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Monday, September 5, 2011

Monday Morning Check In: More Productive Days

Last week we discussed two tools that generally help us to get a big picture of our life as we unfold it from day to day. I suggested Morning Pages and Life Lessons journals as methods to help us gain perspective about our purpose, our dreams, and our lessons learned. Today I would like to suggest two tools that can help us to make our days more productive. I keep both of these tools handy beside me when I am working my morning pages, and I complete them as I complete my morning tools.

I got this idea from something that John Maxwell wrote. He suggested that in order to have more productive days, we had better plan our days. As I considered that statement, I realized that unless I had a master plan for my day, I would indeed be more likely to be distracted from the things that I wanted to accomplish. Rather than be subject to the vagaries of circumstances and other people, I considered John Maxwell's suggestion to be sound. Here is what I do to help my days flow and to keep me on track.

Activity Log
I use an activity log. It is 8.5" x 11" piece of paper with lines broken up by the hours of the day, from 5:00 am until 12:00 pm. I xerox a blank log every day. As I am writing my morning pages, I fill out the log with the activities and appointments that I know I have on my schedule. Although the log is a full sheet of paper and has lots of room on it, I find that the extra room makes it easier for me to write down more than one thing on a line if more than one thing occurs in an hour. I also use the bottom margin to make notes of things I want to remember.

Essential Things To Do List:
Along with the activity log, I use a smaller tool that I refer to as my "essential things to do list." This is a sheet from a small notebook put out by Mead in a 3.5" x 5.5" format. I tear out a page each day and make a list of the essential things I need to do that day. If I will be teaching at the university, I list that as one item. I also list my studio teaching as one item, along with any rehearsals or any errands I need to do. As I note this information, I also record the item on the activity log in the hour slot when I will do this item in my day, and I include any driving time that is involved.

Although I may fill up the entire side of the small to do list, I may not get to every item. I try to be very careful just to put my essential things to get done in a day and not just everything that I might want to accomplish. I refrain from being too ambitious because I have learned that too long a list actually has the reverse effect and encourages me to procrastinate instead. Six things accomplished in a day is plenty in my opinion (as Mary Kay Ash used to promote), and I find that I almost need a day to recover if I try to do anything more than that.

Both of these forms are simple to create. I have included copies of the forms I use here:

Activity Log

To Do Form (2 on 1 page)
I hope you will find these tools as useful as I have.


  1. In a time management course I took we categorized our items as A, B & C items. A items are things that inspire us. Some examples could be going to yoga, playing music, reading, teaching, volunteering etc. B items are things you have to do to set up the A items. C items are errands and busy work that may not necessarily be fulfilling. Groceries, cleaning etc. The point of the exercise is to see that you are well balanced between A B & C items. A lot of us tend to get stuck with only C items and wonder why life isn't fulfilling.
    Smiles! Diane

  2. Hi, Diane! I've done the Brian Tracy A-B-C exercise, which was A for important (we get into trouble if not completed (like taxes, our jobs), B-important but nothing bad will happen just yet, C-nice to do but nothing bad if we never get to it, D-delegate, E-eliminate. Now I paraphrased here, but that was the gist of it. I like your idea better. I can see how "inspiration" (A items) and preparing the road for inspirational itmes (B activities) would definitely give the day a different direction and guide the life in a more pleasant and fulfilling direction. Happy Goal-Setting!