There's a lot of talk about planning your days and various ways to handle your to-do's. But what's often as important is reflection. Were the things I did today or this week really the most important ones? Did I have impact on my work? Should I have done something else instead? Did I do a lot of small minor things that really did not have an impact? Have I been postponing the important strategic things?
You can get better only by spending some time now and then by looking back at your finished items. The best way to do that is start recording not just your plans and to-do's, but also accomplishments. Call it a journal or diary, use paper, mobile or web-based tools. You can do that even without the planning part. Just put down what you achieved each day. If you want, add some commentary why it was important and what improved from that.
To get started, a great way is to write down just one thing you got done each day. What is the most important one big thing you got done today? What was the effect of it? That's five items per work week, twenty or so per month.
At least once per week, spend some quiet time to look at your journal. If you want, ask a co-worker or manager to look at your list and give their feedback. Are the 5 things per week, 20 per month good enough? What could be improved? More importantly, which things seem unimportant in hindsight, after a week, after a month?
Here are the key steps to take:
- Keep a daily accomplishments journal. Start from one item per day, later expand to 2-3, but not more. Make sure you record them each day.
- Take some time each week for analysis and personal reflection. Are you happy with the five key accomplishments? What about your co-workers or manager? Friday evening is a good time for this, or do it over the weekend. As you improve, do the analysis at the end of each day or each morning.
- Set next week's plans based on your insights. After reflection, think what to do better next week. Set your five or so key plans: what are the big hairy goals you want to accomplish the starting week?
While doing this, focus on quality, not quantity. There is no sense to put down ten items per day. Always think, what were the impactful key achievements.
Do this at least for a month and do and you'll start seeing great results in managing your time better and focusing on what's really important at work.
If you want a good mobile or web-based tool to do all this, give Weekdone a go. It works especially great in a team setting, but you can also use it on your own.
Read "Top 10 ways for a productive week" for other ways to get more done by being smarter and doing less.