Have you noticed how many grown professionals are as helpless as babies?
We wander around from moment to moment constantly distracted and with no sense of direction.
Nobody seems to think ahead. And that’s somehow ok.
It’s ok to be late to meetings, because everyone is late to meetings.
It’s ok that you didn’t read the report, because nobody read the report.
It’s ok that you didn’t do the thing you were supposed to, because nobody does their thing on-time anymore.
We seem to be in a weird culture of everyone feeling overwhelmed and overworked. And a lot of people do have too much to do without enough time to do it. But why is the response to that regressive?
I think it’s partly due to a weird culture enabled by technology.
We are enabled.
All this wonderful power and connectedness is in our pockets, helps us to let go of the desire to carry much in our brains.
We don’t seem to be aware of much of the basics anymore. Like what I am supposed to do today or where am I supposed to go or when do I need to get something together.
We don’t make good plans. We don’t follow plans. We don’t even seem to think in a planning way much anymore.
This leaves a sort of haze and fog washing over the majority of folks in the workplace today. That’s our new normal.
Which can make it really frustrating to try and get anything done.
But it also makes it possible for you to work circles around people. If you think about it, it’s not that hard to be a superior performer anymore.
All you have to do is a little planning, and a little follow through. Soon you will be the beacon in the fog, leading people toward progress and productivity.
Therein lies your opportunity.
The Night Before
The best way to get a jump start on tomorrow is to start today.
You don’t have to get all fancy or get all gung-ho on changing the world all at once.
Your approach can be this simple: set an intention for tomorrow
Answer this question: What is one thing that is most important for you to accomplish tomorrow?
Sure there is a shit-ton of work on your plate like there is for everyone else. The thing is, it’s not all going to get done.
What you are trying to do here is simply to make a choice. Most people don’t do that.
Most people rush into the day and follow a path of distractions and urgencies and whims to get through the day.
You can do better than that. You can make a choice.
Choose something small and specific. It can be just a piece of a larger task. It can be difficult or easy. But it must be something important and meanginful.
It should be something that will give you a sense of accomplishment, relief, or progress when it is done.
Even if it’s something you dread doing, decide that you will approach it with enthusiasm.
Know that you are taking control and getting it done because it is important and doing it will cause progress to happen.
Yes, this means that you are deciding that other things may slip by undone. That’s ok. In fact, you should feel good about the things not getting done, because it’s a sign that you have prioritized. You have made a choice. It was meant to work that way.
And the next day, you get to make another choice.
Do this every night for a week and you may notice that you begin to anticipate more things.
That’s the magic of setting a specific intention. Of starting to plan a little bit more.
Stress Relief Magic
Research by psychologist Robert Epstein found that 25% of our happiness hinges on how well we are able to manage stress.
And his #1 recommendation for managing stress? You guessed it–planning!
If you take a few simple steps to become better prepared for your day *and* you are feeling less stress, how do you think things will go for you?
You might find that your days start to flow a whole lot differently.
Maybe you will see that being prepared sets you up to be more productive.
You might find that your preparedness helps you to stand out more at work.
Perhaps you will start to see more opportunities to plan your day, your projects, your team’s goals, and other things.
Now, once you get a little excited about the benefits of just a little planning, why not insert a bit more in your day?
Take a walk at lunchtime.
Working through lunch is a losing proposition. It’s counter-productive.
Grinding it out doesn’t clear the haze. It just makes it worse.
A little planning ahead can set you up for a better day. A little planning at lunchtime can set you up for a better afternoon.
The benefits to mood and motivation are clear.
And the act of stepping away can also give you a chance to step back and contemplate the bigger picture of the afternoon a bit more.
First, you should consider your productive morning. It’s always a boost to ackknowledge the progress you’ve made. Doing so at mid-day can lift your spirits for the afternoon.
And even if you didn’t get as much done as you’d hoped, you still have the full afternoon ahead of you!
You can set forth a plan that is maybe a little more realistic, a little more focused, and you can pick a top priority to work on before you go home.
This boost can help you to get refreshed and refocused.
The fog of modern over-connected, overworked, overwhelmed life creates a situation where too many of us are regressing into a hapless state.
Fortunately, there is one simple and effective way to cut through: planning.
Setting an intention for tomorrow is a great place to start. Approaching the day with a plan helps you to focus on what is most important and avoid distractions that aren’t productive.
Planning also helps you to reduce stress.
For an even bigger boost, take a break at lunchtime and go for a walk. The chance to step away and regroup with a revised afternoon plan will help you double down on the benefits of planning.
Soon you will be more productive, happier, and a beacon of leadership for those around you.
Plan the work and work the plan. Have a great day.