Having a list of daily goals is a key ingredient to good time management. It provides guidance and directs our focus to where it needs to be.
We can all remember a time when we looked back on our day and asked “What did I do today? I really have no idea!” For some of us, maybe that day is today! Isn’t it an uneasy feeling, though? I think it’s just as uncomfortable as forgetting how we spent our money (you may know the feeling), because I believe time is at least as important as money. With a list of daily goals, we can become more aware of how our time is spent and greatly improve our productivity. And the better the list, the more our awareness and productivity improve.
If you’d like to try it out, here are a few tips for a highly effective goals list…
First: Find a consistent place to write them down that is easy to carry. I’ve found 3×5 index cards on a spiral ring to be absolutely perfect. Each day I just flip to a new card and can easily see the unfinished tasks from the day before, which I rewrite for the new day. Also, I can easily throw the cards in my backpack, back pocket, and so on. Perhaps the coolest thing about a small book like this is being able to go back and see the progress and evolution of my goals and they adapted over time.
Second: Write your goals the night before. It only takes a few minutes and will be totally worth it when you wake up and they’re already done. Mornings can be tough enough to deal with, and forgetting to do them for a few hours defeats the purpose. In addition, our brains consolidate information when we sleep, so our brain will get a head start on our goals while we doze away.
Third: Prioritize all of the tasks. This is a habit of highly successful time managers, including Brian Tracy. I actually use a slight variation of his ABCDE method. Basically, after you make your list, put an A next to all the tasks you must do, B next to the tasks you should do, and C next to the tasks that would just be nice to do. This should be as realistic as possible; be honest with yourself. Chances are, lounging by the pool is not an A task (unless you’re on vacation or taking a day off).
If there is more than one of any letter, use 1,2,3… to assign importance. The idea is that A1 is the first task you do. Only when that is completed should you move on to A2, A3, B1, B2, and so on. Upon completion, put an X next to the task, but don’t erase it or cross it off in case you want to reference it later. What I’ve noticed from this method is that I will only finish a few tasks each day, but they will be the most important things, and thus, the best uses of my time. It’s the difference between eating an entree and eating your sides. Which is more important?
Forth: Try to complete each task in one sitting. This can be very hard to do, but I promise you that the feeling of accomplishing an A or B task, marking it with an “X”, and rewarding yourself afterward is amazing. But if you only have ten spare minutes, still work on the top-priority task. Don’t fall into the “I only have a few minutes so I might as well not start” trap.
Fifth: Carry over unfinished tasks from the day before and start anew! Add new tasks, modify old ones, and re-prioritize.
Once you get into this system, you starting thinking in goals (which is awesome!). That is when you become highly efficient. Instead of your time disappearing and wondering where it went, now you know exactly where it went and in exactly what order.
Below is a picture of my goals from this morning, some of which intentionally don’t have a letter. “Watch Ted Talk”, for example, is something I do every day, but I do it during breakfast or lunch while I am eating. Since the times of meals vary, I don’t assign it a letter. Working out is also separate. At school, the best time to work out is 2:30 on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays because my roommate is gone. Because this is a fixed time, there is no need to assign it a letter: it has priority at 2:30. You get the idea. Lastly, the “Body”, “Brain”, and “Being” categories are set apart by a box. This is just a preference because I like to make it easy to detect if I worked on personal growth that day, not just my other tasks.
Now that you see how my list has been slightly modified to suit me, feel free to customize your own. The key here is that you are honest with prioritizing and remember to include all your important tasks. This technique has greatly benefited me and I hope it will do the same for you!
“Never begin the day until it is finished on paper.” ~Jim Rohn