Print out the spreadsheet above then follow along. I use this page to help guide me through my week. I fill it out every Monday morning but some clients find it more useful to do this last thing on Fridays for the following week so that they hit the ground running Monday morning.
Start with a printed hardcopy and write the date so that you can identify each week for later review. Then write out your personal mission statement. Resist the temptation to just have this as a part of the printed page. There is power in physically writing it out as a reminder of what you are about before tackling your week.
The same is true for the 3 goals that you want to accomplish this year. Writing these out weekly helps to remain focused on the big picture. It is mentally taxing for our minds to plan for and remember more than 3 things at a time. This is the Rule of Three. When we break it down to just 3 things then we can focus better and accomplish more. When a yearly goal is accomplished, check it off and write a new one in its place. These are mostly big business goals but personal ones can come into play here as well.
Next are 3 things that you need to accomplish this month in order to reach your yearly goals. Then come 3 weekly things you need to do to accomplish the monthly goals. Finally are the 3 daily things you need to do to accomplish your weekly goals.
Below the goals is a section for “Pomodoros.” This focus technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s after he did poorly on his first round of college tests. Francesco did some research on focusing and found that the typical human brain can hyper-focus on 1 task optimally for 23 minutes. He had a kitchen timer in the shape of a tomato that was made in Italy (pomodoro is Italian for tomato). He set it for 23 minutes and would study with limited interruptions and distractions. When the timer went off he would take a 5-minute break then do another 23 minutes. He did 4 rounds of these then took a longer break to eat, get some exercise and other things he needed to do. He studied like this for his next round of tests and as a result his grades dramatically increased. I used this technique when I went to the University of Georgia a few years ago to become certified as an executive coach. Pomodoro units are great any time you want to hyper-focus during your day to get a lot done. These are great for short-term work but also for those big projects that are daunting to get started because you know how many hours it will take to complete. You may not be that excited or have 4 hours to give to the project today but you can see how much you can get done in 25 minutes. I tweaked this to 25 minutes with 5-minute breaks to make it a half hour total. It is a methodical and disciplined way to get things done. There is space for 3 of these each day but tweak your schedule to what fits you. Some days I do 2 or 3 units and some days I don’t need to do any. The key is to turn off the alerts on your computer, silence your phone and turn it over once the timer starts so that you don’t watch the clock as a distraction. When the alarm sounds take a break. Even if you feel you don’t need them, breaks are important to reset your focus. I use a free app called Simple Interval Timer (SIT) to set up the blocks and breaks but your phone probably has clock alarms you can use as well.
Below the pomodoros there is a section for the necessary ‘To Do’s” that need to get done as a part of your professional and personal life. These things may not get you closer to your daily 3 goals but they are necessary to practically function.
At the bottom is a spot to write down something “To Enjoy” that day. To be the most productive it helps if you have something to look forward to ideally at the end of the day. It can be dinner with family, a movie you want to watch that evening or whatever provides an incentive to keep grinding during the challenging parts of your day.
On Mondays, I will look out over my week and fill in some things on my sheet that I know will need to be done but for the most part I fill out each day one day at a time. Anything you don’t accomplish moves to the next day or even the next week. Focus on what you did accomplish and keep moving. I find a lot of satisfaction in physically checking things off as I go. Avoid putting meetings and appointments from your calendar on this sheet. Reserve this for things you functionally need to get done. The point is to give it a try this next week to see it work then tweak it to suit your needs. I think you will find the exercise of setting goals for the year, month, week and day profitable. I have had clients tell me that this one exercise revolutionized their approach to work. They report a dramatic increase in their focus, productivity and mental outlook as a result. Give it a shot this week and see what happens.