You know just how easy it is to get caught up in the daily grind of life. When you spend all day putting out fires, it’s easy to lose sight of those big, long-term goals.
Although some of those more tedious daily tasks may never go away entirely, you can start organizing your days with time carved out to work on those larger dreams and priorities. Here’s how to do it:
1. Begin with the end in mind.
Steve Jobs famously spoke about prioritizing his daily tasks based on what he would want to be working on if it were the last day of his life. He defined his long-term goals and then made sure that his to-do list was aligned with what he ultimately sought to accomplish.
How does what you are working on today fit with your big picture goals and priorities? If your tasks at hand aren’t helping you arrive at that end goal, it may be time to scrap what you’re doing and work backwards. Start with those long-term dreams, and figure out what you can do today to ensure you will get there.
2. Organize your tasks based on urgency and importance.
The Eisenhower Matrix is a time-tested method for dividing your to-do list into four categories: urgent and important, urgent but not important, important but not urgent, and neither urgent nor important.
Prioritize urgent and important tasks to be the first things you accomplish. If you’re able, delegate the urgent but unimportant tasks to someone else, leaving you plenty of time for your important but not immediately urgent items. These items will often include your larger business goals that transcend your daily tasks that can so easily bog down your day.
If a task is neither urgent nor important, either delegate it, scrap it, or save it for a space in your day when you need a mental break from your main tasks. Re-evaluate your matrix at the beginning of each day to ensure you are focusing your energy and attention on what is most valuable.
3. Schedule everything.
It’s easier said than done, but strictly scheduling your day will boost your productivity and give you the time to work on those bigger goals. You may not be able to avoid all of the more mundane tasks of your day; some of them are part and parcel with running a business. What you can do, though, is to place your tasks on a calendar rather than letting them sit on a simple to-do list.
Account for every minute of your work day. Then, stick to your calendar. If you have constructed it to be a reflection of your priorities, do not let yourself get sidetracked. Own your time.
When you schedule each of your tasks for the day, you have a defined start and finish time for each item, giving yourself control of your day. That ensures you have time to work on both your necessary daily tasks as well as your big picture goals.
4. Take advantage of your commute time.
You’re a business owner: There’s no way around the fact that you have a lot of work to do. Even after prioritizing your tasks as much as possible, they will still inevitably take up a fair chunk of time each day.
To make as much time as possible to chip away at your big goals, make use of your commute time. If you commute 20 minutes each way five days per week, that’s more than three additional hours of work time.
How you decide to use your commute time will vary based on your situation. Perhaps you can knock out some of those smaller, more tedious tasks: replying to emails, checking your voice messages, or scheduling meetings. Alternatively, you may find that your commute is the perfect opportunity to brainstorm or listen to podcasts that will inspire you to reach those long-term goals. Make your time work for you, even if it is your drive to work.
5. Keep your big ideas visible.
When your whiteboards are covered in sales and marketing metrics, you may easily lose track of what your long-term goals really are. It pays to write down your most important ideas and keep them in a place where you will see them and remember to keep them central each day.
How you do it is up to you. Hang an inspiration board with quotes and plans in your home office. Put sticky notes on your desktop. Let your big dreams and plans motivate you in the midst of all the small tasks necessary to get there. Don’t lose sight of the end you desire.
Organize each day, and even each hour, with your big goals in view. Work backwards from those goals to choose how you spend your time. As you take charge of each day, watch the future you want becomes less and less distant.