How to Set Your Daily Tasks for Better Focus
Welcome to Lesson 2 of your Focus Mastery course. In the previous lesson, you learned what focus is and how it helps you achieve success faster. In today’s lesson, we will talk about the first strategy to strengthen your focus muscle: setting up your daily tasks.
Why Your Regular To-Do List Doesn’t Work
Simply jotting down a list of actions to be taken has few drawbacks:
• Most people have the habit of just adding more items to their already 37-item long list. Then they just go on completing the current task and start ticking off items completed. The problem with this approach is that there are no set triggers to achieve certain mandatory tasks today. This type of list doesn’t immediately motivate; rather, after some time, you feel overwhelmed and stressed by the sheer volume of items.
• Regular to-do lists are not clear about the exact outcome expected from each action. You might just write, “meeting with X person,” on a project without any further details. But what is the outcome you want out of this activity? What exact preparations are required from you before the meeting? What precise deliverables might you need to work on immediately after that?
How You Should Set Up Your Daily Tasks
Here is a different way of preparing your list that will set your “Daily Tasks” to be completed. Try out the following right now:
1. Important vs. Urgent: Take a paper and divide it into two parts, with a vertical line in the middle.
2. Important: On the left side, list only three to five tasks for the day, those that will help you deliver your most important projects and make you move forward. For each action point, have sub-bullets of different mini actions to be completed. As an example, for preparing a project report, your action might involve reading research material on the web, speaking to your colleagues to get more information, or making a phone call to a friend in the industry, and then preparing and discussing the report with your stakeholder. (If such a project has to be spread across a few days, the number of actions needs to be stated for the relevant day)
3. Urgent: On the right side, we will list actions that are urgent and must be addressed that day, but a secondary priority to our most important tasks listed on the left side. We can work on these urgent activities by finding time in between breaks from our important projects or after completing our main activities. For example, if you are required to provide inputs to your colleague on a report to be shared by the end of the day, it is an urgent activity, but you are not required to give it top preference. You can do it as time permits during the course of the day, while primarily focusing on your important activity.
You may think that you can handle ten important projects a day, but practically, it does not work, becomes overwhelming, and is thus not a sustainable approach. You might do it as sprints in the short run, but you can’t cope with it as a marathon. You will soon feel burned out and need a longer break to re-energize yourself. Fewer numbers of daily actions (albeit related to important outcomes) help you immediately see through the deadline for your every day. That will trigger you to focus on your important actions, and you won’t get distracted.
To get more benefit out of the above technique, set your daily action list preferably the night before.
That’s it for today. Tomorrow, we will talk about why you should tame your boredom to build your focus.
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