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Unpacking Your Day


Research shows us that most people underestimate what they can do in the long-term and overestimate what they can do in the short-term. As a result, many of us overfill our days with too many activities. I have  been studying this for a long time, and although I have made great strides in blocking time for renewal and being discerning around how much of my time I actually commit to unique activities and events, I still periodically find myself overcommitting.

The sweet spot for me – and I would contend for many who are looking to optimize their effectiveness – is no more than five unique events per day. Anything more than five adversely impacts focus, energy, and ultimately productivity. When I refer to a unique event, I mean a situation where either the type of thing I am working on changes, or the person or group changes. And when I say that five unique events is the sweet spot for me, these events are a combination of professional and personal activities and commitments spanning approximately 12 hours of any given day.

I have mastered not checking my device immediately upon waking, and my morning routine sets the right tone, intention, and energy for the day to come. However, what I still struggle with a bit is not trying to shoehorn just one more event into each and every day.

There are a number of reasons I feel that five, not six, is the right number. Firstly, as leaders our primary roles are to think, listen, and create the space and conditions for the people that work with and for us to flourish. In order for that to happen, we need to have enough space in our day, enough downtime to:

  • think creatively and strategically.
  • listen deeply to what people care about and what is blocking them from performing and being engaged.
  • analyze the current business processes and practices that may be hamstringing people from engaging their fullest and performing their best.

Additionally, I am clearly of the opinion that few, if any, of these unique events be scheduled back-to-back. From my early days of reading Jerry and Esther Hicks, I have been a fan of segment intending – taking a few minutes or more between each segment of the day and being very intentional about what I would like to have happen and how I plan on showing up to make sure it does. Segment intending assumes that there is some time between segments for you to consciously and proactively declare what you intend to accomplish in the next segment. This is a version of slowing down to go faster and creating the space for grace, the space where our full attention intersects with the present moment. In this space we tap into intuition, inspiration, and intention.

But when we schedule back-to-back-to-back meetings, and fill our days with more than five unique events, we barely have time to take a breath and truly think about how we are doing and what we want to achieve. This cannot be believed or disbelieved by reading, however; it must be tested and experimented with. Try it – commit to no more than five events a day in the coming week. Commit, if you will, to not over-committing.

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1 Comment

  1. Deborah Sabella on August 7, 2019 at 2:23 pm

    Great article Ralph! I really appreciate this guideline to work plan for no more than 5 tasks a day. One quote that really resonated with me is “creating the space for grace”.

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