A professional’s work day can be pretty hectic. Between report writing, emails, data analysis, phone calls, impromptu meetings, and a myriad of other tasks, a work day can end with a feeling that little was accomplished. One of my favourite tools to combat a wasted day is the end-of-day 15 Minute Daily Review. Like most other productivity tools, its quite simple, yet the benefits are astronomical. At the end of every day, I allocate 15 minutes before heading home to review my day and plan for tomorrow.
Step 1: Review The Day’s Events and Accomplishments
The first thing I do is look through my notebook and capture any notes I scribbled down. I look through my other capture points – in-box, desk, in-tray, and computer desktop – to see if there are any other actions I need to document. I should specify that I do not reply to emails at this time. I simply capture the required response as an action item for tomorrow. I also use this time to reconcile my time spent on daily tasks. Recording time spent each day is especially helpful for those that have to enter time-sheet information, with comments, every pay period.
All of my actions for tomorrow get recorded in a to-do list. I use any.do as my cloud-based to-do list, so any tasks I haven’t completed today go on my any.do list for later follow up. The main idea in Step 1 is to ensure all my capture points have been cleaned. But remember, it should only take a few minutes.
Step 2: Plan for Tomorrow
While Step 1 is important and Step 3 is my favourite (see below), Step 2 is likely the most important. I spend about ten minutes planning out my tomorrow, using all the information and tasks captured in Step 1. Using each major project as a heading and any associated tasks as sub-headings, I allocate time estimates for each sub-task and tally the total time spent per project. My daily time estimates should total nine or ten hours. I use nine or ten, because invariably certain tasks I plan for won’t come to fruition. It is also helpful to leave a column next to my task time estimates to record actual time spent at the end of the day. Yes, tasks always seem to take longer than I plan for. Finally, at the bottom of the page I note any tasks or activities I need to perform outside of work hours. These activities include working out at lunch, doing laundry at home, or meeting friends later for dinner.
Step 3: Clean The Desk
This is my favourite part. After capturing my day’s tasks and planned for tomorrow, I spend two minutes or so cleaning up my desk so its ready for action tomorrow. I’ve heard studies show that people who make their bed every morning (I do) are happier. I think that same logic applies to cleaning my office space every day. Sitting at a clear desk, free of messes and large stacks of paper, is both motivating and calming. It presents a sense of order and openness at the start of each morning, critical mindsets for a productive day.
The last thing I do is make sure my notebook is open to tomorrow’s plan and a fresh sheet of paper is near by. When I come in each morning, the open notebook provides a mental trigger to focus and get busy workin!