If I were to choose just one time management/productivity hack, I would go for Stephen R. Covey’s “Roles & Goals” concept from the “First things First” quadrant. It’s one of the most practical aspects of productivity — especially if you’re involved in so many projects (yes, your work is just another project — perhaps your most important one!).
First things First taught me the value of weekly planning, something I’ve been practicing for quite some time. Because it just works.
You have two ways to do this:
- List down all the roles that you play in your life (not more than 10 please). For example: Marketing Manager, Husband, Father, Son, Friend, Volunteer, Baseball Coach etc. Once you’ve listed these down, list down the three most important goals you would like to focus on this week. Just focus on these goals… tackle the “lesser-important” goals as they come by.
- List down all the projects that you’re working on (not more than 10 please). For example: Work, Personal, Side Gig, Learning & Education etc. Again, list down the most important goals you would like to focus on these areas. Table the “lesser-important” goals as they come by.
Don’t be fooled by its simplicity. One of the biggest challenges that we face on a daily basis is getting busy with “got-a-minute” activities. They literally suck the marrow of your life! Making you work so much harder than required.
Focusing on the three most important tasks forces you to utilise your time well. Don’t try hard to have MITs in all these areas, that’s not required. If you have them, fantastic, you know what to do with them. If not, list down the “lesser-important” goals and roll with them when you think the time is right.
Another hack that I’ve been using of late is to not apply a due date for all the tasks. Week planning gives you the flexibility to tackle these tasks when your energy is at its peak. I remember last year I tried using ToDoist (an online task management app, I’ve moved over to Asana and Basecamp ever since) where I had a 100 tasks with a due date attached to all of them! Those three weeks were pretty crazy!
Not having the due dates takes off a lot of stress and surprisingly makes you productive by putting you back in control. After all, you cannot be productive if you’re not in control.
The combination of roles & goals (or projects & goals) with MITs and no due dates will add a lot of firepower to your arsenal. Use it wisely and enjoy being super-productive!