You were crazy busy, but it doesn’t feel like you got anything done. At least not the stuff you needed to get done.
It’s like someone else was driving the car of your week, and you were stuck in the back seat hanging on for dear life.
And the worst part?
Most every week is like this. Even the weeks where you’re trying to take time off. Something always intervenes and sends you off in a totally different direction.
It’s Not about Making Lists
It’s a common misconception that increased productivity involves making long lists of things to do. This simply isn’t true. The starting point for increased productivity is deciding if something should be done in the first place.
In other words, who’s driving your car? And where should that car be going?
This is where most productivity software falls short. No calendar or task list can tell you what the most important activities for the next seven days are. That’s why I begin each week in Evernote, and then, from there, utilize a calendar and a task list.
Here are three things that I do in Evernote to make the most of every week:
1. I review the vision for my life and work in Evernote.
Before a task gets placed in my task list or before a meeting gets scheduled in my calendar, I make sure that I have a view of the things that matter most. I make sure the vision I have for my life and my work is clear.
Doing this involves answering these four questions:
- What kind of person will I be? How am I staying healthy and strong physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually?
- What kind of relationships will I have? How am I investing in the lives of those whom I love the most?
- What kind of work will I do? What is the best way to make a contribution in the marketplace with the gifts and abilities I possess?
- How will I give back? What causes am I supporting with my time, talent, and treasure?
If you’re familiar with my work, you’ll recognize these questions as emerging from the four life tasks we’re hard-wired as human beings to fulfill: the Self Task, the Love Task, the Work Task, and the Service Task. Like the wheels on a four-wheel drive vehicle, every one of these tasks needs to be fully operational to experience a truly satisfying life.
I have a notebook (Evernote’s term for a folder) that’s labeled Vision, Goals, and Plans, and a note (Evernote’s term for a file) where I have my answers to the questions above. At the beginning of every week I review them and reflect on how best I may embody them in the next seven days.
2. I review the goals I have for the year in Evernote.
While having an overall vision for one’s life and work is important, it can be useless daydreaming without a plan for its execution.
Annual planning is the blocking and tackling of personal and professional success. It involves setting out the goals you’re seeking to achieve in the next 12 months, goals that are fully aligned with the vision you have for your life and your work.
I place these in Evernote and, again, review them every week.
An annual plan isn’t a straight jacket to force you into doing things that are no longer relevant. It’s more of an agenda that gets you started on the year, staying open to adding other items as they arise. Making changes to your plan is quick and easy in Evernote, and the checked box feature allows you to track when various milestones are completed.
In the notebook labeled Vision, Goals, and Plans, I have two notes: My Personal Goals and My Business Goals. Each document has 4-6 specific, measurable goals, each with sequential steps of action and their dates and deadlines. Simple.
3. I put the week’s most important activities in Evernote.
Here now is where the rubber meets the road. It’s time to determine the most important actions you’ll take in the next seven days that are aligned with the vision you have for your life and work and the plan you have for the year.
Note how I didn’t say all the actions you will take in the next seven days. You’re seeking to identify the most important ones. That is, the top one or two, two or three things you’ll complete in each of your four life tasks.
I have an Evernote note entitled This Week’s Plans and a simple two column table that looks like this:
From this table I place appointments and tasks for the week in my time management software (currently I’m using BusyCal and love it), and make sure they get done. Then I review the list the following week and make adjustments from there.
Efficiency Must Serve Effectiveness
Increased productivity begins with making the most of every week. It doesn’t start with making lists or scheduling meetings, but by deciding what matters most and doing what comes first.
In other words, efficiency must always serve effectiveness. There’s really no point to making good time on a trip if you’re headed in the wrong direction.
Evernote is the starting place that keeps me from making this mistake. Set an appointment with yourself right now and begin using it to make the most of your weeks.