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The Rhythm of Productivity – Reprise

Happy New Year!

As the holidays wrap up this week, it’s time to start thinking about the year ahead.

Black vector diagram of a metronome in motion
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I wrote about the rhythm of productivity back in October. Productivity — and living deliberately — flows from having a clear sense of where you are going. That way the choices you make on a daily, tactical level are supportive of your bigger goals.

A cycle of annual and quarterly planning sets the strategy that you execute with a weekly and daily rhythm.

You think ‘big picture’ and chart your course broadly at the beginning of the year. Then, on a quarterly basis, you make more specific plans that help you reach those ‘big picture’ goals.

Next, every week you lay out specific activities that you are going to work on, and finally, every day you identify tasks that must be done.

Get More Done This Year  — Big Picture Planning

What do you want to accomplish this year? Now is the time to think about that big picture perspective and cast your glance forward for 2014. Some questions to consider: What is your theme for the year? Where would you like to be at the end of the year — with your team? With your career? With your life?

Note that a year is a long time. Don’t be too specific here. You are charting a course. What direction do you want to head this year?

How to Make Big Goals Happen With Quarterly Reviews

A calendar quarter is the perfect period of time to make more specific plans. Breaking your bigger goals down into three month blocks will make it possible for you to realize your goals for the year.

So what is your strategy this quarter? What do you need to work on? What do you need to start this quarter? What do you need to get done this quarter?

See my article on How to Plan for a Breakout Quarter for more insights and tools that will help with the quarterly planning process.

Go from Planning to Doing: Weekly Activities

After deciding on your annual goals and breaking them down to figure what what to do this quarter, you should then set out confidently, mapping your course in weekly chunks. Identify the activities and tasks that must be done this week.

This is no longer planning — this is doing, this is execution. You are down in the trenches now. To use the metaphor from my article on quarterly planning, this is when you put your pack back on and start marching.

It is helpful to set aside some time at the beginning of the week, each week. This time can be used to clarify what you want to focus on this week. Then it is equally important to set aside some time at the end of the week to check in on your progress.

Get 3 Steps Closer Each Day: Choose Daily MITs

On a daily level you should be completely task driven.

I spend the first 10 – 15 minutes of each morning prioritizing the tasks that must get done that day, followed by the seemingly endless list of tasks that would be nice to complete. Each day I identify three MITs — Most Important Tasks.

These get done that day no matter what. It helps to address them first. Be gentle with yourself. There are only so many hours in a day and you are never going to get everything done on your list.

The power of using this rhythm of productivity is knowing that you are working on the right things and that you are doing so efficiently—so if you don’t get everything done, it’s because you have too much work on your plate, not because you’re not organized enough or efficient enough.

Next Steps

  • Brace yourself for a great year. You know you are going to be making your dent in the universe this year.
  • Set your theme and goals for the year ahead.
  • Define your strategy for this first quarter. What will you be working on?
  • Review How to Have a Breakout Quarter and use the Quarterly Planner to help clarify your course.

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