Four simple practices that serve a better prioritized and more intentional life:
1. Schedule in your calendar anything that feels important but not urgent — to borrow Steven Covey’s phrase. If it feels urgent, you’re likely going to get it done. If it’s something you can put off, you likely will — especially if it’s challenging.
The key to success is building rituals — highly specific practices that you commit to doing at precise times, so that over time they become automatic, and no longer require much conscious intention or energy. One example is scheduling regular time in your calendar for brainstorming, or for more strategic and longer term thinking.
The most recent ritual I added to my life is getting entirely offline after dinner each evening, and on the weekends. I’m only two weeks into the practice, but I know it’s already created space in my mind to think and imagine.
2. As your final activity before leaving work in the evening, set aside sufficient time — at least 15 to 20 minutes — to take stock of what’s happened that day. and to decide the most important tasks you want to accomplish the next day.
Clarifying and defining your priorities — what the researcher Peter Gollwitzer calls “implementation intentions” — will help you to stay focused on your priorities in the face of all the distractions you’ll inevitably face the following day.
3. Do the most important thing on your list first when you get to work in the morning, for up to 90 minutes. If possible, keep your door closed, your email turned off and your phone on silent. The more singularly absorbed your focus, the more you’ll get accomplished, and the higher the quality of the work is likely to be. When you finish, take a break to renew and refuel.
Most of us have the highest level of energy and the fewest distractions in the morning. If you can’t begin the day that way, schedule the most important activity as early as possible. If you’re one of the rare people who feels more energy later in the day, designate that time instead to do your most important activity.
4. Take at least one scheduled break in the morning, one in the afternoon, and leave your desk for lunch. These are each important opportunities to renew yourself so that your energy doesn’t run down as the day wears on. They’re also opportunities to briefly take stock.
Here are two questions you may want to ask yourself during these breaks:
1. Did I get done what I intended to get done since my last break and if not, why not?
2. What do I want to accomplish between now and my next break, and what do I have to say “no” to, in order to make that possible?
extract from blog posts by Tony Schwartz