As most people, each day we have way more on our to-do list than we could ever accomplish. Even during the weekend and the holidays! There are just too many requests coming our way – and too many things we want to get done ourselves … Therefore, we had to find a system to get the best out of our day – making tremendous progress – feeling lots of satisfaction – without regrets or overwhelm.
Here’s the 5 criteria we developed to get the best out of our day. We hope they will prove useful for you too.
It’s not very satisfying to only do things that others want us to do. We want a life in line with our values and our aspirations too. That’s why we make sure our to-do list is not only filled with requests from others, but that it also contains the things we value most. Those things that will make a true difference. That’s why we ask the following 5 questions:
Question 1: What are the priority areas I want to work upon today?
Each day, we take the key areas where we say ‘ok – this is something I want to work upon today’. Things like client x, project y, my family, my taxes, top urgencies… Getting clear on what we WANT to do is important – because it also means we decide NOT to work on other items. Those are for some other day…
Question 2: What deadlines should I keep in mind?
Just thinking about the milestones ahead helps us stay focused. It can be ‘external’ deadlines, those we cannot change (like the date of a board meeting, or of the 20km of Brussels). But we also define our own deadlines (‘by the end of this month, I want to have accomplished this goal’). We like deadlines – they push us to get the best of ourselves.
Question 3: What is the maximum working time I allow myself for each topic today?
That’s a big question. Will I spend 2 hours on each topic? Or 5 hours on one, and 1 hour on the others? Answering this question clarifies so many things. And it keeps us from spending far too much time on one area on the detriment of another… We do foresee some buffer time as well – things always take longer than you think…
Question 4: What are the most effective and most concise tasks to make a true difference whilst remaining within the allotted time?
This is where the exciting part start! Seeking the ‘top tasks’ to go for during the day. The true ‘needle movers’ that will allow to make stellar progress and give lots of satisfaction. Or the ‘minimum tasks’ that will avoid problems later on… It feels so great to identify these tasks and to know you will make the best of our day!
Question 5: What (parts) can and cannot be delegated to others?
To make sure we make the best of our time we want to focus on the tasks at the core of our expertise. The things we best do ourselves. Not the things others could do as well. If everybody works on those activities where they have the most value add, we can create so much more than when everybody works on suboptimal activities…
Assessing whether or not to do something
But what to do with new requests that come up? Or with new interesting ideas? Or what about already planned meetings or tasks? Should I go for them or not? To answer these questions, we like to use the same criteria as above.
- Is it a true priority (area)? (for me, for the other party)
All those things that were already on today’s to-do list. And what about those new requests? Are those real priorities? If not, we consider taking them out – or at least ask ourselves the next questions.
- What are the real deadlines to take into account?
The most urgent tasks are not necessarily the ‘best’ ones. And they are often not as urgent as we thought. We like to check again – especially for non-priority areas!
- What is maximum time I can invest in this today?
How much of our time can we afford to spend on the area we’re looking at? This is a critical question. By determining ‘maximum times’, we stay in control of our day!
- What is the most effective and concise way for me to act?
Once we know the maximum time we can afford on an area – we get creative. So often it’s possible to come up with a great short task that is sufficient (or even better than the initially foreseen long task!)
- Is it really me who should do this? Whom could I delegate to?
It’s not because something was already on our to-do list that we have to do it. Other people might do it as well (or even better!).
Yes – it takes time to go through these different steps – but the impact is amazing! As they say – those who fail to plan, plan to fail… We don’t want to fail our day – that’s why we take the time to plan it…
Want to improve your personal sustainability? Try out the above tips. They really help create satisfaction about your days and your accomplishments!