The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is now. (Chinese proverb)
I always find a lot of inspiration in this simple sentiment. It doesn’t matter where you are relative to your goals; the only “best time” available to organize, start or complete them is now. Here are a few tips to help you take advantage of now.
1. Start your day strong. Carve out a few minutes before the urgency of the day takes over to create or look over your plan for the day. Identify the three things you must do, the things that will move you a bit closer to your goals. Commit to getting those items completed, no excuses! (You might enter these as activities in Matrix!)
2. Build on your habits – the good ones and the other ones too. If there is something you do all the time attach the new habit to it. For example, I have a habit of pulling out my phone to kill time when I’m waiting (for my coffee, for an appointment, for my car to defog or deice, for my kids, whatever). I made a rule that before I can engage in my normal time killers; I must check my Activity list in Matrix. Odds are I’ve completed something, need to add notes or have information to add. The idea of finding more time in my day to make these updates stresses me out, so I re-purpose a little of my “killing-time” time. This cheat SAVES me time later. Keep reading.
3. At the end of the day clear your desk, maybe literally and virtually. Take a minute to tidy up your in box and Activity list so you can start strong again tomorrow. Update and close things out that you completed, update and reschedule the things you didn’t get to. This is where the time-killer cheat kicks in. Most of the time I’ve updated just about everything and there isn’t much for me to do but roll forward the things I didn’t get to. On those days where it seems like my list got longer and nothing got done I go back to the three things I committed to in the morning. If I got those done, well, apparently that was all this day was going to allow and I’m okay with that.
The awesome part of this is that this practice compounds. Invest just a few minutes that you’d ordinarily spend in less fruitful ways and before long, you’ll realize you HAVE planted that tree.