Whatever you do, you’ll never have enough time, says Simon Chaplin, so you need to make the most of every single day.
One of the questions I often get asked at my events is, “How has GreenStones been so successful when you take so many holidays, only work three days a week and spend lots of quality time with Sally, Ben and Aimie?” (Sally is my wife and Ben and Aimie are aged four and two respectively).
One thing is for sure, though. I am far more productive when I have absolute clarity about what I want to achieve, whether that be for the next year, next quarter, next week or – more likely – the next day.
Before I stared using my daily planner I’d find that I’d turn up at work and the first thing I would do was open and then check my emails or social media accounts. That would often lead to me getting ‘sucked in’ to other peoples’ to-do lists and before I knew where I was the whole morning had gone by, seemingly without anything getting done.
That all changed when I started planning the next day before I left work. I devised a daily planner that I fill out at the end of each day which gives me absolute clarity on what I want to achieve the following day.
And it is never “answer all my emails”!
You are more than welcome to a copy of my planner (see notes at the end of this article) but here is the basic gist of it.
Two-thirds of the A4 sheet is taken up with reviewing that day’s performance. I find that puts me in the right frame of mind to work out what I need to do to be productive the following day.
It starts with reviewing what was good about the current day, what I am finding challenging at the moment, and what I am looking forward to about tomorrow. I celebrate the success, accept the challenge and start thinking about how I can make what’s good about tomorrow even better!
This process gives me closure on what is happening in my work life that day and enables me to go home without lots of things on my mind. It helps me to sleep better.
The next third of the planner is devoted to KPIs for the day. Did I make enough proactive calls? Did I thank a team member? Did I support someone? The answers to these questions (and all the others in that section) will often influence what I plan to do the following day. The questions are the important things I want to focus on.
Then I get to the most enjoyable bit: identifying three things I want to achieve the following day. Very often these things become obvious as I complete the first part of the form, but occasionally I have to go to my electronic to-do list for inspiration.
There are always three actions. I always write down the reason that completing each action the following day is important and an exact time (to the minute!) that I am going to complete them.
Timing is everything
It is not very often that I complete an action at that exact time, but someone told me ages ago that you are seven times more likely to complete an action if you set an exact time to complete it than if you don’t. I have no idea where that statistic comes from, but it works for me so I do it!
The form then gets put in the centre of my desk so it is the first thing I see when I start work the next day.
It takes less than five minutes to complete and gives me clarity on what I need to do.
If you’d like a copy of my daily planner just email me on [email protected] and I will gladly send one to you.
• Simon Chaplin AKA Socks-Up Simon, supports accountants and their teams to be the best they want to be. Simon can be contacted at [email protected] or on 01733 371180.
This article is taken from “Accounting Practice” the ICPA quarterly magazine. Dedicated to supporting and promoting the needs of the general practitioner. You can find us at www.icpa.org.uk or email [email protected] or by phone on 0800-074-2896.