I read an online article about a successful executive who had the daily habit each morning of writing himself a note on the topic ‘three things that will make today a success’ and carrying that note in his pocket throughout the day. It sounds like a great idea.
I tried a similar version by putting a section “THREE THINGS WOULD MAKE TODAY A SUCCESS” at the top of my electronic diary page in OneNote. This is something that I carry around and refer to often throughout the day.
After about two weeks of trying this approach I come to this conclusion: If I could make today a success by accomplishing just three key projects, then my quality of life would be significantly improved!
In reality, my daily schedule typically includes a list of about 20 things that need to be accomplished to make today a success. The list is a mix of important projects (for example, negotiate the details of a new client deal), time-critical tasks (things like get money into the bank account for payroll, pay a tuition bill by the deadline and attend a networking meeting at 4 pm) and personal or value-based items (get some exercise, fix the leak on the washing machine and call a family member on their birthday).
In reality, on any given day I get about 10 of those estimated average 20 tasks completed. This creates stress and a perception of lack of success with the day. I get up early the next day, tack the list, get half way through, and then collapse from exhaustion late the next evening. And so it goes.
The “three things…” approach is completely unworkable!
So the next question comes into focus: How could it be possible to trim the list of items that would make today a success down to a manageable number? I don’t see how from my current perspective. I don’t know any small practice CPAs or small business owners who don’t feel overwhelmed by the number of projects on their plate each day. I feel discouraged by the number of peers – accountants, attorneys and business owners – who turn to unhealthy lifestyles to help cope with this stress.
For now, the best solution I can come up with is to prioritize my thinking to gain clarity on two classes of projects: 1) the things that will make the most difference in my life over the long-term (ie. getting up from my computer and walking on most days) and 2) those that will cause the most damage if I fail to do them today (for example, missing a filing deadline that will result in losing a legal case).