It’s very easy to be pulled away from your main goals.
There are two metrics that always requires optimization: time and impact. The less time you use, with the higher impact you achieve, the better. Increasing your leverage.
Seems obvious, but it requires a lot of effort. You have to always question the leverage of your activities. This is very hard to do in a rolling basis, since it’d be cumbersome to question every single second of your day.
I want to describe how to batch those prioritization moments, so you get the most impact out of time.
This post assumes you already have a way to establish yearly/quarterly goals. I will focus on daily and weekly goals.
The simplest, the better. Even if you use a task management tool, write down 3 to 5 goals you have for the week.
Isn’t it duplication? Well, first, repetition helps focus. Second, task management is much more advanced, and usually helps others know what you are up to. In this case we are creating this list just for ourselves.
Stick that list somewhere where you can see it. If it’s paper, put it on your desk. If it’s digital, somewhere a click away.
When you have the slightest doubt that what you are doing may not be the right thing, check the list.
Write this list when the week starts. Do it as the very first thing of your week, and lock 15–30 minutes to write it. It can seem like a lot of time for writing a 3–5 item list, but properly prioritizing can save you more time.
I used to let tasks flow during the day. That generally works well, and it’s perfect if you are in the maker’s schedule. Yet since I’m in both the manager’s schedule and the maker’s schedule, it doesn’t work that well.
I found that I didn’t have the time to fill tasks since they always took more time than expected. And, since I didn’t measure any fixed time for each of them, I had no way of accurately planning my day.
When the week starts, I try to fill as much of my calendar as possible.
I put tasks derived from my weekly goals, and try to estimate the time they will take.
Of course, I leave some blank space too. It’s usually in the early morning, lunch break and before ending the day. I try to catch up on stuff in the morning and last thing in the evening. As I get a lot of inputs, I need to allocate another ~2h/day to those. But since I have my goals blocked on the calendar, I prioritize those over the external inputs.
This doesn’t mean I’m not responsive or talking to my team. As that’s a priority for me, I also block slots for those purposes.
This system helps me:
- Make sure I will have focus time to work on the tasks
- Prepare myself mentally to take on those tasks
- Learn how to estimate time
Time estimation is a very undervalued skill. It goes a long way.
This method makes you better at estimating time, because:
- If you aren’t right on an estimation, you probably have to re-schedule your complete day. My day is extremely packed, so if a task takes more time, I have to re-think my day again. Incentives are for me to be on time
- As you commit mistakes, you learn which kinds of tasks take more or less time, so you correct over time
That’s it! It is an extremely simple method, but it works.
The only thing this method requires from you is very strong commitment.
You can find more posts about personal productivity in my series about it.