Many create a checklist of their important projects and “To-dos.” It is a way to prioritize the most important items. We want to check those boxes to be productive. The problem is that unexpected, urgent matters always arise that force us to keep pushing our priority items further and further down the list.
Eventually, we reach what I call, the “To-do no man’s land.” That is simply when your to-dos get pushed far enough down your to-do list that you will not get to them and they (your key priorities) get pushed to tomorrow. When you realize that some important to-do’s just aren’t going to happen – that you’re out of time – stress and anxiety can significantly increase. When that happens, you can’t relax and your mind just isn’t in the right place to devote the remainder of your day to the things you find important – namely, your loved ones.
To help beat this all-too-common situation, I have devised a simple time management approach that uses a different mindset, a different mental focus. Simply ask yourself, “What must I do today so that I can leave work at work. What boxes must I check that will enable me to feel accomplished and be able to rest well tonight?
In a traditional to-do list, all of your check boxes are the same size. I believe that some of those boxes are bigger than others. Maybe they aren’t prioritized by task, but by concept. What do you need to-do to be productive and accomplished in your work day? These are your big boxes.
Personally, I’ve clarified my big boxes. As a writer and a speaker on how to achieve a successful work-life balance, if I want to help people, I must write and I must reach out to people who organize meetings where outside speakers are invited. If I don’t write and reach out to people I’m not able to grow my business and help people. Another Big Box is exercise. If I don’t exercise, stress builds up and I get cranky, which isn’t the kind of person I need to be to accomplish my goals.
What are the two or three biggest boxes in your work day? If you don’t know right off the top of your head, it’s time to clarify. Having a couple of standard goals in mind each day helps you focus your efforts and is far more realistic to accomplish than an endless to-do list. At the end of the day, you want to be able look back and ask yourself if you can check those big boxes. If you did, great! Take a deep breath and relax. You did it.
Now you can leave work with the right frame of mind to truly relax and recharge in your personal time. You also are “present” enough to spend quality time with your loved ones.
Andy also wrote the book Change Your Day, Not Your Life, a guide to sustained motivation and more productivity.
See Andy's speaking schedule for an event near you.
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