If you're like me, you have a growing to-do list filled with big ideas to accomplish. Yet it might often seem like the day quickly gets away from you. Meetings, emails, social media, and other distractions suck up your time, along with your precious attention. 

Winning the day begins before you even sit down at your desk. Thoughtful planning and prioritization is the best way to play defense against the many tasks vying for your focus. Building in the opportunity for reflection, while difficult, is an instant productivity booster, allowing you to get more done in less time with greater impact. 

On a recent episode of the Accidental Creative podcast, author Todd Henry shared a simple 10-minute method you can use to optimize your schedule and create mental bandwidth for deep, creative work.

He suggests sitting down at the beginning of the day to strategize, specifically following these steps:

Ask yourself: At the end of the day, what would have to happen for me to say, "Today was a success?"

Henry says, "Time is the currency of productivity, especially for creative professionals," so make sure (to the extent possible) that your day effectively leverages your strengths, fulfills your values, satisfies important goals, and is filled with tasks or people that energize you. 

Define the problems you need to solve today.

Answering this question allows you to work backward and create a plan of attack, ensuring that you spend your time wisely in high-impact ways. Henry points out this question will not only help you become more focused, but will also prime you to seek creative solutions for the problems you need to solve. 

Block time for deep work. 

If you don't guard your time, distractions and busywork will rush in to fill the vacuum. Henry suggests creative professionals pre-commit chunks of time throughout their week to accomplish deep work--that is, cognitively demanding work that requires concentration and uninterrupted focus.

Then respect the appointments you set with yourself. Yes, that does mean you'll have to get better at assertively saying "no" and communicating your boundaries, but overcoming that discomfort can pay off in big ways. 

Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.

Published on: May 1, 2018