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In his book “Make Today Count,” John C. Maxwell famously said that every person needs to strive to make that happen. It is a wonderful way to live if practiced correctly.
Maxwell, a leadership expert, has this simple formula:
|Good Decisions||–||Daily Discipline||=||A Plan Without a Payoff|
|Daily Discipline||–||Good Decisions||=||Regimentation Without Reward|
|Good Decisions||+||Daily Discipline||=||A Masterpiece of Potential|
Put another way, making today count requires discipline and mindfulness. It requires understanding and acknowledging that you know what really needs to get done today.
Think about it this way: If you want to take a road trip from San Francisco to Portland, Maine, chances are good that you won’t just get in the car and go without a map and a plan. You’ll probably plot out on your map where you’re going to stop, which highways you’ll travel. Sure, you may ultimately figure it out and get to Maine without a plan. However, without a plan, you’re just on cruise control and not much more. With a plan, you know the milestones you’re going to hit and when you will achieve your key objectives.
Will things get in your way, forcing you to deviate? Sure. But with a plan, you can adjust and get back on course.
Exactly the same way. Every morning you should be asking this question: How do I make today count? What must absolutely get done for me to feel I’ve really accomplished something?
You may be busy, but are you busy checking the right boxes? To make today count you need to know your Objectives and Key Results, or OKRs, for the quarter, year or longer — and take a look at how you are planning your day, week, month, quarter and year.
Start with Sunday evening. Are you prepping and planning for the week ahead? Are you asking what few things must absolutely go right for you to have the most productive week possible? How many of those action items you identified are “runway level” tasks (the stuff you must do every day) versus activities that are tied back to an OKR? Is there a balance or are the scales weighed down with runway tasks? Remember, to achieve your OKRs, you must find ways to work them in every week.
Then, there’s each day of the workweek. Before you leave your office for the day, are you taking a moment to reflect on what was done and what is still left to do for tomorrow? Are you preparing your task list each evening so that you walk into the office the next morning fully prepared? Because no matter what, you should have a plan. You may get sidetracked, but armed with the plan you know how far off course you’ve been thrown, and that you must get back on course and execute.
Finally, there’s your Friday afternoon routine. Before leaving the office, are you taking a moment to reflect on what progress you made during the week? Were your accomplishments tied back to any of your OKRs? If not, why not? Do you face problems or roadblocks that require assistance from others? If you have roadblocks, then acknowledge them so others can help clear the path for you.
To get all of that right, of course, you need a firm grasp on your OKRs. Importantly, how do your personal OKRs tie back to your team and, ultimately, the firm or company? To that end, do you even know what your team and firm OKRs are? If not, why not? Who can you ask?
What you do as an individual at your organization must be tied back, in some way, to the OKRs of your department or practice group and to the firm as a whole. Otherwise, why are you getting paid? (And if it’s your firm, why are people on the payroll?)
Think of it like this: If a school has an objective to provide a safe, clean environment for children, then what a custodian does every day matters a lot. Administrators and teachers do their part, for sure, but a custodian makes sure the floors are clean, bathrooms are tidy, and pathways are cleared so kids don’t slip and fall. That custodian’s plan for the day will ultimately be tied back to department and organizational level goals.
All of this ultimately ties back to this fundamental question: Do you know what you’re doing today?
Answering the question may be simple for you, but is it the right answer? If you’re going to make today count, as Maxwell says, then you must plot out the map for your success. You must understand your purpose so that on Friday afternoon you fully grasp what few things went right and what did not throughout the week. With your purpose in mind, you can adjust and plot out your days, weeks and months ahead.
To check the right boxes, you need to have laid out in advance which boxes those are. Making today count sounds good, but if you are not disciplined and mindful, then you will miss the mark every time.
As Ferris Bueller says: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
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