What’s the first thing you do when you arrive at your desk? For many of us, checking email or listening to voice mail is practically automatic. In many ways, these are among the worst ways to start a day. Both activities hijack our focus and put us in a reactive mode, where other people’s priorities take center stage. They are the equivalent of entering a kitchen and looking for a spill to clean or a pot to scrub.
A better approach is to begin your day with a brief planning session. An intellectual mise-en-place. Bourdain envisions the perfect execution before starting his dish. Here’s the corollary for the enterprising business professional. Ask yourself this question the moment you sit at your desk: The day is over and I am leaving the office with a tremendous sense of accomplishment. What have I achieved?
I've noticed recently that I allow urgent tasks and projects to dominate far too much of my time, distracting me from those things that are truly important.
For me, this is most often the result of a failure slow down and plan well. I can easily convince myself that there just isn't time to "waste" with a planning session—after all, I have things to do!
What usually follows is a day that looks much like a game of Whac–A–Mole, spent stamping out one urgent task after another while very little important work gets done.
Of course, the temptation to fall into this trap is the strongest when you are the busiest. As it turns out, the busier you are the more important it is to spend time planning your days and weeks.
So, tomorrow, begin your day by creating a plan, do some work that truly matters, and stop swinging that mallet at every urgent task that pops up.