What do you do during the first fifteen minutes of your day?
Check Facebook? Twitter? Read blogs or news feeds? Read and respond to e-mails?
Yep, I do that too. But not in the first fifteen. The first fifteen are mine, all mine. They’re a chance to take a breath and figure out how to really put points on the board.
I imagine that sometime my boss might call and ask, “So, Heidi, what have you been doing all day?” And you’d better believe I’m going to have a good answer. I work from home, so there’s no way for him to tell whether I’ve been hard at work in front of my computer or watching soaps and eating bon-bons. Or doing laundry, or napping, or cleaning the kitchen, or any number of things that doesn’t involve putting my butt in the chair and getting to work.
To quote my favorite editor from my news reporting days, “Heidi: Shut up and type.”
In five years of working from home, I’ve been forced to develop enormous self-discipline. It’s easy to be distracted by the call of the DVR or a phone call from Mom or the treadmill that really would like me to spend some more quality time with it. (If we were dating, you’d call it an on-again, off-again relationship.)
Regardless of whether I work 40 hours per week, or 30 or 50 or 80, I am accountable to producing results. It’s the yardstick by which I am measured, and so when I find myself spinning my wheels on projects and not really moving the ball forward, I get antsy. Sooner or later, I’m going to have to deliver.
What do I do in my first 15 minutes? Get quiet, get focused, and figure out how to create accomplishment. Photo by Photo by John Althouse Cohen
So the first fifteen minutes are a little strategy session, a big-picture assessment of what matters and where I need to go for the day. I keep a handwritten list to the left of my keyboard (I’m left-handed), mouse on the right, and it keeps me focused far better than a micromanager ever could.
Sometimes I divide my list between “what’s important” and “what’s urgent.” Sometimes, it’s a list of “what I want to do” and “what I have to do.” Sometimes I separate out the deep-dive projects from those little things, like sending five emails, that just gotta get done.
In the same amount of time I use to write this blog, I plan. I consider where my energy is, whether I’m ready to focus on just one thing, or if simply crossing a dozen small things off the page will be most satisfying.
Some studies have found that most people have at least 80 hours’ worth of work on their desks at any one point. You get to the end of a 40- or 50-hour workweek, and guess what? New requests have rolled in. There’s more to do. The 80 hours of demands on your time are still there.
That can easily get overwhelming, so I change my perspective. If there’s no way I can get it all done—if I simply make the choice that it won’t get all done—then I am also free to choose which things will get done.
And there is such power in priorities.
With the freedom to choose, I can let my priorities—my mission, my values, my purpose at work—be my guide, rather than feeling the tyranny of an endless to-do list. I can feel like I’m accomplishing what matters, rather than spinning my wheels and wishing I’d traded and hour of time-wasting email exchanges for one glorious nap.
Today, I won’t choose just to do things, just to tick off a list. Today, I’ll choose accomplishment.
What will you choose? GO.