How you start your day can set the whole trajectory for it not only in terms of getting the right things done but also, more importantly, in terms of health.
My friend, Matt Jensen, gave me a helpful tool a few months ago that has changed how I approach my days. It is a simple list of questions and tasks that have brought health and clarity to my days. I’ll walk you through them and how I use them. I hope they serve you well.
Tools You Will Need
I use Evernote as my journal and have a folder in it where I keep these a daily journal.
ESV Reading Plan for a yearly Bible reading plan.
Asana for task management. I love that it is browser and cloud based, and that it works with a project and delegation system.
1. How am I doing?
This is where I’m honest about what is going on in my heart. Am I exhausted? Scared? Excited? Depressed? Angry? Thankful? And, more importantly, why?
Too often we don’t ask what we are actually feeling. This can lead to not dealing honestly with God, ourselves, and others. We can not grieve well, reconcile relationships well, and end up going inward in depression or outward in anger. It’s important to also not leave what you deal with in this section in your journal; talk about it with your spouse and those around you who speak in to your life.
2. What’s coming at me?
This is where I’ll capture what is coming at me. Phases of life can be dizzying from all that is happening. It is really helpful to just get everything on the table in front of you. For me, it can be anything like training leaders, preparing to preach, upcoming weddings, days with my family, difficult conversations, refinancing our house, and the like.
3. What is God saying?
After starting with my heart and circumstances and getting all of that on the table, I turn to what God has to say in the Bible. I use the ESV reading plan, love it, and would recommend it to anyone who doesn’t have one. It goes through the Bible in a year and each day has a four readings, usually two from the Old Testament and two from the New Testament. While reading, I look for what the Bible says about who God is, what he says, why I resist those truths, how Jesus is the hero, and who I am because of what Jesus as done for me. Seeing these things deals with my heart by leading to repentance, faith, and worship. They also apply to any circumstance because God and his wisdom are transcendent.
After hearing from God, the next step is to talk to him in prayer. I pray through the scripture I've read, through an on-going prayer list that I keep in Evernote, and through what is coming at me (#2).
5. Encourage Kim
I love my wife and love to encourage her. After my relationship with God, my relationship with Kim is the most important. Yet, there are many seasons of life where I’ll wrongfully neglect her. I’ll get busy, ‘in my head’, or whatever bad excuse there is. Being intentional about encouraging her builds my thankfulness for her, love for her, and hopefully brings her life. I’ll usually text or call her and encourage her in some aspect of her life, something I’m grateful for, and tell her how much I love her.
6. Connect with/encourage some friends
I’m thankful for the friends God has given me and find myself energized by them. At this point I will pick one or two to pray for and text or call to encourage or simply talk with.
7. Check Calendar
I look at my calendar and look at the day, and next two weeks. Every Friday I will review the week before and look one month out.
8. Determine Tasks
Based on the calendar, this is where I list out everything that needs to get done for every milestone or project coming up. This is just to get it all done, not to prioritize, that is next.
9. What’s the one thing I absolutely need to get done today?
This is where you prioritize and hone in on the day. Answering this question gives you the big “E” on the eye chart, as my good friend Jesse says. This is the task you knock out before everything else.
10. What would be the second most important thing?
This helps you see the next most important thing. Occasionally I’ll put two tasks in here, if I really feel they are of the same weight. The helpful thing about these questions is that once I knock out the most important things of my day, I tend to keep cranking right through the rest because I’m energized by accomplishment.
11. What is the least important thing?
Not everything is important. Act accordingly.
Now, there is an important step I take after answering this question: I input all of the tasks in to Asana and assign them to a topic, schedule them, tag them, and if necessary delete them. This makes sure that I don’t lose tasks in a journal on Evernote but that they stay on my radar.
12. Respond to Email
Here’s why this step is important where it is. Generally, when you start your day with email you are driven by the urgent. An email comes in and seems to be a blinking red light demanding your attention. This can, in fact, not be true and can throw off your energy, focus, and attitude. Answering your email after you’ve already prioritized your day helps you see the emails you get through the right lenses.
13. Work on Tasks
Next I get those two most important tasks done, adjust based on emails, and then proceed through the rest of the day.
14. Social Media
Again, the temptation is to start the day with this but, like email, social media carries the feeling of importance and urgency but often is neither. Start your day with your heart, God, prayer, your spouse, and prioritizing the truly meaningful.
This is a part of the Intentional Man series.
Photo by Filson.