I am naturally quite disorganized. Early in my career, I learned that if I want to compete with others in a professional setting, I need to address this glaring personality flaw.
Thus began a lifelong effort to make sure my time and energy were devoted to what is most important. I try to read Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People every year to help make sure my priorities are in line with my values.
I think of keeping organized in terms of three areas: a planner to set goals and plan them out, a calendar to decide when to execute on those goals, and a repository for brilliant ideas you're saving for later.
Mr. Covey points out that a to-do list is basically the lowest level of planner. This simply provides a laundry list of tasks, with no prioritization and no connection to your goals. The next level of planner is a prioritized list, where you put your tasks in order of importance relative to your goals.
The highest level of planner integrates your task list with your calendar. You actually schedule appointments with yourself to focus on your top priorities, ensuring that you make the time for the "big rocks" in your life.
One problem for me with scheduling time to complete tasks: I despise schedules. That's right. As my former assistant would tell you, I actually have mini panic attacks if I have too many appointments scheduled on a certain day.
But as a right-brained person in a largely left-brained industry, how did I overcome the scheduling hurdle?
Years ago (most likely during football season), I came up with the idea of breaking my day up into a schedule based on a football game. Here's a brief look at a recent day of mine using this template. Now granted, the day ended up a little different at times, but this gave me a general framework on what to focus on.
(Sorry, American friends, when I started taking flight lessons I mentally switched to 24-hour time. Now it just feels right to me. It continues to drive my wife insane.)
Get daughter ready for school
Head to the office
Morning chart routine including macro charts, sectors/styles/themes, stocks making new highs and lows, etc
See how stocks open the trading session
Send quick note to clients based on chart work in 1st quarter
Write blog post relating the S&P to stalling an airplane
Check e-mails and respond to important ones
Follow up with prospects trialing my research
Sketch out monthly video presentation
Follow up calls with potential partners
Sketch out monthly video presentation
Review notes from 2018 CMT Symposium
Check e-mails and respond to as many as possible
Update CRM system with follow up items for specific clients
What worked and what didn't?
What progress have I made toward goals?
What do I need to accomplish tomorrow?
By breaking up the day into four major blocks of time, I give myself the flexibility to complete tasks in a way that feels right at the time, but also gives me a framework so I'm not overwhelmed by the entire list.
The three most important parts of the day? Much like with the marching band at a football game, sometimes the best action happens during pregame, halftime and postgame.
Pregame is a crucial time as it sets the stage for the entire day. If I rush into tasks without meditation and journaling, I really feel it later in the day.
Halftime is an important rejuvenation point and I either hit the gym near my office or at the very least walk around to clear my head. Some days I feel like I have so much to do that I need to sit at my desk and just get it done. That is almost always a really bad decision.
Postgame is one that I'm guilty of skipping in the interests of getting home to the family. But I have to remember that taking some time to close things out at the office means I'm bringing less mental baggage home.
Even if you don't take advantage of my proprietary "turn your day into a football game" scheduling strategy, I hope you think of ways that you can break up the day into meaningful chunks of time. Combined with my unique approach to the weekly planner, I've found that I'm not only more productive, but more fulfilled.
How do you schedule your day to better align tasks with values? Tell me on Twitter.
Disclaimer: This blog is for educational purposes only, and should not be construed as financial advice. Please see the Disclaimer page for full details.