All of us are busy. Although many often complain about being too busy, they are really lamenting they aren’t busy with the most important things. Are you busy doing what you want and feel you are proactively working towards those goals most important to you? Or, are you running ragged reacting to the demands of others and circumstances?
Productive people are proactive rather than reactive. Things happen mainly because they plan their work, then work their plan.
The most productive people are planners. And, amazingly enough, the majority share a simple habit of planning their day—every day.
My favorite story illustrating this powerful habit involves Charles M. Schwab, the first president of U.S. Steel, then led Bethlehem Steel to become the second largest steel maker in the United States. This story was made famous by Napoleon Hill, author of Think And Grow Rich.
As one of the most powerful executives of his day, the demands on Schwab’s time and his managers were extraordinary. He enlisted the help of the renowned consultant, Ivy Lee, to use their time more productively.
Lee guided Schwab within a few moments to list on a single sheet of paper the six most important things he needed to do that day, then number the tasks in order of priority. He then instructed Schwab to spend the rest of his day working on the first item until completed, then move on to the second item, and so on. At the end of the day, he should prepare a new list for the next day and repeat.
Lee concluded their brief time together by challenging Schwab to teach this method to his managers and practice it for as long as they desired. Schwab could send a check to Lee for whatever he felt the advice was worth.
Schwab soon sent a check for $25,000. This was in the 1920’s—today’s equivalent would be at least $300,000. A handsome fee for a few minutes of advice.
The 5-Minute Daily Planning List
- At the end of each day, list the six most important things to do tomorrow. Whether on a 3X5 index card or digitally on a task management app, take a few moments to list them.
Number the tasks in order of priority.
The next day, begin working on the first task and stick with it until completed. Check it off the list once completed, then move on to the next item, and so on.
Rinse and repeat. At the end of the day, make a new list for tomorrow. If you didn’t complete any items on today’s list, move them to tomorrow’s list. Even if you don’t get everything done today that you hoped, you’ll at least get the most important things done.
You may at first, as Schwab was, be a little unimpressed with this seemingly over-simplistic technique. Yet there are powerful principles imbedded.
My advice? Take the challenge and try tomorrow. Even better, share with your family and team and let them try as well. I think you’ll find this to be some of the most valuable minutes of each day. It won’t guarantee a perfect day, but it will make every day better.
By the way, should you desire to follow Schwab’s example, you can make your check out for what you feel this is worth to Kirby Andersen. You’re welcome.
Question: Do you have a similar planning period each day? Share your answer in the comments below.