Bonus: It helps to get really clear on exactly how long everything will take. Yours truly over here seems to think she is wonder woman. I continually over schedule myself and waaaaay underestimate the time needed for tasks. The Daily Planner is my own personal reality check.
Starting your day with what’s really important to you is empowering; it’s living life on your own terms. It gets you out of inertia and reduces overwhelmed and frustration. And when you take care of what’s important to you, you are much better able and happier to take care of everything else.
Questions or comments? Post below or jump on into the private Facebook group, I always answer there.