Productivity Hacks from a 3-Year-Old

How was your day, Daddy?

A seemingly innocuous question from my three-year-old daughter.

It was great, sweetie, how was your day?

I tried to turn the tables and get her talking, but she reversed on me quickly…

It was good. How was work? What did you do?… What else? What else? What else?”

The “what else’s” didn’t end until I was completely at a loss for what else I did. It only took her asking that question three times before I realized that I really did not accomplish much that day. Everything that I actually achieved was summed up in three sentences and was neither impressive, nor did it warrant the amount of time I spent accomplishing the tasks.

So, why did a day that could be summed up in three sentences take me nine hours? What was I doing with the rest of my time? This interaction became an inflection point for how I would spend my time.

Most of you are familiar with Pareto’s Principle and the multiple applications of the 80/20 principle. Spend 80% of your time on the 20% of activities that have the most meaning and impact.

Was I spending 80% of my time focused on the 20% of things that really moved the needle?

This interaction sent me on a personal quest to ensure I was maximizing my time.

Start with Two Things

How could I make sure I was spending my time focused on the 20% that creates the most results? It was simple, really. First I needed to define what that 20% was. For me, right now, it is driving top line growth.

Every morning I write down the two most important goals that I can achieve for the day that will help me reach our monthly revenue target. This currently involves some form of sales or marketing initiative coupled with exceeding a client’s expectations by creating a “wow” moment for them.

I use a Google Chrome extension called Momentum App to help me manage the two items. Every time I open a browser window, I see a beautiful photograph along with my two goals for the day. This helps keep me on track when I get distracted.

momentum-app

Ask Tough Questions

The toughest thing about starting with the list of two is knowing which of these should be delegated versus self-performed. I then ask myself the following questions:

  • Is this going to get us closer to XYZ goal?
  • Is this something I can delegate?
  • What would happen if this does not get accomplished?

You could also look at variations of the “5 Why’s” or come up with your own set of questions to determine the validity of your effort. The questions aren’t as important as the fact that you are asking them.

How was your day?

At the end of the day (prior to my daughter getting a hold of me) I review the two goals and my progress against them. This is the toughest part. If you didn’t accomplish your goals, what got in the way? Was it more important? If so, why wasn’t it on the list in the first place?

I also like to use Trello boards to track all of my to-do lists, projects, and we use it as part of our process development at ERG to create checklists that can be copied for when you are performing repetitive tasks. I am by no means a “super user” but it adds great value to my day.

What else?

The next question I always get after letting my daughter know what I accomplished is “What else?” What else did I do with my time today? Was this a good use of my time? If it was not productive, was it fun or relaxing? What did I do today that I could have delegated or not done altogether?

These are tough questions to ask yourself, but I have seen results because of the pure simplicity of the acts. If you keep it simple: two goals for the day, and then review at the end of the day, it makes the likelihood of the practice “sticking” much higher. It has “stuck” for me.

Next time you are eating dinner with your daughter and she asks “What did you do today?” you should be able to start with “I accomplished all of my goals for the day.” Good luck with the rest of the conversation.

Please share your productivity hacks and tools in the comments section.

Thanks for reading.
Matt

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