Planning Your Day With “The Big Picture” In Mind

This post is not so much about planning or to-do lists as it is about “drivers”–i.e., what  “drives” us to choose what to do or not to do throughout the day.  Since goals (the topic of the previous post) are achieved by moving towards them in baby steps on a daily basis, I find myself very naturally linking the two subjects.  “Goals” are the finish line, the “big picture” of my life, and my to-do list is the baby steps that help me get me there.
I continually struggle with a to-do list that never gets everything checked off of it.  This makes me feel as if I am not really accomplishing anything and actually leads to me not taking the list seriously–which is absolutely the wrong way to look at a to-do list!  I have been thinking about things I can do to reinvent my to-do list and, in so doing, I am hoping to become more productive along the way.
I read somewhere about the concept of reducing your to-do list to “the three most important things” (MITs) that must be accomplished each day.  Instead of having a huge, long list that only leaves you feeling defeated at the end of the day, compose a short list that you will really give your time and attention to starting first thing in the morning.  The idea is, if you accomplish what’s on that short list, you can go to bed at night knowing that you have truly had a productive day.  It goes without saying, of course, that I am not talking about three meaningless chores (empty the dishwasher, feed the cat, etc.), but a list with quality content in it–content that will contribute to the overall quality of life and will truly move you towards where you want to be when it’s all said and done (your life, that is).  This concept has inspired me to change my approach to my to-do list and to my day.
I like the idea of just a few MITs, but after giving it some serious thought, I couldn’t reduce my list to just three things.  So I tweaked it a little to fit with my philosophy and priorities and values.  Life is the sum of what you do on a day-to-day basis, so what do I want my life to “add up to” (the big picture)?  What do I want to accomplish everyday (the baby steps)?
Following is a draft of my ultimate, big-picture goal(s) (not my daily MIT list):
1. I want to know God, thus, a relationship with God and with people who know God must make up a part of each day.
2. I want to build and invest in others, to exemplify the principle of “otherness” as opposed to “self.”  This is a very broad and needs more thought on my part.  (Incidentally, this blog fits under the heading of this MIT, as it is one means of investing in the lives of others.)
3. I want to be fit and strong and grow old with grace.  Exercise, healthy eating, activity must be a part of my daily to-do list.
4. I want to build a profitable business that is characterized by excellence.  I want to do well by my clients (I am a Realtor).  I would also like to be busy enough to create earning opportunities for others besides myself–assistants, contract labor, etc.
5. I want to be mentally astute, learning new things, broadening my mind and increasing my mental capacity–throughout life!
This list is by no means conclusive or complete, nor necessarily in the right order.  Nevertheless, it has already served as an internal compass for me, making me think about the direction I am going in life.  There are many things I want to “be” and “do” with my life.  I want to build a strong, satisfying marriage.  I want to leave a legacy to my children and grandchildren.  I want to make more money and manage it well.  I want to read more books.  I want to keep an orderly, neat home and office.  I want to learn another language.   I want to cook more meals at home (healthy ones) and eat less junk food and/or restaurant food.  Etc., etc.  All these want-to’s could easily fit under one of the broad headings in my general list above, indicating that that list is a pretty good standard for choosing daily MITs that agree with my value system.
So, with all that said, following is my initial list of DAILY MITs, which if accomplished, I can say that I have had a good, productive day:
1. Bible study/reading
2. Exercise (physically and mentally).
3. Work on my business.
4. Work for my clients.
5. Build others. Invest in others.
All of these need more clarifying and definition, but for now, this list will serve as a life-map of sorts.  If I can honestly affirm that I have done these six things, then I can say I have had a good, productive, satisfying day that has inched me towards my ultimate goals.
Just curious…  Do you have a list of MITs you have created from your “big picture” goals?  I would love to read any that you would like to share in the comments.  Maybe you’ll inspire me to add to my list!
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16 Responses to Planning Your Day With “The Big Picture” In Mind

  1. Jonathan W. says:

    I really like the MIT concept! I’ve known for a while that there was some sort of structure I needed to help manage life and goals, and this sounds like one I might check out… not too ambitious (like a plan I once had to schedule every minute of every day for a whole week… that didn’t go well), but also thought-out enough to pick your MITs and flow off of that.
    Thanks for the post! I’ll stop back in some time to let you know how MITs are working for me.

    • Diane says:

      Thanks for commenting, Jonathan! Like you, I like the simplicity of the MITs. It is a quicker way to prioritize what is really important rather than going over your entire “to do” list. If you can just get the three MITs done, then you can always add more to-do’s when those are done. And you can rest easy that you have truly been productive that day.

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  3. Christine Kamau says:

    I love the MIT concept! I think it’s a great way to measure whether or not your day has been productive.

    I will definitely engage and see how things go…

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  10. Alejandra P. says:

    I love to do lists but don’t like putting my time with God, exercise, and community interaction to be a part of it. The reason being was that i did wanted them to be part of my nature and not a bullet point on a list bellow “do laundry”. The way you described it really helped me see things differently and I totally see how having an MITs list can help me build the habits until the become a part of my nature. awesome idea! thanks

    • Diane says:

      I understand where you’re coming from, Alejandra, and we are definitely on the same page when it comes to making our time with God part of our nature. Just to be clear, my focus in this post is on doing the things that I consider important, not necessarily writing them in a list. However, to be truthful, I do write my MITs down. And I think that does help me stay focused on them.
      Thanks for your feedback! I really appreciate it.

  11. isabel richards says:

    I really like this! Having had a few days where i feel my to do list for university is massive, and that i haven’t done enough work! In looking at this it has helped me to consider in more details what my priorities are! As this should definitely be reflected in the way i manage my time!
    These core values are really brilliant!

    • Diane says:

      Isabel, I too sometimes feel like I haven’t accomplished enough in the day (a lot of times, actually!). But I keep going back to what REALLY matters. That helps keep me centered on “the main thing.”
      Thanks for your comment!

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