Have you ever started a day with some great ideas of everything you want to accomplish, but suddenly it is 6pm and you have nothing to show for your day? While it is probably impossible to keep this from ever happening, we can minimize it by doing something very simple: Do something important first.
That isn’t really an amazing idea, but it is very very powerful. If you can, early in the day, do one or two things that have lasting value, you’ll be taking steps in the right direction–even if the entire rest of the day is shot. The goal of this approach is to make sure you aren’t sitting still. You want to make sure you are moving forward, and the best way to do that is to make some progress–even if it is very small–as soon as you can.
Here are some things that may be important tasks to do early in the day:
- Read a chapter of a book–If you are trying to get better at what you do, reading is probably going to be a pretty important activity. Spending some time reading before the day gets started makes sure you are making incremental progress.
- Networking — Keeping in contact with your business acquaintances is a very valuable activity, but one that is often pushed to “tomorrow”. Spending 30 minutes sending emails, making phone calls or sending out birthday cards can go a long ways toward keeping you in touch.
- Practicing — We tend to think of practice as something that is reserved for athletes and musicians, but if your job requires a skill, there is probably a way to practice it. The trick is to practice something that helps you get better at what you do. If you are a secretary, maybe you spend 10 minutes typing something as fast as possible just to help raise the bar on your speed. If you are a programmer, maybe you try to write some code that uses a technique you recently read about, but don’t routinely use.
- Writing — Writing can be a very good way to develop your thoughts and perspective on something. Spending a few minutes on a regular basis writing about a topic where you want to become better will deepen your understanding. For example, if you are interested in leadership or management, spend some time writing about the things you see others doing and how effective they are.
David Turnbull says
All my best days certainly start with some reading. Can’t imagine a more relaxed and gradual way to start the day.
And in terms of doing important things, a neat trick is to write your 3 most important tasks before you go to bed the previous night. Most of the time it’s too easy to procrastinate the next morning so we never even get out priorities properly set. :-)
Justin Knechtel says
I’m a home based freelancer also taking care of my 4 month old son, and this topic really hits home now! I wake up at 3:30 each morning so that I can get an hours of reading and an hour of working before my son wakes up. If I don’t start out reading, the day falls apart quickly and is impossible to get back. Grat tips