I’m a planner. I wake up early, go to bed late and in the middle get a whole lot of everything else done. Over the years, I’ve developed some daily guidelines that help to keep me moving in the right direction. Here are a few helpful tips that might be helpful to you as well.
Wake Up Early
I get more done between 6:00-8:00 am than any other time of the day. This is the best time to attack challenges from the previous day, plan forward and think big. This is the only time of the day where I have zero distractions and it's full-speed ahead. I enjoy getting to work early. That quiet time at the office is invaluable. Like most people, I also like to have a strong cup of coffee first thing in the morning. Not only does it help me wake up--but coffee is proven to be more effective when your body’s cortisol levels are lower.
Plan Your Day
I use my calendar much like a ‘to do’ list. If there is any empty spot during the day, I fill it and earmark it for a particular purpose (even if it’s just titled, ‘Planning’). Also, I try to not schedule hour-long meetings if possible. Most tasks and conversations can happen in 30-45 minutes—this allows for me to accomplish twice the number of meetings in one day. I wait to attack any social media opportunities until afternoon. LinkedIn and Twitter can be a time vacuum first thing in the morning and I find that the most interesting content and posts of the day are usually up by early afternoon. That way I don’t miss anything.
Clear Your In Box at Least (and only) 3 Times a Day
If you are fighting a battle with your in box, a sure-fire way to win is to check your email just 3 times a day. I like to check my emails mid-morning, mid-afternoon and early evening. I make it a personal goal to respond to every email and to attend to any follow-up required as quickly as possible. I then like to file all of my email in internal or client folders so that any communication is easily accessible for future reference if needed. This has been a huge lifesaver and keeps everything in its place.
Take a Walk
One of the best practices that I’ve most recently added to my day is a quick 15-minute walk sometime before or after lunch. Adding a brisk walk helps clear the cobwebs and helps you reflect on the business of the morning and set a good direction for the afternoon. It’s too easy to stay put, but this discipline has added value to my day in the sense that it clears my mind and helps me stay on track for the rest of the day. I also use this quick downtime to browse new music, download a TEDx talk or tune in to a podcast that I’ve downloaded recently. Fifteen minutes is the perfect length of time to learn something new, expose myself to fresh ideas or listen to some new music that inspires me for the rest of my day. I may also use this time to call someone I need to connect with. This quick reach out during the day helps me stay in tune with family, friends or once a week I try to reach out to someone during my day. There’s nothing worse than feeling effective at work and ineffective in your personal life. This quick touch base helps me feel more balanced and in touch with the folks who inspire me.
Next Day Planning
It sounds simple, but I always review my calendar for the next day before leaving work to make sure that I have all meetings planned for, communication sent out, etc. It makes a big difference in how I feel when starting a new work day if I am prepared for it and ready to go. This is also a good time to check with your team internally to make sure that they have all of the information that they need in order to make the next day’s meetings the most productive as possible. Just that quick check-in before the end of the day keeps everyone on the same page and moving in the same direction.
Celebrate Your Wins
I’m not great at this, but am working hard to take a few minutes to reflect on the day's ‘wins’. There are wins in every day, I guarantee you. But we often time gloss over these and continue to move on to the next task or directive. It’s important to remember that we move the needle every day and it’s a disservice not to sit and relax a bit at the end of a busy day…pat yourself on the back a bit, you deserve it!
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