Never Begin the Day Until it is Finished on Paper – The Practice of Personal Productivity

Ken Haigh  —  November 12, 2011 — 4 Comments

Back in September, Mark Deaton, a reader of this blog, quoted Jim Rohn, a well known businessman and speaker. Jim stated that you should “never begin the day until it is finished on paper.” These fine gentleman are pointing out the importance of planning your day.

In the last post, we talked about the importance of starting your week right. In this post, we will discuss the importance of starting you day right with the daily planning session.

What is the Daily Planning Session?
Each morning I spend roughly thirty minutes preparing for my day. During the daily planning session, I review my weekly outcomes and then determine the tasks that I want to accomplish during the day. As described in the overview, I follow these steps:

  1. Empty inbox and create action items – My inbox contains all the stuff in my life I need to remember or take action on. If I think of something, I send myself an email. Each morning I process my inbox using the “delete, delegate, defer, and do” methodology. I avoid trying to read an email more than once. In some cases, I don’t read emails due to inbox rules I have created to automatically remove and file messages.
  2. Record yesterday’s results – Capture whether or not I completed yesterday’s daily tasks and record any lessons learned if I did not complete a task.
  3. Review weekly outcomes – I review my weekly outcomes and mark off any completed outcomes.
  4. Review previous day lessons learned – Since I will likely carryover uncompleted tasks from the day before, I review yesterday’s lessons learned.
  5. Set daily tasks (3-5 items) – I determine what is the next action in achieving one or more of the remaining outcomes and block time to accomplish those tasks for that day.

Why these steps work

  1. By cleaning your inbox in a batch, you can avoid disruption during the day (productivity killer).
  2. By reviewing your weekly outcomes, you can ensure your effort for the day is aligned with your weekly outcomes and you are making progress towards those outcomes.
  3. By setting your daily tasks, you can avoid the “tyranny of the urgent” and keep focused during your day. In addition, setting your tasks gives you the opportunity to set realistic goals.
  4. By setting your daily tasks, you also create accountability for yourself. Personally, I find that I push to complete my tasks before I go home.
  5. By capturing and reviewing your lessons learned from yesterday, you avoid making the same mistake twice.

Questions for you: Do you run the day or does the day run you? Why or why not?

  • Anonymous

    Nice post Ken.  I tend to process most of life from a non-binary perspective that places interesting questions along a spectrum, instead of at either ends, and I think this one falls in that gray zone for me, too, for a couple of reasons, one of which is the interrupt-driven nature of my job.  With that said, planning on the ways I know in advance my day is going to run me, allows me to turn the tables and run it!  Usually…  :-)

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for stopping by and the feedback.  Managing interruptions during the day is a common struggle for us all.  This topic might be worth a post on its own.

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  • Ryan Cook

    Ken – I’m always open to insightful posts on making the day more useful. I cannot disagree more with Step #1 – email. This is where other people throw their priorities at you. I won’t even look at my email until my most important task is complete. To avoid failing to respond to “important” emails, I delegated my email to my assistant and she only passes on to me stuff that absolutely needs my attention. If it requires my immediate attention, she has the authority to interrupt me to get an answer…otherwise it can wait until my most important task is complete or first thing after lunch.

    Recording your results is incredibly important. We need to capture where we succeeded and failed and how we can improve.