As I work with leaders in all types and sizes of organizations, a chief concern on their minds much of the time is whether they are focused on the right things. My hypothesis is that the reason for this concern stems from the “real-time” nature of the world we live in.
The leader’s job is to ensure the right things get done, whereas the manager’s job is to ensure things are done right. Said another way, a leader’s job is about focus and a manager’s job is about consistent and quality execution.
How does a leader ensure an organization or team is focused on the right things? This is where taking advantage of the most valuable time of the day comes in.
I believe the first part of the morning is the most beneficial time for constructive thought and planning. The morning is a time when we can identify what we want to accomplish and focus on in order to keep momentum moving.
The morning is when we get a fresh start. Yesterday was yesterday and it is gone. Today is a new opportunity to begin again, with a fresh perspective.
Benjamin Franklin called the time from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. “powerful goodness.” He spent this time ordering the priorities of the day, as well as writing, reading, and praying. Additionally, Franklin always took the opportunity to answer one question, “What good will I do today?”
Too often, we let social media, news headlines, email, or work influence our priorities. When we allow ourselves to be in a reactive and problem-solving mode, we give up control of our agenda and priorities to others.
My approach is to never start the day until it is finished on paper. This strategy enables me to plan my day according to my priorities, goals, and vision. Although this might be considered old school, I use a one page template where I can write:
- the 3-5 most important things I must spend time doing;
- who I must contact;
- who, when, and where I have previously scheduled appointments.
After I complete this blueprint, I keep it right in front of me throughout the day. The plan is complete before I do any of the work; my intentions and priorities are set before I open emails or do anything else. And because I have had this routine for years, it takes me five minutes each morning to accomplish.
This daily routine coincides with a weekly plan – a discipline I’ve had for many years. Each Monday morning I take 20-30 minutes to:
- review my goals for the year and the quarter;
- review my progress toward the goals;
- review my intentions for the coming week;
- plan out specific times I will devote to working on my goals and schedule those times on my calendar.
When I have finished with the above inputs, I create my plan for Monday on my one-page template. And at the end of the actual day, before I leave the office for the night, I jot down five things I must do the next day.
The key to success is consistently making the most of your time each morning. This discipline and habit has made a world of difference for me and my sincere hope is it will do the same for you.