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For months I procrastinated away working on my marketing materials. I knew I could get more gigs if I just sat down one Sunday and could just focus but other things always came up. Every week I confidently told myself that I got a lot done today, but every week I had pushed off the biggest thing that I knew would get me more gigs.

A productivity tip I picked up a few months ago has begun to help me sort things out. So far I’ve made it a habit to take about a half hour to plan out the upcoming two weeks, each and every Monday.  This approach indeed helped; it cut down on how often I needed to stop and reassess what needed to get done. This conserved finite willpower and enabled me to push through.

The next iteration comes from an email I received from the company that invented The Five Minute Journal (reviewed here).

It’s called:

The Ivy Lee Method

  1. At the end of each day write down the five most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow. Do not write down more than five tasks.
  2. Prioritize those five items in order of their true importance.
  3. When you begin work tomorrow concentrate only on the first.
  4. Work until the first task is finished before starting the second.
  5. Approach the rest of your list in the same fashion. At the end of the day, move any unfinished items to a new list of five tasks for the following day.
  6. Repeat this process every day.

Reasons why it works:

  • What you work on and your goals are aligned
  • It removes the friction of starting
  • It requires you to single-task
  • Your willpower and fresh eyes will be reserved for what matters
  • It forces you to make tough decisions you need to make
  • It’s simple

Instead of being pulled in twenty directions getting nowhere, you focus and make conscious progress. The alternative is spinning your wheels and getting burnt out with nothing to show for it.

Over time the important things you prioritize each day will compound, making you increasingly effective over time just like compound interest.

And the things that never get done? Well, it’s clear that they weren’t all that important anyway since you’ve always selected your top five tasks each day!

So, what’s the five most important things you have for tomorrow?