In Stephen Covey’s classic productivity book First Things First, he includes a comprehensive review of various approaches to time management, evaluating their strengths and weaknesses. Some approaches are very high level, focusing on goals and values and life purpose, while other methods deal with optimizing daily workflow.
Covey argues, rather brilliantly, that trying to manage your life from the higher level perspective of your life purpose or from the lower level perspective of your daily to-dos are both suboptimal approaches. What’s needed is a perspective that balances your highest aspirations with your daily tasks. Covey explains that the perspective of the week is ideal for this.
My own productivity experiments lead me to agree. Thinking about my life purpose is great, but it’s hard to translate such high-minded ideals into simple daily actions — every single day. I can express my purpose directly through writing blog posts or newsletters, but trying to apply my life purpose one day at a time doesn’t work well for complex projects like starting a business or developing a new workshop.
On the other hand, if I tighten my focus and handle tasks one day at a time as they come up, I’m likely to drown in urgent but unimportant tasks. I’ll spend too much time on trivial items, extra emails, and other fluff — actions which have little to do with expressing my purpose. My days will fill up with busywork, much of which has little or no long-term impact.
But when I plan out my life one week at a time, I have the space to reconnect with my purpose, values, and highest aspirations. I’m not distracted by the clutter of one day’s activities. I can think consciously and intelligently about how to express my purpose over the course of the week, even if I have other tasks on my plate. In the span of a week, I have enough room to attend to several important items — if I schedule them intelligently in advance.
If you manage your life one day at a time, certain tasks and projects will never get done. You’ll always find reasons to procrastinate on them. The daily perspective is such a narrow focus that you’re very likely to become urgency driven, attending to whatever comes up and putting off your truly important projects. You’re unlikely to write that book, start that new website, or plan that personal retreat you’ve always wanted to take. [Read more…] about How to Balance Your Life Purpose with Your Daily To-Dos