Having a written plan of action is like creating a contract with yourself to focus on high-value activities each day.
I've been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. Before I developed a daily plan of action, I lived in a world of distraction, chaos, and confusion--which started to take a toll on my business as an advisor. So I created a template that I call the daily progress report and that I use with my time-management clients.
Like me, you've probably found the need to develop some sort of daily planning strategy. Maybe your default strategy is shower planning: You wake up in the morning, hop into the shower, and review in your mind the overwhelming number of projects and tasks before you. Or perhaps you're a to-do list planner: Using a to-do list is one step above shower planning because it at least sorts through the hundreds of unfinished tasks you thought of in the shower.
A real daily plan of action, however, focuses your limited time on the most valuable activities--those activities that will drive your business. Those high-value activities include: calling more prospects, holding more face-to-face client meetings, telling more people about the products and services you offer, and asking more people to do business with you. When you increase the number of high-value actions, you will grow your business.
How to Build a Daily Plan of Action
Any daily plan of action begins with a series of questions:
>What is on my calendar?
>What projects am I working on? What are the next steps I need to take?
>Is today the best day to work on that project?
>Do I have any deadlines?
>Is someone waiting on me to complete a task?
>What is on my to-do list?
>What is the highest and best use of my time today?
>What actions move me closer to my longer-term goals?
>What additional supplies or information do I need to complete a task?
>Can I complete the task by myself?
>How can I narrow down my to-do list?
>What activity should I work on first?
>How long will each activity take to complete?
>When should I work on each task?
You then filter the unlimited number of tasks you could work on in any given day into the highest value activities you will commit to work on for that particular day.
Where to begin? Take just seven minutes each night to begin to create your plan of action for the next day. Use that time to create a typical to-do list. At this point, it doesn't matter if the task is high value or low value, or if the task is a work project or a personal project. Just use the seven minutes to write down everything you need to do.
Then in the morning, take seven minutes to review and recalibrate your daily plan of action. Plans change, a client drops by, or you receive an unexpected phone call. Daily planning requires flexibility and agility. It is a best practice to review and recalibrate your plan based on changing circumstances.
Using the Daily Progress Report
You can use my daily progress report template to further refine your daily plan of action.
On the top right of the daily progress report, you will see a section titled, "What I will do … 5 before 11." Take your to-do list and prioritize the five highest value activities you will commit to accomplish before 11:00. You will never have enough time to do everything on your to-do list. You need to do the right things. Be sure to check off the tasks as you complete them. The checkmark can be a mysterious, motivating action, because you see yourself making progress.
If you complete five high-value activities over the next week, you will have accomplished 35 high-value tasks. If you complete five high-value activities over the next 90 days, you will take 450 steps closer to your business goals.
Let;s walk through the rest of the template.
'7 Minute Life' Connections
Each day should involve connecting with others: Success is built on connections. Write down the names of three people with whom you will commit to connect with for the day. You might call a prospective client, a colleague, or a center of influence. Never let your network die.
Use the unfinished tasks segment of the daily progress report as a "capture tool." Use this space to capture ideas, actions you want to take, and things you don't want to forget. Include unfinished tasks such as tackling emails in your inbox and returning phone calls.
What I Spent
Do you track your daily spending, in terms of actual dollars or time? Are you making conscious decisions on how you choose to spend your cash or the time in your day? Or, are you making tiny, unconscious purchases that are adding up? As you go through your day, use this section to become more aware about how you "spend" the hours in your day.
Track the number of contacts you make each day. Use each line to write down the names of the prospects, clients, admins, and influencers you call, email, and communicate with. Are you talking to the right people? Are you making high-value contacts? How many high-value contacts are you making?
Tracking your daily contacts is an eye-opening experience. If you are making 10 outbound calls per day, what would happen if you made 15 outbound calls? If you are hosting two face-to-face meetings per week, what would happen if you committed to host one appointment per day? Increasing your daily number of contacts is the easiest way to grow your business.
Tracking Wellness Choices
Every choice you make--including your daily wellness choices--affects your daily productivity. We all know that wellness activities such as staying hydrated, eating regularly, and taking a break from the computer and desk can improve focus and therefore output over the course of a day. Track these activities daily, and you may become more effective.
Did I Do What I Said I Would Do?
At the end of the day, the most important question is, "Did I do what I said I would do?" The answer is yes or no. A daily plan of action is meaningless if it isn't executed against.
Allyson Lewis is a nationally acclaimed motivator, speaker, time management and productivity strategist, executive coach, best-selling author of The 7 Minute Solution and The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner, and founder of www.The7MinuteLife.com. Download her latest time management report: http://the7minutelife.com/free-report/
To take advantage of the free time management worksheets, webinars, and more, subscribe to The7MinuteLife.com and follow her on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/the7minutelife and Twitter: @allyson7minutes