Starting your morning off without a map of what you must do for the day is like going on a journey without a destination. Think about it. When you go somewhere new, do you stick the address into your GPS? Of course you do! Your day should be no different.
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Just imagine yourself packing a suitcase, pulling the suitcase out to the car, putting it in the trunk, getting into your car, turning the engine on, and then pulling out of the driveway. But now what? Where are you going? By all accounts, you’re ready for a trip of some sorts. But to where? In theory, you’d think you’re all set. You’ve got your suitcase, you’re in the car, and all you have to do is drive to your destination. But you can’t go anywhere because you don’t know how to get there. Likewise, the same can be said about the importance of mapping out your morning every day before work.
Mapping out your day allows you to choose your destination. Your Morning Map provides you with coordinates of what you need to do to be successful for the day. Without the Map, you end up walking into the office in the morning, putting your briefcase down, sitting in your chair, and staring blankly at your desk, at your computer, and at your phone. Worst yet, without a plan, the first thing you’ll end up doing is likely returning emails. In other words, you’re letting everyone else in your inbox control your day.
Here’s how the Morning Map works.
When you plug in your destination into your GPS unit, what happens? Everyone knows that you receive turn-by-turn directions. The Morning Map works the same way. I am going to work under an assumption that you have a master list of tasks that you keep in some repository such as Evernote, Todoist, et cetera. If you don’t already have this, let’s talk! Before you leave work for the day or the very first thing you do before you get to work in the morning is scan through your master list of tasks and ask yourself this very important question: “What few things must absolutely go right in order for me to have a successful day today?”
Do not pick 10 things off the list. I’m talking about tasks that, if they do not get done, will put you behind schedule in projects, it will make you miss a deadline, or you will lose a sales opportunity. Pick just three. If I’m being liberal about it, then let’s say no more than five. The tasks you choose must be mission critical. View each of these tasks as your turn-by-turn directions on the GPS. Each one will enable you to get to your final destination … which undoubtedly is a productive day.
But the hard work of choosing what few things must go right does not end there. Now, evaluate your calendar for the day. Do you have time to get these few things done? If your calendar is filled with back-to-back conference calls and client meetings, will you have the time? Are there any uninterrupted blocks in which you can get these things done? If the answer is no, it’s time to recalibrate. There is no sense whatsoever to set your day up for failure. Do it again. What must get done that you have time to do. If you plot out three things that must get done but don’t have time in the day to do it, then you will as if you were not productive. On the other hand, if you do have time in your calendar, then block out your time. Whether you are blocking it out so that others who have access to your calendar within your organization see that you are busy and therefore cannot schedule meetings with you at that time or whether you are doing it for yourself – block it out. It is as useful as it is psychological. Knowing that you’ve physically blocked out time to get these few things right is equally critical. Get these things done in as uninterrupted fashion as you can; for being interrupted with phone calls, e-mails, and people unexpectedly stopping into your office is like getting a tire blowout on your way to your final destination. It’s annoying. It’s a pain. And it puts you substantially behind schedule. Because just one interruption can mess up your entire day. Control your day as opposed to the other way around.
Now, some may giggle at my preposterous suggestion, but I’m going to encourage you to physically write them down on a piece of paper. I’ve talked about the benefits of paper here and here (and well, admittedly a bit compulsive about finding the right notebook for me [see here, here, and here]), but it works. The physical act of writing as opposed to typing (sorry, Alexandra Samuels, I still think you’re incorrect!), has been proven to have greater impact on how our brain functions. Sure, I don’t have citations to back up that statement, but if you like, I’ll do the research!
To help you on your journey to create your perfect Morning Map, I’ve created one for you. It is 100% free and my way of encouraging you to print these out and make it a habit! (While you’re downloading free content, you can also download my Creating Lasting Habits Today! workbook).
You will see that right below the name, “Morning Map”, I remind you to ask yourself “What few things must absolutely go right in order for my day to be successful?” before writing down your list. On the top right hand side of the page, you have a place to write in the date. Taking a cue from the good people at the Whitelines notebook company, I intentionally made the background for your list darker and the lines white. The theory being is that you’ll focus more on lines. Then, write down those three to five things that must go right for the day and feel good about checking it off!
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Don’t forget to take a look at all of the productivity eBooks available in the DEG Consulting Bookstore!