You probably get a lot done during the day: juggling clients, putting out fires, making sales… the list goes on as to what can happen. Challenge to you, though: you might not be getting much done. Yes, fires were put out and sales were won, but how often does it feel like you actually made backward progress in terms of getting the important things done? I’m willing to wager that you frequently have that feeling.
Nothing to be ashamed of there. You (like many, MANY people) may find it hard to properly execute. People think they execute, but it’s hard not to fill your day being reactive to what’s happening to your businesses. Effective execution isn’t a skill that’s really taught, but it can indeed be learned with a highly advanced piece of technology: a 3×5 index card. Even better? I’m about to share it right here.
At the beginning of the day, take a 3×5 index card and map out, in order, what you want to get done during the day. This may feel like a to-do list, but that’s not what you’re trying to do. Don’t include things that you already do daily (such as checking your email); rather, only include objectives that would materially move your business forward.
Next, as you move through your day, write what you actually do, as you do it, on the other side of the card. Again, don’t include routine activities, but DO include unplanned activities such as ‘firefighting’ (whatever that actually looks like for your organization). At the end of the day, compare the front of the card to the back. How did you do?
- Did you complete all of your objectives?
- Were the ones finished done in order?
- Were there many unplanned activities?
Again, I’m willing to wager it went poorly: not all objectives completed, not in the order predicted, with lots of unplanned activities. You know what, though? That’s all right. The first few times utilizing this tool acts more as an indicator of how out of control your day really is. Sticking with it will make a difference over time. You’ll start to get a feel for how much you can really get done in a day, and eventually, even the order in which objectives will be completed. As you start to master calling your shots for the day, you can start to think about calling your shots for a week. The more you flex this muscle, the more in control of your destiny you become. Soon, you can start to call the shots for your month, quarter, and year.
Give it a try. All it’ll cost is an index card.