Whenever I feel like I’m going off-track and not making much progress, it’s because I’ve slipped out of the habit I know makes all the difference. It’s such a simple thing, it almost seems trivial, but it really does work amazingly well. What is it?
Just take 10 minutes to plan the day and choose the three most important actions to focus on.
You’ve probably heard it before, but have you actually tried it out? The idea supposedly came from Ivy Lee who provided some advice to Charles Schwab back in 1918. James Clear does a great job of describing it here.
Start by Reviewing Your Goals
To keep the big picture in mind, this is something I’ve added in to the traditional approach. If you review your goals (personal and business) first, you’re much more likely to choose 3 actions which are directly related to you hitting those goals.
Have you heard of the analogy about “rocks, pebbles and sand” that highlight the different priorities in life? There are many versions of this (here’s one), but basically it’s about prioritising the big, important things in life (the rocks) and putting those things in your jar first. There are also some things that need to be done but are not as directly related to your goals. These are the pebbles but they will usually fit in around your rocks. And of course, the least important things (the sand), and still more of that will fit in around the rocks and pebbles.
So, keep your goals somewhere that you can easily refer to them (an Evernote file, a physical diary, a note on your mobile, etc). Open them up and read them over.
Either do this in the evenings in preparation for the next day (my preference), or first thing in the morning.
Decide on 3 MIA’s (Most Important Actions)
Looking at your goals, think about what that means for tomorrow. What small things could you get done tomorrow that would inch you closer towards your goals?
It might be the same thing for many days in a row. For example, if you’re working towards a sales target one of your MIA’s could be to make 30 phone calls each day. Or, if you’re trying to get something written you could have a MIA to write for an hour a day or write 1000 words.
Or it you might have different MIA’s each day depending on what stage you’re up to with your goal.
Don’t Make them Too Big
Choose important MIA’s but don’t make them too big. Each should be doable within around 1/2 hour so break them down as much as you can. Even if it comes down to seemingly small things like;
- plan phone call and book time in calendar
- draft presentation for xxx (or draft the first 2 pages)
- rough out page flow for new section of website
- revise copy for new landing page
- speak to 3 customers
- decide on remuneration for xxx
- draft new procedure for customer complaints
You get the point. They should be small things, but they contribute to your big, important goals. And over time, these small things, add up to a lot.
Keep it to Just 3 Key Actions
Resist the urge to have more than 3 key actions. After all, how can lots of things be your priority? (In fact, the word “priority” was originally singular and referred to the very first or prior thing.) You literally cannot have lots of priorities – and if you think you do, you really have none.
Having said that, I find it really hard to do this as I’m worried I’ll forget about some of the things I need to do, but are maybe not as important. So instead, I force myself to prioritise by drawing a line under the top 3 MIA’s and then listing anything else under those.
You might have a shopping list of other things you want or need to get done in the day, but force yourself to identify which things are your big three. What 3 actions can you do tomorrow that will take you closer to your goals?
Work on your Top 3 Actions first
Of course the crucial bit is that you actually work on those top 3 things first. Forget about everything else until those 3 are done. As Brian Tracy would say, eat the frog first and get it done. Doing this consistently will give you much more traction and progress towards your goals than any other system I know.
What are your Top 3 Actions for today?