When I’m planning my day, I make a point of prioritizing the tasks I have. I usually plan out my day with 3 or 4 absolutely must do tasks, and (through trial and error) I do these tasks first thing in the morning.
I don’t want to go into the whole “stones, pebbles and sand” story (though it is very true), but I do want to stress the importance of getting the big important things done first.
If I had to do three things in one day, I could choose to do it two different ways. One is the way I’ve already mentioned, getting everything done and out of the way first thing in the morning. The other way is to have them spaced throughout the day with other little things in between.
The problem with the second approach is not necessarily spacing the tasks out, but it is the smaller less important tasks that become the problem.
These small tasks essentially are procrastination tools. They let us distract ourselves and avoid doing the big things. There are two ways that they do this. The first is that they can last longer than what we planned, and we end up running out of time to do the important tasks.
The second is the way in which we tend to do other small tasks after we’ve completed them. I’ve spent many hours sat at my computer getting nothing done because I’m thinking of small things that I could do “while I’m here”.
Before I gave tasks priority, I would spend all day achieving lots of things that meant nothing. I didn’t achieve anything that resulted in any real progress. All I could say at the end of a day was that I’ve maybe cleared a drawer, or I’ve arranged my books neatly, or I’ve got a really nice new desktop wallpaper.
I couldn’t say that I’m one step closer to achieving my goal. The really important things that I needed to achieve were pushed back, and pushed back so far that they wouldn’t get done.
I changed that a while ago, and now I make sure the important things have priority, I make sure I know about this priority rather than just thinking about it, I write it down, underlined, circled, capital letters, whatever it takes to get me to understand that I must do that task. Then I make sure I do all of them first thing in the morning.
I used to exercise first thing in the morning, but I found that by the time I was starting what I needed to do, it was getting later and later in the day. I’d exercise, shower, eat, and then I’d be doing roaming around lazily until I finally made some progress.
Pushing everything out of the way for my most important tasks help me to achieve things everyday. I’ve found that the more I do this, the easier it becomes to get tasks done. My first few hours in a morning are hardcore non-stop work, I’m driven and focused, and I get my tasks completed.
The other small things I have to do are usually easy, and pretty mundane, so I can spend the rest of the day going through these at whatever pace I choose, since I’ve already done what I needed to do.
In essence, I’ve put the big rocks in first, and the sand still fits in easily.