“We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”

By the time you read this, two weeks of 2014 have whizzed past.

So, how are you doing so far this year?

  • Are you still grappling with multiple writing projects and racing from one tight deadline to another?
  • Do you find yourself constantly interrupted by phone calls, email, and other distractions?
  • Do you work until midnight but have the gnawing feeling that you are going nowhere fast?
  • Is your to-do list getting longer and longer despite your best efforts?
  • Are you frustrated because there’s not enough time to get everything done?

You are not alone; most freelance writers are sinking in the same boat in this 24×7, hyper-connected, super-distracted online ocean.

Long before the current information-explosion era, people like us were desperately looking for ways to effectively manage time and improve productivity.

For example, about a hundred years ago…

Charles M. Schwab, President of the Bethlehem Steel Company, grudgingly granted an interview to Ivy Ledbetter Lee, a productivity expert, and reportedly told him, “We already know what needs to be done. What we need is more doing, not knowing. If you can give me a system to get more done, I’ll pay you anything.”

Lee replied, “I’ll give you a simple system that will only take a few minutes to implement every day. I want you and your executives to use this system and you can pay me whatever you think it’s worth.”

Schwab was skeptical, but a few months later, he sent Lee a note acknowledging that it was the most profitable advice he has ever received along with a check for $25,000 (worth several hundred thousand dollars today).

So what was the system that impressed Schwab so profoundly?

Here’s what Lee told him:

  • At the end of each day
    make a list of six of the most important tasks that you need to accomplish the next day.
  • Include no more than six items in this list.
  • Next, number them in the order of their importance – mark the most important task as #1, the next important as #2, and so on.
  • The following day
    pull out the list and start the first task on the list and keep at it until it’s complete.
  • Then move on to the next task and do that, and so on, until all the six tasks in the list are completed.
  • Once you’ve completed the list, you are free to do whatever you want.
  • If you can’t complete all the items on the list at the end of the day, you needn’t worry about it.
  • If you still need to do them, put the unfinished tasks on the next day’s list of six goals.

Three tips to implement this simple but brilliant system.

1. Create the list of your six daily goals the night before.

This tip alone will skyrocket your productivity tremendously.

Most of us write our list of daily goals first thing in the morning when we are our freshest and most productive. We waste time planning instead of doing.

2. Do your daily goals in the order of their importance

Even if you don’t complete all your six daily tasks, you’ll have the satisfaction of having achieved your most important tasks.
So, each day becomes a day of accomplishment instead of a day of random activity.

3. Cross the item off your list after you complete it

This simple physical act will give you a sense of ongoing progress, and therefore, motivation to move on to the next item on your list.

Try it; it’s inordinately satisfying. 🙂

Bonus tips:

Mark a specific time each day to set goals for the next day

Ensure that you create your daily goals checklist at the same time every day, by setting up a reminder on your cell phone or timer.

Do this while you’re still fresh, preferably not later than 9 pm.

Stop work as soon as the alarm goes off, even if you’re in the middle of anything important.

Resist the temptation to put it off until later.

It won’t take more than a few minutes to create your list of six goals and prioritize them for the next day.

Make it the most important ritual of the day.

Make it sacrosanct.

I dare you!

I challenge you to try out this six-goal system for 30 days.

Are you are willing to accept this challenge.

If not, why not?

Let me know in the comments below.

What’s your excuse?

(15 January 2014)

Rohi Shetty is a freelance writer who riffs about the importance of humor, mindful mojo, and creative entrepreneurship at http://rohishetty.com. He is also a star student of Danny Iny’s Audience Business Masterclass.

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