How To Get Unstuck When A Big Job Stymies You

I hope you have considered what we talked about Monday – the enormous impact price has in any market, in any business situation…even in any personal situation. And I hope you figured out your life goals yesterday. Today we are going to talk about something just as important – a morning routine that can guarantee that you can achieve every one of the four primary goals you set yesterday. This system is very good. It works. Don’’t make the mistake of thinking it is like others you’’ve read about and dismissed or tried and failed at.


Every successful businessman I know (or have read about) gets to work early. It’’s such a universal trait of accomplished individuals, I’’m tempted to say it is a secret for success. “Early to bed and early to rise,” Ben Franklin said, “makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” I used to think that was propaganda from a Puritan. Now I think it’’s an observation from a very wise man. Healthy, wealthy and wise. Let’’s start with wealthy –since that’’s what we’re here for.

How Does Starting Early Make You Rich?

There is no better time to collect your thoughts and plan your day than early in the morning when the office is quiet. Not only are you undisturbed by phone calls and interruptions, but ahead of you is the potential of an unopened day. The solitude promotes a kind of relaxed, contemplative mood. You feel free to think in an expansive way.

Later on, when the place is noisy and the pressure is on, it’s difficult to pay attention to what’s important. You feel your attention drawn in several directions at once. You feel the pressure of deadlines. And you may be hit with bad news, which could put you in a bad, unproductive mood.

A Near Perfect Morning Routine

Over the years I’’ve studied hundreds and experimented with dozens of time-saving techniques and organizational systems. The simple three-step program that follows is the best of the best:

Step One: Getting Your Inputs (Time: about 15 – 30 minutes) Start with your weekly to-do list. (This is derived from your monthly to-do list, which comes from your yearly to-do list, which is a derivative of your five-year Life Goal list – which we talked about yesterday.)

On a sheet of paper, jot down anything you need to get done. Make sure you give primary attention to your top goal. Now scan your email. Don’t read the messages. You will get bogged down if you do. Just give them a quick once-over to see if there is anything waiting for you that may need to be taken care of right away and/or will take some extra time. Next check phone messages, faxes and your in-box. Don’’t respond to anything.

Your job is simply to organize it all, to figure out what you will do today and what you can delegate or do later. When you have done all of this you will have completed the first step of your morning routine. You will have gathered up all the work you might want to do that day. You will already be thinking about much of it. You will not have to worry about forgetting something important. And you will have a realistic idea about how much needs to be done.

Step Two: Sorting and Ordering (Time: 15 – 30 minutes) Now comes the fun part. Get out a clean sheet of paper – or even an index card – and write the date on top. Referencing all the inputs you have just gathered, select 15 to 20 that you intend to accomplish before the end of the day. Don’t be unrealistic – there is no way you can do more than 15 or 20 significant things in a 10-hour day. And you don’t need to work more than 10 hours a day to accomplish everything you need. Of the 15 or 20 items, highlight 4 or 5 of them. These should all be important-but-not-urgent tasks. (The urgent tasks you have to do.

The important-but-not-urgent tasks will advance your Life Goals. They are critical to your success, but you will almost certainly fail to do them unless you make them a priority. That’s why you are highlighting them.) To the right of each item, you might want to indicate how much time you think it will take. (I run a subtotal of the cumulating times to the right of that so there is some relationship between what I want to do and how much time I have to do it.)

As a general rule, it’s a good idea to structure all of your tasks so that none lasts more than an hour. 15-minute and 30-minute tasks are best. If you have something that takes several hours to do, break it up in pieces and do it over a few days. It will be better for the extra time you give it and you won’t get crushed on any one day. You will have now finished step two. Your day is organized not according to what others want from you but according to what you want from yourself. If you have never done this before it will be a major change.

Step Three: Give Your Day a Boost. (Time: 15 – 60 minutes) Here’s the best step. Do one of the highlighted tasks. If you can, select a task that will make you feel good. That might be something you enjoy doing (I often write ETR at this time because I enjoy the writing process) or something you really don’t want to do (because it will make you feel so good when it’s done). Do these three things right away – first thing when you get in (which should be about 90 minutes before everyone else) – and you will have accomplished more by starting time than most people do by lunchtime. (Or all day for that matter since most people see most of their day consumed by unimportant emergencies.)

Success is What Happens When You Do A Little More Each Day Over and Over

Success can come in a single windfall but most often it arrives bit by bit. This is a way for you to give yourself a significant advantage over the people you compete with in life. It actually gives you three advantages. You get much more done. You have to deal with many fewer unnecessary crises. And, most important, you spend a much greater percentage of your time doing things that move you along toward the goals you desire. A Clever Way To Keep Track . . . This system can be complemented by a file-indexing system a famously organized newspaper publisher showed me several years ago. It requires two accordion folders. One with a pocket for each month and another with pockets for 31 days.

As you go through your e-mail or read correspondence and memos, put aside anything you want to follow up on. Place it in the pocket of the month in which you intend to address it. When that month arrives, there will probably be thirty or forty sheets of paper stuffed inside, which you can sort through and place in some kind of manageable order in each of the days of the month. Then, as each day arrives, you simply extract from that day’s pocket the files you’ve placed there. This is a very easy way to keep hold of all your vital data and correspondence without resorting to large, messy stacks of paper.