Here’s a helpful tip from the Lifehacker book I mentioned in the previous post. Hack number 23 is “Set up a Morning Dash.”
Some days (most days?) it can seems almost impossible to get to anything on your next action list. Now, one of the very reasons that you have a next action list is to have some lines in the sand that enable you to say “no” to less important things that come up, so that you can focus on what you’ve determined to be most important.
But unexpected gear shifts will happen — which leads to another beauty of having a next action list: it enables you to re-evaluate and re-prioritize at a moment’s notice.
However, it remains true that we often feel that we have been unable to make the progress on things that we think we should. That’s where the morning dash comes in.
Gina Trapani writes:
There is one way to ensure that you’ll knock at least one thing off your list: dedicate the first hour of your day to your most important task before you check your email, or your paper inbox, or go to any meetings. …
Choose one task — even a small one — and tackle it first thing. Accomplishing something out of the gate sets the tone for the rest of your day and guarantees that no matter how many fires you’re tasked with putting out the minute you open your email client, you still can say you got something done.
Julie Morgenstern, author of Never Check E-Mail In the Morning, makes the same point, which Trapani also quotes:
Change the rhythm of the workday by starting out with your own drumbeat….When you devote your first hour to concentrated work — a dash — the day starts with you in charge of it rather than the other way around. It’s a bold statement to the world (and yourself) that you can take control, pull away from the frenetic pace, and create the time for quiet work when you need it. In reality, if you don’t consciously create the space for the dashes, they won’t get done.
This is good advice. Peter Drucker himself suggests something similar, counseling us in The Effective Executive to “consolidate your time” into as large of chunks as possible. He writes:
The effective executive executive knows that he has to consolidate his discretionary time. He knows that he needs large chunks of time and that small driblets are no time at all. Even one quarter of the working day, if consolidated in large time units, is usually enough to get the important things done. But even three quarters of the working day are useless if they are only available as fifteen minutes here or half an hour there. (p. 49)
I’m on hour 3 of my morning dash right now — and I still feel like I need more time. But, time to get on with the rest of the day.