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Weekly 3: Make the most of each day

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Idea Journal Weekly 3

April 18 · Issue #187 · View online

We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.


Summary: A lack of time is often a lack of priorities. And you need clear priorities to make the most of each day. This issue explores a few ideas to help.
(~4 min read)

#1. Plan your day the night before
Author Srinivas Rao writes in a blog post that if you approach your day not knowing what you’re trying to accomplish, you’ll be “busy, but probably not productive.”
For Rao, what you do the day before is just as important as what you do each morning.
To make the most of a given day, he recommends writing down your essential priorities and tasks the night before.
Doing this will:
  • Allow you to experience more flow, the mental state of full absorption and engagement with your work.
  • Enable you to accomplish more in less time.
  • Give you a framework for the next day, with which “you’ll be much more likely to pack your days with useful work that adds value to your life.”
  • Reduce “decision fatigue” and guesswork about what you should be doing once the morning arrives.
#2. "Prioritize and execute"
Author and former Navy SEAL Jocko Willink writes in his book Extreme Ownership that “Even the most competent of leaders can be overwhelmed if they try to tackle multiple problems or a number of tasks simultaneously.”
The team will likely fail at each of those tasks.
Instead, if you’re feeling overwhelmed as a leader, Willink recommends that you rely on this principle: Prioritize and Execute.
Here are the 3 steps for putting this principle into practice:
  1. Evaluate the highest-priority problem.
  2. Develop and decide on a solution, seeking input from team members where possible.
  3. Direct the execution of that solution by focusing all efforts and resources on this one high-priority task. Move onto the next highest-priority problem. Repeat.
Willink writes that this principle works just as well in business as on the battlefield.
He tells the story of his experience coaching the CEO of a pharmaceutical company. The company had previously been a profitable player in its industry, but was experiencing a long stretch of declining revenues.
As part of a leadership training and consultation, the CEO described to Willink all the initiatives the company was working on:
  • Developing several new product lines, each with its own marketing plan.
  • Establishing distribution centers in a dozen new markets within the next 24 months.
  • Entering the laboratory-equipment market.
  • Implementing a leadership training program for the company’s managers.
  • Updating the company’s website to reflect its new branding and customer experience.
  • Finally, to improve sales, the CEO planned to restructure the company’s sales force and compensation plan.
But when Willink asked which of these was the highest priority, it was easy for the CEO to choose improving the sales force’s efforts: “If they aren’t getting in front of customers and selling our products, we will no longer be in business.”
The CEO took Willink’s advice, and over the next several months focused all of the company’s activities on supporting the frontline sales force: from setting up tours for customers and redesigning marketing materials, to setting weekly goals for meetings with hospitals and creating video interviews with top salespeople that others could watch and learn from.
That focus on a single initiative unified the company, increased momentum, and eventually improved revenues.
From a position of renewed financial success, the CEO could then focus on the remaining priorities.
#3. Look beyond the next 24 hours
Say you’ve followed Srinivas Rao’s advice from Idea #1 above and planned your day the night before.
But how do you ensure that focusing on your “essential priorities and tasks” each morning is moving you closer to your longer-term aspirations?
Author and simplicity expert Leo Babauta advises in his book The Power of Less that you do your “most important tasks” first thing in the morning. And he recommends that one of these should relate to your long-term goals and interests.
To help you identify which of your tasks will have high impact beyond the next 24 hours, he suggests considering one that has the potential to do at least one of the following:
  • Advance your career
  • Be beneficial to your business (e.g., in terms of revenues, branding, expanding into new markets, etc.)
  • Boost your recognition
  • Change your personal life in an important way
  • Earn you a lot of money in the long run
  • Make a positive contribution to society
For Babauta, this simple step “makes all the difference in the world” because each day it increases the odds that your dreams will come true.
Quote of the week
“A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days.”
- Writer Annie Dillard in her book The Writing Life
Idea Journal
Idea Journal
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