How do you know what to do next?
Should you answer that email? Design that banner? Return those phone calls? Write a thank you note? Call a meeting?
We start our days with activity. We go from one thing to the next without any sense of direction. That is if we don't have a list.
With a list, activity turns into productivity. With a list, we manage our days proactively, not reactively. With a list, we can measure the impact we've made on the day.
Start the night before with a list that looks something like this:
1) Focus: The theme of the day, if you will. It could be a mantra, a quote, something to keep top-of-mind for the entirety of the day. It's your attitude for the day, along with your general approach.
2) Objectives: Pick 3-5 things that, if you were to accomplish them, you could call your day successful. They should be things that are within your control. Write 1,000 words, deep study for 1 hour, send 10 prospecting emails, run 3 miles, etc. Daily objectives are different from weekly, monthly and quarterly objectives in that they should be viewed more like habits. They are things you do each day to work toward accomplishing your main objectives, e.g. writing a book, running a marathon, bringing in x amount of dollars in revenue, speaking fluent Chinese, etc.
3) Action Plan: What tools and tactics are you going to use to see that your objectives are accomplished? Schedule when you are going to respond to emails, make those phone calls, workout, call your spouse, and write 1,000 words. Identify potential threats and areas of opportunity. You may need to adjust your morning routine. You may need to run in the evening instead of the morning. Either way, your action plan is the system you use to ensure your 3-5 objectives for the day are accomplished.