In yesterday’s post I listed what I called The Hierarchy of Getting the Important Stuff Done. Truthfully, I wasn’t prepared for the immediate and passionate response from my readers.
It seems that staying focused on priorities is one of the toughest jobs we all have.
Several readers correctly identified that while I had outlined the path for staying focused, I hadn’t addressed just how you stay on that path. So, that’s what I want to address today.
There are lots of time management systems out there and I don’t profess to claim that my adopted method is anything more than the cobbling together of systems from some terribly genuine and creative people like Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach and David Allen of GTD. I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with both and credit them with a great deal of my thinking on managing myself.
I will say that, like any good hack, I have my own take and it starts with a focus on managing energy and the whole person over managing time. I wrote specifically about energy here.
People constantly remark that they have no idea how I get so much done. While it does involve mirrors and an incredible spouse, a great deal has to do with an organic system that I’ve used for years and have only recently been able to articulate.
The basic unit of my time and energy management tool and the thing that allows me to stay on important stuff done path is the week.
I divide each week up into days with a specific type of work plan. Each type of day plan has a unique emphasis that is biased towards a certain type of work. I have Intention Days, Attention Days and Ascension Days.
Intention Days are set aside to concentrate on my big ideas, my own personal growth and in some cases renewal. I take my higher purpose into these days and allow myself the luxury of dreaming.
At the risk of getting too personal, these are days when I often spend a lot of time alone and reassess meetings and feelings and words I’ve used wisely and unwisely. These are days when I forgive myself and forgive others. This type of renewal allows me to tap that little flicker of creativity that I so often attempt to extinguish.
While I intentionally protect my thoughts and actions on these days I don’t go as far as banning all digital activity, I simply make certain that I witness my thoughts and spend time doing things I wouldn’t normally do. I go to art museums and read books about architecture and geometry.
Attention Days are set aside to spend as much time as possible making money. Now, this may sound a little too focused for some, but what I really do is spend time doing my three or four highest payoff activities. The kind of stuff that either makes me money now or lays the foundation for meeting objectives down the road.
For me that’s writing, creating products or courses, working with sponsors and customers or writing an email that entices people to sign up for a workshop.
I typically plan these days with my staff during our weekly all hands meeting and take them outside of the office to limit the temptation to stray from full attention.
These days are easy to plan as I limit them to just a few items. In some cases I may only get to creating a PowerPoint Deck and writing one article, but I know it’s the right work and I know it’s time well spent.
Ascension Days are days spent climbing the hill. It’s when I get to those meetings, interviews, WordPress plugin tweaks, accounting reviews, inbox emptying parties and pretty much everything else screaming in my ear.
Maybe one day I’ll get to the point where I never have these kinds of days, but I doubt it. Ascension Days are like physical therapy, you’ve got to do this work so you can grow and get to the high payoff work.
All of these types of days, in fact, all of this type of work, is important, but my experience tells me that if you don’t carve out and make time and space to dream and create and focus on priorities, every day will turn into a climb the hill day of stirring the noise.
My pattern for these days can change depending upon what’s going on around me, but I typically try to take one Intention and two Attention Days a week and it’s the thing that keeps me most sane.