[This article was originally written by me several years ago. It shows one of the alternative ideas I had before developing fully the methods in Do It Tomorrow. You may still find the ideas in it useful!]
Here’s a simple but powerful method to get almost instantly ahead of all your work and stay there.
For this you will need one bit of equipment — a page-a-day diary. Diaries for 2007 are being sold off cheap at the moment so this is an excellent time to begin.
Once you have obtained your page-a-day diary, follow these steps:
- Write a list of every single thing you have to do. Spend some time on this. What would you have to do in order to be completely up to date with every area of your life? Include personal things as well as work. Get it all down on paper.
- Break this list down as far as possible into individual actions. For example don’t just write “Publicise my business”. Write down all the actions that you would need to take in order to publicise your business. The smaller and more precise you can make each item the better.
- You should have quite an impressive list by now! The next step is to decide how long you are going to give yourself to complete each action. The way to look at it is to ask yourself “What is the maximum amount of time I could take to do this before it either became pointless or had some serious adverse result?” If it’s something for which there is no such deadline then ask yourself “How long shall I give it before I admit that I have no real intention of doing it?” Write next to each item the number of days, weeks or months you are going to give yourself to complete it.
- Now transfer the list into your diary. First write all the items you have decided must be done today under today’s date; then then those you have given yourself one day to complete under tomorrow’s date; and so on.
- If you have done this properly you should only have items under today’s date which absolutely have to be done today. These should be relatively few. Do them. You are now up to date! You have done every single thing that has to be done today and you have scheduled every other thing you have to do.
- Now you can start working forward. Once you’ve completed one day, go on to the next day. See how many days you can get ahead. Suddenly you are not only up to date with your work but several days ahead. Imagine the thrill of being able to say “I’m a week ahead with my work!”
- As new items appear, decide how many days you are going to give yourself to complete them and add them to the appropriate diary page.
A couple of very important rules:
Rule One: You can do the items for a particular day in any order you like, but you must clear all the items that day before you can go on to the next day.
Rule Two: There is no carrying forward of incompleted items. If you have not completed an item in the time you allocated to it, you must accept that you are never going to do it (or certainly not for the time being) and let it lapse.
And a couple of tips:
Tip One: Don’t be tempted to make the time you give yourself to complete something too short. If you’re already taking up to seven days to reply to a letter, don’t suddenly decide you are going to reply to all your letters within 24 hours.
Tip Two: Depending on how you like to organise your life, you may want to have a separate diary for work and personal items. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a separate book of course — you can just divide each page horizontally or vertically in two.