For a guy who never planned to be a freelance copywriter in the real estate sector, you’d think my days would somewhat unplanned.
The truth is, my days are often as orchestrated as a live television show. Each day has its own long- and short-term goals. The long-term goals and their associated tasks point me in the right direction in life, while the short-term goals help support the long-term ones.
But it hasn’t always been this way. There used to be a time when I would sit at my desk and be welcomed by a pile of new mail in my inbox, dozens of new e-mails and a handful of books and articles that I wanted to read. I kept telling myself that the most important tasks could be done later, and that I had to ‘invest’ my time into emptying my inbox and reading about how to be a better copywriter. Before I knew it, the day was done and nothing that truly mattered had been accomplished.
I decided to be successful in my career as a copywriter, I had to be the one in charge of my time - regardless of who was, or was not, paying me for it. I realized that the best way to do that, was to create my day based on a list that I create.
My Daily Task List:
Taking a cue from FedEx founder Fred Smith, I now begin each day the afternoon before.
I create my daily list of tasks at the end of the previous day - usually after 5pm when I’ve ‘left’ work for the day. I even do this on Friday night in anticipation of Monday.
I begin my list by by taking a look at my list from the current day - making a note of which items on the list I’ve completed and which ones are still in progress. My new list - for the upcoming day - starts with the tasks I have yet to do. From there, I take a good look at my weekly, monthly and yearly goals and objectives to see if there are any other tasks that need to be added to the list. After that, I sort through my inbox to see if there are any actionable items from clients I can add to my list. I either schedule some of those inbox items for the following days, or trash them.
I do all this each day in my own handwriting on a standard 8.5 x 11 pad of paper. I write down the tasks, and the time I estimate it will take me to complete them. After I complete a particular task on the list, I note the actual time it takes to complete a task and cross it off.
On an average work day, I wind up with anywhere between 10 and 20 15-minute to one-hour tasks.
While I prefer to create my list by hand, you may find it easier to create your list on your computer. If I happen to have a task that I think will take more than three hours, I split it into pieces and do it over a couple of days. I tend to do a better job since I’ll have more energy and time to review and edit my work as I go.
In a perfect world, on a perfect day, I get all of my important tasks and most of my medium- and less-important tasks done every day. I try to accomplish as much as possible each day so I can achieve my long-term goals as quickly as possible. But, at the same time, I also want to feel good about my productivity at the end of the working day.
When I complete a task, I cross it off my list and move to the next one. Sometimes I'll do them in a particular order. I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now, and I still find myself with a little burst of energy every time I finish a task.
Creating my daily task list takes me under 15 minutes. The trick is to work from weekly work objectives, which are integral to monthly and yearly goals.
This system doesn’t work for everybody, but I promise you it’s worth a try. I think you’ll like it.
Before my clients and competitors have even called it quits for the day, I have figured out everything I need to do the next day to meet my goals. I know what has to be done, I know what my priorities are, and I’m already thinking about how I’ll tackle them. I never have to worry about forgetting something important. If you create your lists the way I do, you’ll end up with my same sense of energy and excitement, confident that your day, your week, your month, your year and your life are going to be productive.