Every so often I find myself overwhelmed by endless task lists that only seem to get longer, not shorter. To remain focused and to start each day with a clear, goal-oriented mission, I use a trick that I like to call the "Daily Gabe."
For 10 minutes each morning, before I get lost in the minutiae of checking my email and starting unorganized tasks, I pretend that I have a boss and his name is Gabe. Gabe understands my business' priorities profoundly and has a laser focus on the long-term vision. He gets the interplay between the micro and macro things that need to get done to achieve that vision. Every morning Gabe expects an email spelling out the (approximately) five things I must do today and a handful of things I probably should do (if I can get around to them). The musts must be achievable before I decide to call it a day.
In the evening, I spend a few minutes revisiting my Daily Gabe. How close am I to finishing my musts? Is there something that I put off all day that I could easily complete right now? If there is, I do it immediately.
The last step is sending the Daily Gabe summary. Gabe expects to be informed of the musts I accomplished and an explanation of those that are postponed.
What makes this trick work for my business partner and I is that we actually send these emails to our advisor daily. His name happens to be Gabe. And although he doesn't always respond to our morning lists and our evening summaries, he holds us accountable. When he doesn't receive an email, he checks in. When the list is too long he culls it. If the list contains things that seem unclear, too large, unfocused or misguided, he responds with advice. Gabe doesn't act as a boss -- he doesn't commend, reprimand or instruct, he merely advises -- but this structure makes us feel responsible. He expects us to get through our list. And after all, who would ever want to disappoint Gabe.
Being your own boss has many advantages -- the joy of determining what is and isn't important can't be understated -- but sometimes it helps to pretend. The secret truth is that nothing alleviated the stress of a seemingly endless task list until I began imagining I had a boss. I'm still fully in charge, but now I'm learning to stay organized. Your Gabe needn't be a formal advisor -- he or she could be a partner, a trusted associate,or even a significant other. Anyone willing to call you out and help you stay organized while still being fully in charge.