Getting the Important Stuff Done

“Doing work that matters is much harder than doing work that doesn’t.” – Peter Bregman, author of “18 Minutes.”18minutes

The important work that we say that we want to do is often hard. It’s so much easier to fritter away time on things that don’t matter like Facebook, Pinterest, or Farmville. These easy distractions give us an immediate pay-off which is hard to resist. The long-term pay-off of pursuing our goals is much more valuable, but also much farther away.

The Quadrant II activities in Stephen R Covey’s Time Management Matrix include things like planning, clarifying values, and relationship building. These are the activities we should spend more time on, but that often fall by the wayside, pushed aside by more trivial matters. Take these steps to overcome the pitfalls and get important stuff done.

10 Tactics for accomplishing important work:

Don’t overlook your goals when choosing your Most Important Tasks (MITs) for the day

Important tasks can be routine work, like the report that is due today and the car that needs an oil change. We know that QII activities are also important, but without a deadline they can often be easily postponed. They may never happen if you wait to do them until you have free time.

Tackle important work at the best time

It’s best to work on tasks that require thought and creativity when you have the most energy, usually in the morning. Don’t waste your most productive time.

Remember the benefits

Consider the consequences if it is not done, and the benefits of accomplishing it.

Make it easy

In his book and TED Talk, Peter Bregman uses an example to illustrate this. His family thought they would eat outdoors at a table, but found they never used it…until they moved it a little closer to their door. Make good habits easy, and bad habits hard.

KISS-Keep It Super Simple

Maybe you don’t need a complicated plan. Maybe you only need to know the first step. Some projects may be complex, but keep them as simple as possible. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be.

Break it down

Big tasks can seem overwhelming unless they are broken down into smaller action steps.

Take one small step

Get started by telling yourself you will do just one small step. Often once inertia is overcome, it’s easy to keep the momentum going.

Get focused

Do an annual review to choose goals and areas of focus. The Energy Level Gauge is a simple tool that makes it easy to see which areas of your life need more attention.

Remind Yourself

Keep it visual, and keep it on your radar. Peter Bregman’s 18 minutes: 5 minutes in the morning to plan, 5 minutes in the evening to review, and a timer set hourly during the day to re-focus.

Schedule it

Assign a date and time in your calendar. In 18 Minutes, Peter Bregman describes studies from the book “The Power of Full Engagement” by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz which reveal that deciding when and where we will do something makes it 80-100% more likely to be done.

Want to learn more? Read 18 Minutes by Peter Bregman, and watch his TED Talk, The Work Buffet.

More resources to: Learn about Productivity

What I Have Learned About Love from the Movies


Something’s Gotta Give is one of my favorite romantic comedies. I’ve watched it many times and know almost all the lines by heart. Diane Keaton somehow makes having a broken heart funny in her crying scene. One of the lessons of the movie is this: the heart wants what the heart wants. But the lines below are among the most powerful.

Marin: Are you crying?

Erica Barry: Yeah. It’s my new thing. I’ve gotten abnormally brilliant at it.

Marin: Why? What is it?

Erica Barry: I’m in love. Ain’t it great? Seems like I gotta learn how to that… love-them-and-leave-them stuff, you know?

Marin: Oh mom, I hate this. Now do you get my theory about all this? You gotta self-protect.

Erica Barry: You don’t really buy this stuff you say, do you? You don’t actually think that you can outsmart getting hurt?

Marin: I think it’s worth trying.

Erica Barry: Listen to me. You can’t hide from love for the rest of your life because maybe it won’t work out… maybe you’ll become unglued? It’s just not a way to live.

Marin: Are you telling me this is good? What’s happened to you?

Erica Barry: I think you should consider the possibility that you and I are more alike than you realize. I let someone in, and I had the time of my life.

Marin: I’ve never had the time of my life.

Erica Barry: I know, baby. And I say this from the deepest part of my heart. What are you waiting for?

The lesson: In romance, you have to take a risk. Yes, there may be pain. But if you see a chance, take it. Here’s a few more things I’ve learned about love from the movies:

“Love is a gift, Alex, not an obligation.” -Fools Rush In

“You are what you love, not what loves you.” -Adaptation

“The greatest thing you’ll ever know, is just to love, and be loved in return.” -Moulin Rouge

A few more:

And Samantha in the television show Sex and the City:

“I love you, but I love me more.”

What have you learned about love at the movies? Let us know at the Daily PlanIt Facebook page!

Time Perspective and Happiness

In my search for videos to learn more about productivity, I came across this short TED Talk by Philip Zimbardo called “The Psychology of Time.” Philip Zimbardo is the author of the book The Time Paradox, and founder of the Heroic Imagination Project.

An animated version of the Secret Powers of Time at the RSA

And a longer version at the RSA

The Positive Present and the ability to shift

As the above graphic from “Time Perspective” shows, Zimbardo describes the Present time perspective as Hedonism or Fatalism. But when I apply the ideas of time perspective to the Happiness Habits identified by Positive Psychology, the majority have a primary focus on the present, in a positive way.

