We all want more clarity. And you don't need an overhaul to get there. As a designer I communicate—clarifying an idea is the entire job. And, as an entrepreneur, I have to be accountable to the things I say I'll get done—self-manage. These two realities combine to streamline how I set up my daily plans.
My approach isn’t complicated—can't write an entire book about it—but I can say this mindset seriously revolutionized how I was perceived by people I work with—and importantly, it changed how I felt at the end of each day.
What to do? Pick two things: P1 & P2
The dopamine released as you slay them will get you through a stack more. Or, if you're like me the procrastination of staring down P1 will bait you to quickly deal with 10 little things, especially things for others. To be honest, I’m not sure if I care why it works so well, it just does.
Step by step:
1. At the end of each work day I think about what absolutely must get done the next time I work. My experience of this is something like a fast-flipping '70s rolodex or like when you restart your computer but your browser still has 142 tabs open and it quickly reloads everything. A few things inevitably stand out; things I promised to others, work that excites me, crappy slogging tasks. The magic is that I only pick two. I know, I know, the world loves things in threes but I’m telling you three will have you distracted.
2. I write down the two things. The two that must happen next. Just two. Really. This can happen on any piece of scratch paper, I like to put them at the top of the next day in my weekly planner (no surprise that I designed one to support this exact habit).
3. Squarely facing me in the morning is a note from my wiser self guarding me against dipping into my inbox or scrolling Instagram—this note is my boss. The bargain I tend to make with myself is that once those two things are done, I’m free. Free to do something away from work for a while, walk the dog or call a friend without suffering.
Isn't this kinda selfish?
OK, I see you, shifting in your seat as you’re attempting to calm down from that Skillshare video on bullet journaling (i.e., write down every thought that goes through your head and then spend time sorting and coding—kind of like an overflowing inbox you sent to yourself, nope). The thing about Just Two Things is that you’ll inevitably sweep up more along the way. These won't be the only things that get done today—but they will be your focus. If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.
And yeah, there are times when someone else will arrive with a thing that seems to threaten one of your Two Things. How you respond is, of course, your choice. But for me, since I’m not flipping through three pages of lists while I hem and haw about if I can help, I look at my two things, consider how far along I am in that work and respond from an informed place. No drama about busy-ness or overwhelm.
And, as you become known for your Just Two Things habit you’ll start to get requests like, "Can my thing be one of your two things?” and you can commit from a place of clarity.