I decided to give myself a New Year's gift: the control of my days and bigger measures of satisfaction, productivity and closure. And in this first Drift of 2020, I'm sharing it with you.
I'm calling the idea Working Forward. It's perhaps a little bit scientific, but mostly it's just highly logical and intentional. Here goes.
Starting this week, I am breaking my days into three uneven blocks of time. My first block in the day is 90 minutes long; it's blocked on my calendar and labeled Writing, Proposals, Productivity. Any work that requires analysis, creativity or detailed writing happens in this block. Specifically excluded from this block are email, phone calls, texts and meetings. Behavioral science tells us that we are all more productive, creative, strategic and analytical early in the day. So, if I have a proposal to write, a workshop to plan, employee reviews to draft - or this edition of The Drift to produce - it happens in this block.
Then I cross off or reschedule the work I'd planned for Block One and move onto Block Two... the longest part of my day. Labeled Communication and Engagement, Block Two is where I start doing scheduled calls, engage with my inbox and work with my team, both in scheduled meetings and ad hoc. This is when I'll follow up on outstanding proposals and pick up stalled communication. It's the part of my day that probably looks the most like yours, but with a twist: I go into this work having already been significantly productive. I'm fresher, more confident, more energized going into the back and forth of the day. As I move through Block Two, I'll invariably commit to producing stuff that takes time and thought. You guessed it: that stuff gets marked for upcoming Block One time.
The closing chapter of the day, Block Three is critical. I save the final 30 minutes of the day to schedule the next day's Block One. I start each day with a plan for what I'm going to build or create, and then start building and creating right out of the gate. Then I close the book on today and do the important things that renew and refresh.... have dinner with my wife, talk on the phone with a friend, read a book, watch something good. I'm betting that Working Forward is going to help me be more present and enjoy my off-time that much more. I hope it does the same for you.
But why Working Forward? It's because most of us go at things in the wrong order. We meander into our days by wading into a swamp of email. We lock into a reactive posture that we never recover from. We delay getting important stuff done until we're tired and worn out - and it's too late. Our days bleed into our evenings and we're never fully committed to the task - or the person - in front of us.
I believe we deserve better. And today I'm acting on that belief. I hope you do as well. Happy New Year.