For Small Wins, Think Bigger Picture

If you’re like me, when faced with the ill-defined obstacle of “all of the stuff that needs to get done,” it’s very tempting to immediately launch into action. But any sports team knows better than to attack blindly; you need a savvy strategy to succeed. A champion squad would never enter the arena without a game plan, nor should you.

As the work-life (and school-life) distinction blurs, and performance demands continually rise at the office and in the classroom, it’s hard if not impossible to feel like work is ever done. If by some miracle we do make it through today’s to-do list, it rarely feels like enough. There’s always more to do! So how can we achieve what we want to and be satisfied with our efforts? The key is to think bigger picture before diving into the small tasks, and remember the 3 Rules for Adulting™: Time and Kind/Seek Feedback/Make Adjustments.

Here are some more detailed guidelines for making a winning daily action plan:

  1. Plan the night before. You’ll go to sleep knowing that you’ve got a plan of attack for the next day, and you won’t have to waste precious energy in the morning trying to get your act together. 
  2. Write out all of the things that you want to do tomorrow. Each item should take ≤ 1 hour (for larger tasks, break them into little chunks).  Prioritize the list, ranking the most important #1.
  3. The next day, start working on your list. Begin with #1 and work your way through in sequence. Don’t move on to any other task until you’ve finished the one at hand. Depending on the number and complexity of your tasks, you may not get through them all, but you will get through the ones you’ve identified as most important.

Moving systematically through your prioritized list helps you not to waste energy on worrying about what to do and when to do it. It will also help you to build the grit needed to stick with a task until you’ve gotten it done, making you much more effective at accomplishing your daily goals. At the end of the day, you can easily see all that you’ve achieved, which will motivate you to do more good work tomorrow. You’ll be less stressed and irritable, and more focused, energized, and productive. Task by task and day by day, your small wins will accumulate into bigger gains.

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