Primarily Present Happiness Habits:

  • Breathing
  • Meditation
  • In Flow
  • Share
  • Uplift
  • Noticing

Primarily Future: Aspire

Both Present and Future: Exercise. (We exercise in the present, often with a goal for the future.)

Both Present and Past: Gratitude

A mixture of Present, Past, and Future:

  • Emotional awareness
  • Relating

The ability to shift our attention between the different time perspectives has a big impact on happiness and success. Learn more at Past, Present or Future: Which Perspective Dominates You at Psych Scrivener.

What do you think? Let us know at the Daily PlanIt Facebook page.

How I use Google Drive for Lists

Lists are an important part of any time management system. In an electronic system, there are different options available for lists: Wunderlist and Evernote are two that are popular. I use Google Drive for most of the lists in my system. A combination of the Taskary app, Google Tasks, and GTasks works for my To Do list. The following illustrations show how I organize folders and documents for the lists I keep in Google Drive.


I also have a folder with lists to capture Ideas. Your core value statement: mission statement or Unique Selling Proposition, is the central point from which goals, projects, and actions flow.


I find it really helps to have this where I can always review it.


This is what my Goal Master List looks like:


And here is my Project Master List:


Some lists for Today:


Some lists for Planning:


Google Drive is simple to set up, flexible and easy to use. You can create links and include photos, spreadsheets, and there are probably more options beyond what I’ve discovered. I think it’s a great way to keep the lists you need.

For the Getting Things Done, or GTD, system lists include: next actions, projects, waiting for, and someday/maybe.

How do you manage lists? Let us know on our Facebook page. See more about how I manage my system and workspace.

Learn About Productivity

Productivity is a key skill that employers look for, but that is not often taught. Here are some resources to learn about productivity.


Two great very short videos from Epipheo to get started.

In just under 10 minutes, the Penguin Prof condenses Randy Pausch’s longer lecture below that is aimed at college students but has helpful information for everyone.

Randy Pausch’s Lecture on Time Management is almost an hour and a half, time well spent.

TED Talks

David Allen TED Talk Art of Stress Free Productivity (Author of Getting Things Done)

Tony Schwartz TED Talk The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working

Scott Belsky’s TED Talk on Making Ideas Happen

Brian Tracy on the art and science of time management (8.41)

A video series from Michael Sliwinski, founder of Nozbe, an app with a monthly fee after 30 days.

Brendan Burchard, author of “The Charge.” outlines how to use his one page productivity planner available at

A few more to check out at Daily PlanIt Productivity Youtube Playlist.

Learn more about the science of productivity.

Learn by reading some of my favorite books about productivity.

Learn more with the Time Management 101 Tutorial

Daily Routine Checklist With Prayers and Quotes for the Day

We all need a schedule that fits our unique life: everyone has their own preferences and tasks to perform. Some prefer to exercise, shower or bathe in the morning, others in the evening. Checklists can help us remember everything that needs to be done. I recently powered up my daily routine with some favorite prayers and quotes for inspiration, various exercises scattered throughout the day, and music that fits that part of my day. Finding ways to add gratitude, meditation, and deep breathing on a daily basis helps to manage stress and increase happiness. I keep a copy in Google Drive so I can easily review it. These are some of my favorite prayers and quotes (pdf) for a daily routine checklist (pdf)


Wake Up!

Positive quotes:

  • “Every day is a gift, that’s why they call it the present.”
  • “What we are is God’s gift to us, What we become is our gift to God.” -Eleanor Powell
  • A grateful heart a garden is…plant seeds of gratitude, kindness & inspiration today.

Affirmations: “I will choose a positive attitude and thinking today. I will choose a growth mindset, and view problems as challenges. I will bravely be my authentic self and stretch beyond my comfort zone. I will project both strength and warmth. I will listen with attention and communicate with care. I will use my talents for a meaningful purpose. I will create meaningful memories with those I care about.

My morning prayer: “Thank You, God, for the opportunities of this new day. Grant me kindness and compassion for others, patience when dealing with any difficulties, strength to handle problems. Help me to grow and to be my best self.”

Listen to motivational or inspirational music

Morning Light Prayer

“For this new morning with its light, For rest and shelter of the night, For health and food, for love and friends. For everything Thy goodness sends, Thank you, God.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • Review value statement and vision board with photos of strengths


“Do more than belong: participate. Do more than care: help. Do more than believe: practice. Do more than be fair: be kind. Do more than forgive: forget. Do more than dream: work.” -William Arthur Ward

  • Get to work! I find listening to nature sounds or classical music that activates Alpha brain waves really helps me to access flow and maintain focus.
  • Listening to workout music while exercising makes it easier. [30 minutes of aerobic on the elliptical machine is vital to keep me feeling good, and 10:30 am works best for me]


You are the one [fellow] that has to decide
Whether you’ll do it, or toss it aside.
You are the one [fellow] who makes up your mind,
Whether you’ll try for the goal that’s afar
Or be contented to stay where you are.
Take it or leave it. Here’s something to do!
Just think it over. It’s all up to you.

