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At the beginning of the day, the start of a new week, month or quarter, do you get stuck trying to pinpoint your next best move?
In the midst of any planning session, it's easy to feel lost trying to figure out what to do first, what project to pursue now, and which items on our to-do list are the most pressing.
What do you do next when everything feels important?
First, know this: “Every minute you spend planning saves 10 minutes in execution; this gives you a 1,000 percent return on energy.” -Brian Tracy
Carving out the time to prioritize your projects and create an organized plan helps you get more done in less time. To take planning a step further, we’re diving into three methods to decide what should be next, so you can do the right thing at the right time.
1. Know Your Vision and Values
Getting clear on your overall vision acts as a North Star to knowing what direction you’re headed. When you know your destination, the steps to get you there become more apparent.
There are two main types of visions that help you stay the course: one is a vision for your team that leads everyone towards a common goal, and the other is for your own personal aspirations.
If you’re missing a personal or professional vision, take some time to develop and articulate a statement that motivates, excites, and inspires you and your team.
Here are a few reflective questions to help uncover your vision:
- What’s your company's big-picture vision?
- Does your department or team have its own unique vision?
- What ambitions, desires, or expectations do you have for yourself?
Similar to knowing your vision, identifying your core values helps you to understand your goals on a deeper level. Knowing your core values and staying true to what‘s most important helps you assess which projects to take on and which ones to eliminate altogether.
When establishing your core values, it should be a list of about five to seven value-driven words. Any more than that and you begin to diminish their power, and any fewer you may not cover all your bases.
Every time you revise your list of core values, be sure to post them and make them visible as a reminder to you and for others to rally around!
Harness Your Energy
The key to harnessing your energy is to determine when you work best and sync your most prolific work with when you’re most alert.
There are three different biological chronotypes that help identify your unique rhythms to your day:
- Morning Larks experience their highest energy peak in the mornings. They experience a low mid-day and have an energy rebound in the afternoons.
- Night Owls have the most energy in the afternoon or evening.
- Third Birds have energy that typically peaks mid-morning.
Which one are you? Knowing which category you fit into helps you schedule your day more effectively.
If you're trying to decide what to do next on any specific day, know that you experience three different distinct energy phases throughout each day:
- Trough Period is the lowest energy point in your day. Plan to do something with low impact or tasks that require brainstorming or collaboration. Or, take a break!
- Peak Period is when you have the most energy and should be used for deep, focused work.
- Rebound Period is when your energy levels are midway through the Peak and Trough Periods. This is the best time to do creative work or work that requires focus but may not be the most important.
Now that you’re in touch with your vision and tuned into when you do your best work, apply the time blocking strategy to tie it all together.
Time blocking is when you prioritize your tasks and decide in advance when to block off a chunk of time on your calendar for each individual task.
Ideally, time blocking takes place during your Weekly Planning Session and again during your Morning Routine each day.
- Weekly Planning Session is the time you spend each week planning the week ahead. It’s your bird’s eye view of the coming week that enables you to plan in advance and is an essential practice for a sustainable workweek.
- Morning Routine prepares you mentally and physically for the day ahead.
It takes some strategic planning, but once your overall vision, energy, and intentional plan are all aligned you’ll know exactly what comes next with confidence.