To-Do Lists Not Working? Try This Time-Management Alternative Taking time to think about your ideal day can help you become much more productive and make your life more effective.

By Jason Womack

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As 2013 marches forward, do you find yourself making another to-do list? Or are you spending time "getting organized"? Or are you buying a new app or tool to "make things easier"? Do you need to attend or call yet another meeting?

You are not alone.

These are ways people typically "manage" their time. But when you really look at the results, is your approach working for you? Are you happy with the speed at which you are moving toward your goals? Do you know what you are moving toward? Is it enough?

Asking questions like these can help you change to make your life more effective. Big questions can bring big changes. I've found over and over again that the best place to start defining what I want to change is by identifying what my "ideal" is for the projects in my life. For example, taking time to define what the "ideal" meeting might look like gives me a deeper understanding of what I might need to prepare to help make that ideal happen. By knowing what an "ideal" contact looks like for me, by having thought about it deeply ahead of time, I know "this is it" when I meet that person. . . and know when I don't hear my ideal as well. This simple step of identifying what is ideal for me makes my days unfold more effectively in the office and at home.

Related: When Sustainability Starts With Yourself: The Key to Lasting Change in Your Personal Productivity

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Before 2013 goes any further, give yourself the gift of understanding your ideal day. Take time to write even a draft of your vision. What you'll describe isn't "the" ideal day. . . rather, your vision is just one version of "an" ideal day for your life. How would you like your day to unfold?

Imagining and writing about an ideal day for you may not be easy. My first time describing it was a challenge, too. Years of practicing have made the process easier, and the results I have seen from doing this exercise are well worth the time it takes. This practice started after a thought-provoking mentor once asked me, "Would you know a great day if you saw one?" Now, I don't expect any one day to unfold exactly as I have described it in my writings. But I can tell you that over the years, parts of my ideal day have happened and enhanced my life. Sometimes these moments of clarity have created even more dreams and goals as I see many of my described "ideals" unfold. This clarity is very powerful.

Now it's your turn. Write an "Ideal Day" scenario for yourself. Sit down and set a timer for 15 minutes. Now write. Begin describing the time of day when you have lots of energy and do your best work. Is that the morning for you? Or do you consider yourself a "night owl"? Pick the time of day when you could be at your best. What makes you your best? A hot breakfast? A good night's sleep? Ponder and write about your work, life, community, family and habits that would exist in your ideal day. What would your ideal day look, sound, and feel like. Include details so you "know it when you see (hear, feel) it."

Knowing what "ideal" means to you gives you a goal to work toward. Put your draft "ideal day" somewhere so you can see it, read about it, and ponder it, often. The life you are currently living is the result of accumulated thoughts, discussions, actions and experiences. If you want your life to be different, something must change. By writing what an "ideal" day might be for you the process of change begins. . . right here, right now. . . and you make your "best" even better.

Related: When Enough Is Enough: The Perfectionist's Secret to Higher Productivity

Jason Womack


Jason W. Womack is the CEO of The Womack Company, an international training firm that helps busy professionals be more productive through coaching and consulting. He is co-founder of the Get Momentum Leadership Academy, author of Your Best Just Got Better (Wiley, 2012) and co-author with his wife, Jodi Womack, of Get Momentum: How To Start When You’re Stuck (Wiley, 2016). Since 2000 he has coached leaders across industries and trained them in the art of increasing their workplace productivity and achieving personal happiness.


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