How do you know if you’re truly making progress each day toward your goals? Last week, you learned how to turn your goals into an actionable plan, which means you made a plan that is simple, specific, incremental, and effective. Crafted successfully, such a plan has built-in metrics—ways you can measure your forward progress on a regular basis.
But maybe that’s not enough for you. You want more than being able to look backward at the end of the day and see if you’ve done well. You want to be even more intentional about how your day is set up and how you can ensure that what you’re doing fuels your forward momentum.
You need to measure your daily to-do list against your goals and make sure they’re in alignment.
Now before you go scorched earth on your task list, realize that there will always be things to do that don’t directly influence your goals. I’m sure there are responsibilities that come with your job and household that won’t offer forward motion on your personal goals—especially if you work for someone else. What you can be sure of, however, is that you can control the individual parts of your to-do list in such a way that everything you do has at least an indirect effect on reaching your goal.
Here are 5 Steps to Align Your Daily To-Do List with Your Goals
- Cut Items First
Start by looking at your to-do list for the day and determine if there are items that are detrimental to reaching your goals. Unless they’re things you can’t get out of doing—such as work assignments—cross them off the list right away. Keep in mind you’re looking for items that are truly a hindrance to reaching your goals, not simply things you don’t want to do.
- Prioritize Your List
Prioritize the remaining items on your to-do list. I suggest breaking up your to-do list into the following categories:
- Needs Action Immediately
- Needs Action Today
- Needs Action Tomorrow/Later
- Tackle Responsibilities and Necessary Items
These are things that you have to get done whether or not they move you toward your goal, so you have to make them priority. Be encouraged that all of these items are probably at least indirectly associated with your goals in some way. Consider even onerous tasks assigned by a supervisor as beneficial because they at least provide a paycheck.
- Make a Top Three List
Once you’ve cleaned up necessary tasks and responsibilities, find the top three items that will move you toward your goal today. Circle them and number them #1, #2, and #3. Use the time you’ve got left in the day to work on them in that order.
- Do Some Clean-up Work
By this point in your day there are probably items you’ve avoided or put off because they were low priority—like cleaning the bathroom at home. Spend some time working on some of these tasks. Hopefully they’re quick ones. After you’ve done all you can for the day, see what needs to be moved to tomorrow’s list and begin anew.
Note: If you’re employed and on company time, don’t work through your personal to-dos at work unless you’re on break or lunch time. Don’t steal from your employer, they’re paying you for your time.
In truth, what we’re setting out to do here is to begin the process of evaluating your life in general to see if the actions and choices you take each day align with who you want to become. In everything you do, keep your core values at the forefront of your mind and begin cutting out those things that don’t measure up.
How do you prioritize your to-do list? How do you make daily decision to make sure you’re always gaining forward momentum toward your goals? Please share in the comments.
I’m Jeff M. Miller, and I help ordinary people who are stuck in a rut change their behaviors so they can be extraordinary. I’m an entrepreneur who retired from my full-time job in my early 40s to work from home. I’m a financial counselor, life coach, graphic designer, and passionate believer in helping others improve their lives a little more each day.