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Effective process to start your day

How do you start your day when you get to work?  If you are like most of us, once you arrive, grab that cup of coffee, sit down at your desk and then take a look at your email inbox!Then your morning is off to the races!  Or it might be on a detour!! 

And, at the end of the day, how do you think back on your productivity?  “I got a lot done!” or perhaps “I didn’t get anything done!” or most likely (and hopefully) something in the middle – got some things done and still too much to do!

One overarching tip is to remember that we actually only have direct control over a small number of items.  This was an “ah ha” moment I experienced many years ago while working in a small law firm. (I now have 32 years as a practicing lawyer.)  Back  at the firm, we would meet each month out of the office and review our cases. These always felt very productive and one of our goals was to get “caught up” with our work. We’d discuss strategies, analyze legal aspects and plan action items! Yet each month there would be items that we did not do and others that shifted in a different direction.

In the legal world there is so much beyond one’s control – there are clients, judges, opposing lawyers, the changing law and so much more.  One could literally work 24/7 and still not get caught up!  This was the realization – we could never get caught up! So, we reframed our monthly meetings. We still analyzed cases and made action lists; however, we also knew our plans would get derailed and we knew that working longer did not necessarily mean we were working smarter. We needed to take care of ourselves to be the most productive we could be. I believe the same is true in the academy. There is only so much within one’s control and one could work 24/7 and never get caught up! 

Thus, here are a few tips from Vital Smarts the folks that bring you the Crucial Conversations material and training. In fact, this is from Justin Hale, who is focused on helping people Get Things Done based on David Allen’s book of the same name. 

According to Hale, when you arrive to start your day – start with your “hard landscape” by checking your calendar – what meetings are on?  Anything else you need to work around?

Then check your To Do list or whatever you call it. And, if you don’t have a list, then make one!  According to Getting Things Done author David Allen our brains are not that good for storing lists of things to do (we think it is, but its not). Thus, download your to do list or task list or whatever you call it list to some type of stored location. This could be on paper or electronically yet, in any case, it should be easy to access.  

I keep my list on paper as it feels great to cross something off!  Of course the list keeps growing too! One key is to make sure you look at your list!!! It must be readily available.

Okay. You’ve checked your calendar, looked at your to dos and now its time to look at email.  Of course, there may be some messages that impact your calendar and to dos and add them in.  The idea is that you frame your work day around getting stuff done so at the end of the day there is something (anything!!) crossed off your list.  There’s more to it with additional tools to manage your inbox and that’s for another post. In the meantime, get that cup of coffee, take a breath, and make a new plan as you start your day.  And, cross something off your list today – that feels great!!