The priorities that you set, the way you organize your agenda, the kinds of decisions you make today will set you up for great tomorrows. As an added bonus, you won’t look back when your todays become yesterdays and regret opportunities lost, time squandered.
In this life of distractions and endless choices, it can be tough to focus on the now. Let’s look at some strategies to zero in on what really matters.
1. Do a priority inventory.
Make a list of the things that matter most to you. Your list should be broad in scope. It will offer you clarity and will simplify your decision making. Remember that the most successful people are those who settle their critical issues early and manage them daily.
2. Hone your decision-making skills.
Too many times, we fall into the trap of second-guessing ourselves, dwelling on past choices and reversing course. If your decisions align with your priorities, chances are you made the right ones in the first place. Honor them.
3. Be deliberate in your use of time.
You can tell a lot about people from their daily habits. Do you start each day with a tangible goal? Is your agenda predetermined? Do you toggle aimlessly from website to website? Are your coffee breaks longer than your time on task? Are your life’s priorities evident from your daily actions?
Time is our most precious commodity, and the one we seem to squander most. Could the 15 minutes you’ll spend fiddling with your phone be spent listening to an educational podcast? Could the hour you’ll lose to online shopping be devoted to an after-dinner walk, a book, a spontaneous date?
“Guard well your spare moments,” Ralph Waldo Emerson advised. “They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them, and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life.”
4. Don’t mistake activity for advancement.
Time-management expert Alec Mackenzie says most executives don’t get to their most important tasks until midafternoon. Why? They are tackling the trivial stuff on their to-do lists just so they feel like they’ve accomplished a lot before lunch.
I read a story once about Charles Schwab, president of Bethlehem Steel in the early 20th century. Schwab’s company was successful, but he thought it could do better. He hired management consultant Ivy Lee to help him streamline operations. Lee told Schwab to write down the six most critical things he had to do the next day in order of importance.
“Now,” Lee continued, “put that paper in your pocket and first thing tomorrow morning, take it out and look at item No. 1. Don’t look at the others, just No. 1, and start working on it and stay with it until it is completed.” Once it was done, Schwab was told to do the same with No. 2, No. 3 and so on. “Don’t worry,” Lee said, “if you finish only one or two items” — Schwab would advance his company further if he met a few critical goals than he would if he took little bites off of multiple tasks. Bethlehem Steel, of course, grew to become one of the most pre-eminent companies of its time.
Our todays slip by too quickly, and we find ourselves stuck in tomorrows that don’t look anything like those of our dreams. Stop daydreaming, start prioritizing and wring every beautiful minute out of every beautiful day.
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