My #1 Answer
Between snow days, vacation, national holidays, forced quarantines and teacher in-service days, we have not had a full week of our normal schedule since 2021 began. Therefore we have had to do a lot of pivoting, re-designing and re-creating our plan for the day. We would not have survived all the pivots as well as we did without some basic time management and insane productivity tools we have learned over the years.
The most simple, yet the most violated time management habit is to design your day, hour-by-hour, the night before and to prioritize your tasks. Sounds simple, right? Because it is. Yes, there are some complexities to consider and priorities that need to be identified, which is not always easy, but the basic practice of planning your day the night before falls into the category of things that are “easy” to do. In this life of many “hard” things, this would not be one of them. But what is “easy” to do can also be very “easy” not to do. The simplicity of success often eludes us.
I am so shocked at how few people actually do this daily planning consistently. And I should really use a stronger word than shocked. Dismayed. Aghast. Astonished. Stunned. I really do feel that strongly about it. It is so core to how I function in my life that I have seriously spent time pondering how people get through their life without it. I am not trying to be cute, I really do wonder and I have genuine curiosity. Someone please write me and tell me how you do it because I would really actually like to know. I know we are all so different, with a unique set of strengths and weaknesses, and there are “99 ways to skin a cat” (I am not sure of even one and would prefer not to know), so I am certain there are a plethora of ways to do this life successfully, but this is just one of those things that I think everyone would be better off if they did. Someone prove me wrong. I have immense curiosity about this subject and would appreciate hearing another perspective.
People often ask how I do allll.the.things I do and this would be one of my top answers, if not even my #1 answer.
I look at all the waking hours of my day (in a planner), and I start by filling in the must-do’s, the scheduled appointments and the commitments.
After that, I can clearly see the time I have left.
I brain dump everything bouncing around in my mind that I want to do & need to do for life, business, home, family, etc.
I consider my top priorities, activities that move me toward my goals & important projects and give these things the most time and energy. I create blocks of time to decor to these tasks.
I makes lists of what I can delegate or eliminate if it is not a high priority right now. I am really good at giving myself unnecessary things to do so I have to stay aware of this and be willing to just cross things off the list if they are not high priority.
I consider what feels like the “hardest, least-pleasing” thing to do and I put that at the beginning of the day so I can get it over with (eat the frog).
I consider when I have the highest energy and lowest energy and I plan to do appropriate tasks during those moments. Something that does not take a lot of mental or emotional energy would go in a time slot when I know I do not have as much energy or have more distractions.
Simple, right? I promise it is. And it is worth more than what it seems at first glance. Maybe $35,000 more?
Here’s a quick and true story that illustrates that power of planning your day (from Mary Kay Ash’s autobiography):
“Early in my sales career, I heard a story that had a lasting effect upon me and the way I work. The subject was time management, and the story concerned Ivy Lee, a leading efficiency expert, and Charles Schwab, president of a then-small company called Bethlehem Steel.
Ivy Lee called on Charles Schwab and said to him, “I can increase your efficiency — and your sales — if you will allow me to spend 15 minutes with each of your executives.”
Naturally, Schwab asked, “What will it cost me?”
“Nothing,” Lee said, “unless it works. In three months, you can send me a check for whatever you think it’s worth to you. Fair enough?”
Schwab agreed, so Lee spent 15 minutes with executives from the struggling young steel company and asked them to complete a single task. Every evening for the next three months, each executive was to make a list of the six most important things he had to do the next day. Finally, the executive was to rank the items in order of importance.
“Each morning, begin with the first item on the list,” he told them, “and scratch it off when it’s finished. Just work your way down those six items. If you don’t get something finished, it goes on the next day’s list.”
At the end of the three-month trial, efficiency and sales had increased to such an extent that Schwab sent Lee a check for $35,000. Now that’s still a lot of cash for such a small amount of work, but in today’s money, $35,000 would probably be the equivalent of $350,000!
I was very impressed with this story. So I pondered the moral, I took out an old envelope out of my purse and wrote down the six most important things I had to do the next day. And I have continued making that “$35,000 list” every single day of my life.” - Mary Kay Ash
There you have it, folks. It is a small action that delivers ridiculously amazing results, an “easy” task that creates what looks like easy success. Prove me wrong. 😉😙