Power Habits - Daily Action Plan

Power Habits - Daily Action Plan

This is the third in my series of “power habits” - routines when practiced consistently over time provide a strong compounding effect. The Daily Action Plan is a simple one — each day you will determine the three most important things you can do, commit them to writing, then do them. Sound simple? While powerful, actually crossing these three tasks off your list is extremely difficult for successful people.

Power Habits - Daily Action Plan

Here are my best lessons learned on implementing this system over the years.

1. Selecting Three Most Important Tasks

When people start out on this habit, they often pick easy tasks, sometimes even process tasks like “entering time” or “getting organized.” The real value in this habit lies in picking your highest value tasks to the exclusion of all the lower value activities. To pick high value tasks, you need to be crystal clear on what your priority is for a particular role. For example, if you are a lawyer that leads a team of other lawyers and service professionals, your role should be developing a high performing team that creates results. This means your priority should be working through others (the team) to get the results. The daily three then should be focused on team-centric tasks such as project management, providing strategy input and review of work, recruiting and developing professionals, customer relationship management, etc. If your Daily Action Plan is consistently focused on individual performance as opposed to team performance, you have a conflict between your role and your daily performance.

When selecting the three tasks, I recommend picking one that is a “must do” and your two next most important tasks. Your goal is to get the “must do” one done no matter what. Focusing your “must do” tasks on building habits and systems that compound over time is one of the best ways to produce more and be successful.

2. Time Blocking — Making Space for High Value Work

Despite what any of this think, the world is at best indifferent to each of us. That means we each face a constant stream of interruptions, other people’s crises, and new potential opportunities. I have found that if you are not proactive about the time devoted to your daily three tasks, it is very difficult — particularly for successful people — to get them done on a consistent basis. A great tool for production is called time blocking, where you devote a set amount of time to your daily three. This is an interruption free zone and best if you can devote at least two hours to your most important work. Successful time blocking may require putting the time block on your calendar, empowering your admin to protect you from distractions, turning off email and text messages, and may require physical isolation from others.

3. Accountability Tools for Daily Action Plan

We have used the app called CommitTo3 with success for this habit. It allows you to set up a team of participants, each person is allowed only three tasks, and the app shows you when people add tasks and complete tasks. This has the obvious advantages of transparency and allows teammates to see what others are working. But one of the best advantages is the app allows for productive discussions about whether teammates are doing tasks consistent with their role as perceived by other team members. This has lead to some great conversations about workload, priority, and roles.

4. Writing the Tasks for Success

A word of caution on this exercise. It is important to draft your tasks in language that you can control. Otherwise, your success will be dependent on the actions of others or circumstances outside your control. This will position you to lose too often. For example, if one of your daily three is lunch with a client and you draft the task as “meet Jane for lunch to discuss new project,” you could be setting yourself up to fail if Jane cancels on you. Best to draft it in more positive language like “ready for lunch with Jane to discuss new project.” You can control your preparation and therefore score a win even if there is a cancelation.

Final Thoughts on Daily Action Plans as a Power Habit

This power habit is maddening hard. But it is one of the most effective tools to high achievement. To maximize this tool, you will likely need to pair it with the time blocking power habit to prevent intrusions and make space for this work.

Putting the Daily Action Plan Power Habit into Action

What: Each day, you commit to one “must do” and two other high value tasks. Your game plan is to organize your day to leverage your ability to achieve these high value targets. Your Daily Action Plan is your weapon to fight off intrusions.

Why: Committing to doing your highest value work is one of the best ways to become a successful, high achiever.

Apply: For the next 30 days, commit in writing to your daily three tasks and don’t stop working until you get each of them done each day.

Additional Evening Routine Resources

Organize Tomorrow Today by Dr. Jason Selk. See Chapter 1.

The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan.

I hope you have found this blog post helpful and welcome comments from readers.  

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In addition to Thriving Attorney, Darin M. Klemchuk is founder of Klemchuk LLP, a litigation, intellectual property, and transactional law firm located in Dallas, Texas.  He also co-founded Project K, a charity devoted to changing the world one random act of kindness at a time.  Click to read more about Darin Klemchuk's practice as an intellectual property lawyer.

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