#81: The Most Important Thing
I'm a big believer in planning my day in advance. Every night before I close up shop and walk from my home office into my living room, I take a quiet five minutes to go through my to-do list, see what got done and what didn't, and set my priorities for the next day. It's a practice I recommend to everyone, and one that follows on the heels my annual, quarterly and monthly priority-setting.
When I'm making my list for the next day, though, I ask myself one specific question: What's the most important thing I can do tomorrow?
You see, we often get caught up in the Urgent instead of the Important. I could easily make a to-do list based on all the emails I get in a day. (Or forego a to-do list altogether and just respond to emails all day long, like some kind of chat bot.) But that would mean giving my agency to everyone outside me, instead of keeping control of it myself. If I'm going to be truly successful at running one business and starting another, I need to be laser-focused on what's important, what is going to move the needle for both businesses.
Another variation on the same question is: what can I do tomorrow that will make the most progress on my stated goals and priorities? Right now, in my consulting business, I'm working hard to find clients. So, it stands to reason that the most important, most impactful activity I can pursue on a daily basis should have something to do with that—my number one priority should be some kind of sales activity. So that's where I start. I decide what sales activity I'm going to complete, and that's first on my list. Then I cascade the rest of my tasks after that, in rough order of importance.
Sometimes, this means I do a brain dump on a piece of scrap paper, so I don't make a mess of my planner. If you are an electronic to-do list person, I suppose you could just re-order things as you go, but I'm simply not that fancy, and frankly, there's nothing better than a good planner. (This is the one I use.) Once I've downloaded everything, I sift through it for priorities, and write them on the "official" list. And then I'm done. I know when I come back to my desk at 7 the next morning, I'll be able to do my writing and then dive into whatever is most important in my day without dithering or wondering about what I should be doing. Because there's no way I'm letting uncaffeinated 7 a.m. Lacy run my life.