We all know 8 times 5 equals 40, but how do we make those 40 hours (and hopefully not many more), the most effective as possible? Invest less than 3% of the time reflecting and planning. That small investment could make a substantial difference in priorities and execution to create dramatic accomplishments. Can you afford that time? You can’t afford not to.
Here is what I try to do every day. I call it the 8@Eight and 5@Five rules. Invest 5 minutes at 5:00 PM reflecting on the day and jotting down high level plans for the next day, and 8 minutes at 8:00 AM fleshing out those plans with a focus on high priority initiatives. Don’t just show up at 8:00 AM and work whatever is in the inbox, it is not likely the tasks that will assure success for the day. Don’t just pack up and leave at 5:00 PM without thinking of what went well that day and how to change up the process the following day.
I now work for a privately held company, but for more than 30 years working for a public company, I had a text message sent to my cell after the closing bell of the New York Stock exchange alerting me to the stock price activity for the day. I then reflected on whether the tasks I worked that day could have had any impact on that result. If the price went up, I tried to identify those accomplishments that contributed to the good result. If the price went down, I searched for those activities that wasted time or were not high priority business results that might have contributed to the decline. Since the stock price always fluctuated, there was always an opportunity for reflection one way or the other.
That got me thinking about how to repeat good results and what to do to avoid bad results. We don’t need a stock price to make an honest assessment of the day. One way to think about this would be to imagine you were required to send your accomplishments (or lack thereof) to the CEO every day at 5:00 PM. Would they align with the company’s strategic direction? Would the CFO send you a thank you note?
So here’s the simple plan. Take 5 minutes at 5:00 PM to have a plan to wake up to the next day. Then take 8 minutes at 8:00 AM to create the project plan to execute against those ideas. Try very hard to ignore the easy distractions: emails that don’t need an immediate response, blinking voice mail lights that have beg you to react to someone else’s poor planning, or socialization that goes beyond that needed to build culture and team work. Try turning off email for periods of the day and work the plan. Cover up the voice mail light with anything available and work the plan.
BTW, I am not perfect at this technique. That’s why I am writing this blog – to coerce me to walk the walk and not just talk about it. I have put myself on notice, hold me accountable and then try it yourself.