How many times do you get to the end of the day and think “I wish I’d done that differently?” Perhaps you weren’t as engaged in a conversation as you could have been or you overreacted to something, that in hindsight wasn’t that bad.
“Hindsight is notably cleverer than foresight.” ~ Chester W. Nimitz
This week I completed the ‘Productivity’ week of my Business made Simple course from Donald Miller and day one, task one is to ask yourself this question at the start of every day:
“If this were the second time I were living this day, what would I do differently?”
The question comes from Viennese psychologist, Dr. Viktor Frankl. The purpose of which was to help his patients live more wisely by asking them to imagine that they had already lived this day before so could learn from the mistakes they made thus avoiding them the second time round.
While it sounds kind of crazy to reverse engineer your day before you’ve lived it, it will also reduce the amount of regrets you have at the end of the day by addressing them before they happen. Most people, myself included are moving so quickly through our day that there is very little time for reflection. Unfortunately reflection is the only way that we can edit our behaviour and start to design our lives.
In the book Decisive by the Heath Brothers they talk about a similar idea called a ‘premortem’. If a postmortem is the analyst that begins after death then the premortem imagines the future death. A team running a premortem analysis on a project imagines that 12 months from now their project has failed (even though they haven't actually started it yet). By getting each team member to write down every conceivable reason for the project's failure the team can adapt the plan for the project avoiding as many of the surfaced pitfalls as possible. Being prepared to be wrong is the only guarantee you have as a business owner, entrepreneur or human for that matter.
So I start my day asking myself what I’d do differently and it has helped me be more prepared going into my day. In combination with my new life mission of being useful (see BB#67 for that enlightened tale) I’ve felt pretty in control all week. I even managed to play guitar for an hour last night which is an indicator that I’ve got a better balance going on. No room for guitar lessons is the ‘canary in the mine’ of my life right now.
Another productivity method I’ve been using this week is prioritising my primary tasks. Or as Don puts it “A value-driven professional knows how to prioritise their highest return opportunity”.
How this works is each day you need to write two lists. List one is for primary tasks. This should have no more than three items. These tasks should be the most important things you can do today.
My primary tasks for today:
List two is secondary tasks - things that need to be done but aren’t high return opportunities.
My secondary tasks for today:
By separating out our daily tasks into two lists we make it super obvious to our brain that one list is more important than the other. Most people are more productive in the morning so I’ve come into work at 7 and will work through till 12 on my primary tasks ONLY! I haven't even checked my emails yet. By prioritising and allocating a time for each primary task I find it easier to do them. I literally set the timer and only work on them for the allocated time. To be honest I’ve finished early every time (touch wood) because when you remove all other distractions then an uninterrupted hour can produce a substantial amount of work.
If you think of your brain like a phone battery that you charge overnight. First thing in the morning you're sitting on 100% so you need to be working on your primary tasks. By 12 I’d be lucky if my brain is running at 50%. Lunch might bring me back up to 55% but it's Friday so probably not. Completing secondary tasks at 50% capacity is fine. The best thing about this method is that a feeling of accomplishment is achieved before lunch. If your day turns to shit - which can happen, you have already worked on your highest return opportunities.
Successful people come in all shapes and sizes but one thing almost all of them have in common is the ability to prioritise their time and focus on the tasks that are important.