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“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, you best eat the biggest one first.” (Mark Twain)
MITs v3 cats1 Rocking your time management

Imagine you have a large glass jar, and your goal is to fill it to the brim with stones. You start by putting in a bunch of fist-sized rocks till no more go in. Next, you take a handful of smaller rocks, and they run into the cracks between the bigger one. Now your jar is as full as possible, right? Wrong. You take it a notch further, and pour sand in, which fills in the small empty spaces between even the smallest rocks. Wasn’t that fun? Now empty the jar and try it the other way around, starting with the sand first. Lesson: none of the big rocks fit in anymore!

Although you might think this post is about rocks, it’s actually not (for that, please see our post on efficient rock storage). What we’re really talking about is time management. The glass jar signifies all the time you have at your disposal during a day, and the big rocks are the really important tasks you have to do. The smaller rocks are less important things, and the sand is the little filler items, like e.g. answering those unimportant emails that keep dropping in (see our post on email habits). As you noticed above, if you fill your day with those little filler tasks (sand), you simply will not have time for the big, important items (rocks).

A helpful way to get more of those big rocks into your jar is the concept of the Most Important Task, or MIT for short. You set an MIT for each day the previous night, making sure it is an attainable, clear-cut task you are sure you can complete. The next morning, you start your day by working on your MIT, and do absolutely nothing else till it is done! Purists may even forego breakfast and a shower before their MIT is completed!

The great thing about MITs is that they ensure you get at least one important thing done every day. Once your MIT is completed, you can rest easy, knowing that you’ve already done something meaningful during the day. And meaningful isn’t necessary something of the calibre “finishing your manuscript about the hardship of transvestite dwarves in medieval France”, it can be anything that will impact your life or career.

Four simple steps to get you on your way:

  1. The MIT is the Most Important Task. As per definition, it’s the one task that you have to get done first thing in the morning. Never ever do any other tasks before this one is accomplished.
  2. You should always define your MIT the day before. It can either be a repetitive task every day like “completing another 10 slides of that important presentation“, or you can set a specific task every evening.
  3. Depending on the nature of your work, you can either use the first hour at the office to get the MIT done, or if that’s not possible, you could get up a little earlier and start on your MIT first thing in the morning. Put in 30-60 minutes of focused work every morning, and within half a year, you can e.g. finish that great-sounding dwarf manuscript.
  4. Besides booking a time-slot every day and defining the MIT in advance, you also have to make sure it‘s a manageable task. It should be clearly defined and shouldn’t require more than 60 minutes of work, as otherwise you will end up with tasks like “Learn Mandarin Chinese“ and “Bring about world peace“.

By the way, if during the glass jar exercise you end with a lot of sand and sharp, shiny, hurting rocks on the floor, then you have done something wrong.

MITs v21 Rocking your time management
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