When I have many things I need to get done, I find that certain practices help me make my goal a reality.
1. Have a checklist.
I always start and end my day with a checklist. It helps me clarify what I need to get done and helps me stay on top of things. At the close of the day, I find that I am in a good place to assess how much has been done. I seem to have more clarity about where I want to spend my time. So, I find making a checklist at the end of the day helps me start the next day clearly. I don’t have to spend valuable time, thinking through things from the beginning.
While starting the day seems fresh, it can also mean that you are starting at the beginning sometimes. All the issues that were front and centre, have moved to the back of your mind. But if you make your plan the day before, all the things you need to weigh and plan around, are very much clearer. Easier to do then. I keep this checklist right next to me at all times – throughout the day, I add and subtract to this list what I consider important.
When I start my morning, I begin by looking at my checklist. I used to start with clearing emails but have since stopped. The early morning is the most valuable block of time. You are fresh and so you can do really good work here. It is the best time to tackle the hard to do project or the difficult proposal. Whatever you believe you’ve been pushing for a later time, the early morning is the best time to tackle that piece.
Prioritising the checklist is as important as having a checklist. Especially if you have many things you need to attend to, simply having a checklist will not be good enough. You need to determine what will be tackled in the order best for it and in so doing, you are working to distinguish what is urgent from what is important. What is urgent is usually screaming for attention but may not always be providing top value. However, what is important, usually does not have tight deadlines to it, leaving it easy to be pushed to the bottom of the pile where you will ‘one day’ tackle it. Prioritising your checklist is a fluid activity – expect that it may undergo numerous changes as the day progresses and as your priorities shift.
3. Tackle the hard one first.
This is simply for tactical reasons, one of the better approaches to take. The hard project, the email you don’t want to respond to, the proposal you’ve been delaying – they all have something in common. By tackling it first, you deal not only with a big problem (as you perceive it) but you also deal with the emotional toll it has exacted upon you. Once you begin to chip away at it, even if you have not finished, there is a noticeable shift in your approach to other things as well as your burden begins to ease. In effect, it is a positive step to take, not just in terms of solving that one challenge but in allowing you the mental space to tackle other challenging issues as well.
4. Do a little every day.
When something is huge, when it appears huge as well, doing a little every day, makes all the difference. The plan is not to feel like you need to carve three weeks aside, to the exclusion of every thing else, to handle the challenge. If you can tackle it for merely 15 minutes a day, but every single day, you will slowly but surely, achieve more in the long run.
5. Give yourself some breathing space.
Often, it can seem that there are so many rules out there. But you are in charge of your life. Make it work for you. Sometimes, you will feel harried, you will find it hard to complete something, you will get sick or tired. At these times, you have to recognise that you need to let go, with the understanding that when you are up and at it, you can resume. It is a subtle distinction that requires a level of honesty within – to know when you need to let go and when you need to push ahead.