Some days you power through a whirlwind of tasks, but end the day feeling like you were busy, but not necessarily productive. You go home, go to bed, and repeat the cycle the next day, and the next day, and the next day. Where does it end? The secret to avoiding this reactionary loop can be as simple as asking yourself five questions.
While it might seem counterproductive to spend 10-20 minutes of your time planning instead of doing, it’s essential for taking control of your day. Before you start spinning on the hamster wheel, pause for a moment and ask yourself the following questions every morning.
- What’s the one task I must complete today, no matter what? Start your day by committing to your most critical task. If this was the only task you completed today, you would still feel productive. This should be a task that is both challenging and linked to your long-term objectives. This is about making consistent daily progress towards achieving your goals, so it should be an action that helps propel your business forward. This is not a new concept by any means. Leo Babauta from Zen Habits refers to this as the MIT (Most Important Task) and Gary Keller refers to it as your One Thing. Whatever wrapper you put on the strategy doesn’t matter, it works because it requires laser-like focus on a single objective.
- What meetings do I have today and what’s my strategic intent for each meeting? We have a tendency to go through the motions. However, this question requires you to make the most out of every interaction with clients, prospects and center-of-influence interests. We use the term “meetings” loosely. These can be client reviews, social contacts, networking events, etc. For each meeting, take a moment to plan your strategic intent—your personal objective for the meeting.
- What should I delegate today? While delegation can be difficult for some, it’s essential. You can’t do everything! Take a moment to identify the tasks that you will hand off to other team members. Write down the task you will delegate and then who is responsible for that task. We recommend coding your delegation using our ABC Delegation System.
- Who do I need to reach out to today? Who do you need to follow up with? Touch base? Think about the proactive outreach you need to make and create a list of those people. Then determine how you will reach out. Are you going to call them? Email? Text? LinkedIn message?
- What other tasks should I complete today? Make a list of the other tasks that you would like to tackle. Ideally, you should only move to these tasks after you complete your most important task of the day. You may not get all of these complete, but that’s okay. Simply carry these tasks to the next day. However, if you find yourself carrying a task over day after day, and those days turn into weeks, you may consider removing it from your list entirely. It’s probably not that important if you are able to brush it off so easily.
If you feel like your days slip away from you, give the aforementioned a shot. What’s the likely byproduct? You’ll feel more organized and focused each morning and you’ll undoubtedly get more done.
@StephenBoswell is president of The Oechsli Institute and author of Best Practices of Elite Advisors. @KevinANichols is the chief operating officer of The Oechsli Institute and author of The Indispensable LinkedIn Sales Guide for Financial Advisors. Learn more at Oechsli.com.