Staying On Target

Maintaining your focus is a constant challenge in today’s world. I’ve found that a few simple shortcuts can eliminate the clutter and keep me on track.

The advent of the Internet has raised procrastination to new heights. When you wanted entertainment in the old days, you had to walk to a water cooler to gossip about your peers’ sexual inadequacies. In the current era of instant messaging, streaming media, and, of course, dancing hamsters, endless procrastination is only a keystroke away.

Even more insidious is the procrastination that masquerades as productivity. The five times daily pilgrimage to The slow perusal of F*ed Company–just for the news, of course.

Plus, with fewer people doing more things in an environment in constant flux, it’s tough to remember what to do, or to stay productive.

I’ve struggled with this for years, from the personal planner days to the Palm V era, and none of it helps.

Ultimately, the solution that I found is very low-tech, very simple, but very effective.

Every Friday afternoon, when the rush of the week has subsided, I take half an hour to compose a checklist of what I need to accomplish the following week. It’s a simple Word document, with room for checking off the tasks. If I need to work with anyone else, I put their names down.

Here’s a sample of this week’s list:

__ Launch Commission Junction distributor program
__ Create user demo for the Lead Engine web site
__ Draft Got.Net co-location contract

Once the checklist is complete, I email it to everyone that I work with, and post a printed copy outside my office where everyone can see it. As I complete the tasks, I check them off with my trusty black pen. If something else comes up, I add it in–again, in pen.

Now I know exactly what I need to do, and whenever I feel the itch to sneak over to, I just glance at my checklist and move on to the next unchecked item. The 1-week time horizon is just enough to give me some long-term thinking without requiring constant revisions.

It may seem like a small thing, but it’s the anchor that I cling too in the maelstrom of business today.

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