-Edgar Guest


Be a torch or be a spark.

Be a candle in the dark.

Be a sunbeam or a star.

Be the shining light you are.


At Eventide

Is anybody happier because you passed his way? Does anyone remember that you spoke to him today? This day that’s almost over, did you use its moments well or will the angel’s record a tale of trouble tell? Did you waste the day, or save it? Was it well, or poorly spent? Did you leave a trail of kindness, or a scar of discontent? As you close your eyes in slumber, do you hear the angel say, “You have earned one more tomorrow by the way you lived today”?

  • Create meaningful memories with good conversation during a family meal.
  • Lift weights and do posture exercises when watching tv [neck strengthening exercises are crucial to keep me feeling good, and a short simple weight lifting routine with dumbbells is another goal]

My evening prayer: “Thank you, God, for the gift of this day. Thank you for your loving care, and for always being by my side.”

Two prayers and a song I find comforting: What God Hath Promised (see below), a Child’s Evening Hymn, and The Prayer sung by Josh Groban and Charlotte Church.

See more details about my daily routine, and how to Run Your Day Like an Athlete.






I made myself a visual reminder for the BE MEASURING happiness habits:
BeMeasuringPhotosHappiness Habits:

  • Breathe Deeply
  • Exercise
  • Meditate
  • Emotionally Aware
  • Aspire
  • Share
  • Uplift
  • Relate
  • In Flow
  • Notice
  • Gratitude

I printed these photos, cut them out and glued them to tags. I’d like to clip them to a yardstick, but haven’t found one!

Here is a free download of the BE MEASURING happiness habits reminders (pdf)

Happy New Year!

Thinking about this reminds me that in happiness and life, to everything there is a season.

There is a time for doing and a time for being,

A time for thinking and a time for feeling,

A time for working and a time for playing,

A time for introspection and a time for connection,

A time for planning and a time for action,

A time for hanging in and a time for letting go.

Awareness is key to knowing when it is time to shift.

Read more about Apps for Happiness and Personal Development and Happiness Based on Science and Positive Psychology.

How to Set Goals Quickly and Easily With Two Free Tools: an Annual Review


When a new year begins, we often take some time to review how things have been going, and plan for what’s next. Setting goals doesn’t have to be a complicated process. Here are three simple steps:

1. Choose a goal (see Goal Plans for ideas) that will increase value for each area.

  • A quick energy audit will reveal which life areas to focus on.

2. Make your goal SMART.

3. Make a Goal Master List (pdf) that you keep visible.

Goal Master List4. There are different types of goals. Pick the right Goal Chart (pdf) to keep track of your progress, or track habits with an app or a calendar to implement Jerry Seinfeld’s Don’t Break the Chain Strategy.

GoalChartCardsThat’s basically it! If you want to become a goal setting ninja, increase your Goal Setting Skills with Goal Mastery Levels (pdf)

GoalMasteryIf you want to learn more, check out the free Daily PlanIt short course on How to Set Goals, and my eBook, “Get Goaling.”

See also:


Top 10 Posts of 2014

Here are the top 10 posts of the year at The Daily PlanIt in 2014:

Free Tools
Home page / Archives
Identify Emotions
Apps for Happiness and Personal Development
A paper planner tool for the weekly review
Top Ten Personal Development Sites
The portable gtd mini system
GTD Essentials
Combating Procrastination
Run Your Day Like an Athlete

Interest in the free tools posted here is always high. The identify emotions post is not new, but remains a popular topic, while interest in productivity continues to be high.


One thing I’ve learned this year is about the overlap between:

  1. happiness habits,
  2. personal development (of which productivity is a part) and
  3. skills for success.

An overlap in all 3 subjects occurs in the areas of Social, Relationships, and Mental. Many of the top 10 skills employers are looking for are mental, but the top 2 are Communication and Teamwork. Sharing is a key happiness habit in the social area, and communication is important in all relationships.

More overlap occurs in the happiness habits and personal development. Breathing and exercise in the physical area, meditation and gratitude in the spiritual area, and emotional awareness in both. I believe these skills are also helpful for career success.

It’s pretty easy to sell people on the benefits of happiness! When you start with the happiness habits you will also be developing personally and developing work and career skills. Add in more personal development and you will gain still more work and career skills. This overlap indicates that increasing skills in communication, goal setting and productivity provide a high return on investment of time spent on developing them.

Resources from The Daily PlanIt to learn these key skills are:

Communication- Communicate Well, and Skills Employers Want: #1 Communication

Goal Setting- How to Set Goals tutorial, the How to Start a Fire free eBook on discovering what you are passionate about,  “On Purpose” course at Udemy, and my “Get Goaling” ebook.

Productivity- Time Management 101 tutorial