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Here’s the deal: there will always be more in a day than you can accomplish. You will never get to the end of the day and think, “Wow! I finished all the work!” That’s just the life of a business owner.
This can feel discouraging because it can seem like you’re chipping away at an ever-increasing mountain (in a way, you are). But the way to survive mentally is to set specific tasks for yourself. I’m not talking about your never-ending task list, but rather the 3 most important things you will accomplish tomorrow.
You’ve heard me talk about this before, but it’s extremely important and that’s why I need to tell you again (and probably because you’re still not doing it):
You need to write down the 3 most important things you will accomplish tomorrow, today.
Write them down today. Put them on a sticky note and stick it to your monitor so it’s there ready for you in the morning. I personally use a to-do app on my computer for task management, but I actually recommend going analog on this and using a true sticky note because you don’t have to go opening up the right app and looking for it. It’s a reminder that’s right there in front of your face.
Tomorrow morning, focus on just getting those 3 things done in the day. If you do this, you will feel accomplished even though there’s always more work to be done. You will know that you completed what you set out to do in a day.
Don’t Check Email in the Morning
Something that will absolutely destroy whatever aspirations you had for what you would accomplish in a day is your email inbox. Your inbox is a list of other people’s agenda for you. It’s the opposite of your own agenda.
The vast majority of people check their inbox from their phone right when they wake up in the morning. I want to briefly share three reasons why it’s a terrible idea to check your inbox right when you wake up.
1. It Puts You in Reactive Mode
When you look at your inbox right away, you’re looking at the tasks that others have for you to do. This sets the tone for your day. You’re going to be reacting to things all day and constantly be in catch-up mode without ever getting ahead.
The world is always going to have priorities for you. It’s not very convenient, but that’s what the inbox is. If you only reply to what other people ask, you can’t do the work or make the content that compels them to contact you in the first place. Don’t check the email inbox as the first thing you do.
2. It Makes You Slave to Other People’s Agenda for You
Here’s the question you need to ask yourself:
Do you want to disappoint other people, or do you want to disappoint the future version of yourself?
Because they’re going to forget tomorrow. You’re feeling bad because there’s “important” emails and bad things will happen if you don’t respond at 7am instead of 8am. If we’re honest with ourselves, most likely this is not the case and it’s more that it makes us feel important to operate this way.
I think you are an important person. That’s why I want you to act like it by taking control of your own time and agenda. I want you to worry about disappointing the future version of yourself.
- Are you proud of the work you did today?
- Are you proud of the work you did yesterday?
If you’re not, you need to change something. You feel bad about not getting back to this person fast enough, but they’ve already forgotten. We all send emails to people and haven’t gotten replies back. You’ve sent hundreds of emails and never gotten replies back. I doubt you’re losing sleep over them. You’ve probably forgotten.
3. It Zaps Your Most Precious Energy
We just got sleep and charged up our bodies. Our brains are working for us while we sleep. Our subconscious is working on the next day’s problems and is setting us up for a head start.
The charge of sleep gives us the most precious energy of the day. You may not feel energized physically, and it may take that first cup of coffee to see straight, but your mental energy is at peak. Bonus points if you wrote down the three most important tasks you needed to do the night before, because your brain will be working on those for you too.
The first 30 minutes of your day need to be spent on your priorities. Use that charge of sleep wisely. Start with 30 minutes, but work up to spending the first hour or two on your priorities.
3 Good Things That Happen When You Don’t Check Email in the Morning
We talked about the downsides of checking email and why it’s detrimental to your productivity, but if we flip each of those around, we get the positives of not checking email right away.
- It puts you in Proactive Mode.
- You will conquer the day.
- It makes you master of your agenda.
- You’ll get the important things done.
- It capitalizes on your precious energy.
- The most potent energy is spent on the most important work.
Keep a Business Journal
As a bonus, I would also highly recommend journaling. Get an app like Day One and at the end of every day, take three to five minutes to write down what you did. Write it down in detail, no matter how minute it feels to you.
You will be surprised at how much you did and what you accomplished.
If you don’t do this, you will go through every day doing a ton of little things that you forget by the end of the day and you will look back without a sense of accomplishment. By journaling and forcing yourself to chronicle your accomplishments, it will solidify in your mind that you actually are getting things done and you actually are being productive.
Think of Journaling as a Text Message
Quick tip on journaling: think of it as more of a text message and less of a blog post. I know for myself, what made me stop journaling (when I wish I hadn’t) was feeling like it was too much of a hassle. I felt like I had to sit down and essentially write another blog post. This was too much pressure and I ended up putting it off.
By instead thinking of journaling as a text message, I found that the words flowed much more easily. The Day One journal app would pop up a reminder and I’d treat it like a friend was asking me how my day went over text message. This little mind trick made all the difference for me.
When you do this and you finish those tasks by 2pm and you still have the rest of the day to tackle anything else, you will feel on top of the world and you will be on your way toward making real progress in your business.
What are you going to accomplish today?