Use one of the tables below as a prompt at the end of the day to analyse what went well and what you can do better. The key is to be honest with yourself and find ways to improve that are within your control. Do this for months and years until it becomes second nature. You will simply get better and better!
~~~ The simple approach ~~~
If you are not a big fan of rigid planning and analysing, this simple table will be sufficient to trigger some thoughts at the end of your work day. Use is for a while until it becomes a habit.
~~~ Analyse your day ~~~
Here is a little tool that can help you with the improvement step
What went well/poorly?
Something in the planning or the doing step must have gone particularly well or poorly.
Use our questions from the “measurement” section as prompts or ask “why” 5 times (5 why technique) is it.
Reasons for things going poorly could be poor planning or execution, a lack of skills, motivation, lack of incentive or organisational obstacles, interruption, distraction.
Reasons for things going well could be something that you have differently to other times or external circumstances were better. What was it? Think about it so that you can create the same situation more often. Maybe you have slept better because you went for a long walk in the afternoon or you have been given a task that is your sweet spot.
How to improve?
How can you do more of the good things and less of the poor ones? Try to apply the successful principles onto more or other areas. For example if walking helped you sleeping better, then regular exercising might help you always rest better hence perform better the next day.
~~~ A more systematic approach ~~~
The table following shows a learning exercise which helps to apply the tips in this section. It will be sufficient to use it on two days a week for a few weeks until you feel comfortable and have a good working plan. Once you have established a habit of using the tips provided, you will not need this exercise anymore.
A few words on how it works:
- Each column represents a phase in our cycle.
- The top half is for your tasks. The bottom half is for improvement opportunities.
- Start with filling out the tasks for the next day. Be clear about your priorities. The priority #1 task is the one you should start with on the next day.
- Once you complete a task, tick it off and write down how long it took you. If you are not measuring the time, just write “too long”, “fast”, “just right.”
- Fill out the “Improve” column either after task completion or at the end of the day.
- Fill out the “Distractors” and the “Energy Levels” section either as the situations occur or at the end of the day.
- Reflect on the day at the end of the day and fill out what worked and what to improve.
Remember this is just a learning effort. You will not need it after a few weeks of exercising. Feel free to modify this exercise in any way that suits you. And don’t forget to celebrate improvements!
Check out our step-by-step guide on Prioritisation (click this link).
Learn about time management principles
Check out our main article on time management or one of the specialised articles below.
Learn about the Pareto method. A real eye-opener when it comes to distinguishing between important and unimportant. And check out our tips on how to get rid of unimportant tasks.
Execution is (literally) the death of even the greatest plans. Learn some counterintuitive tips to overcome the inertia of “doing.”
Reviewing what you have achieved at the end of the day is the simplest form of “measuring” and can yet be extremely powerful. Here are some guidelines how to get most out of it.
Executing and measuring your plan will give you valuable tips on how good the plan was and what can be improved. Here is a little tool that will help you with it.
By Murat Uenlue, PhD, PMP, 2013.