You sit down to begin your workday and you’re faced with the moment – the question – that most people answer on autopilot… “What am I going to do today?” Many people will begin their day in their inbox, but I’ve previously covered the issue with this approach. Others might have a task list waiting for them at their keyboard they can begin their day with. The highest performers, though, will possess an awareness of their purpose before their day ever begins. They’ll know what priorities and activities drive that purpose, what tasks need some attention but not in competition with their purpose, and more. Your purpose is your absolute focus that drives all actions for the day. If something doesn’t align with your purpose, then you must question its inclusion to your plan for the day.
It can take years of continuous practice before someone has mastered a purpose-based approach to daily planning. But there are some hacks that can jump start your effort, and do so while offering a positive jolt to your level of productivity.
Create a “Working” Purpose Statement
You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.Zig Ziglar
A purpose statement attempts to capture the essence of your efforts, what you seek to achieve on a daily basis. It’s a statement of clarity, a statement of what you are doing and where you are going. It’s about your goals. The “what” of your being. Purpose statements are NOT about the “why” – about your reasons for showing up everyday and efforts to be successful.
Many people will attempt to get a purpose statement in place that drives their daily efforts, but will inevitably fail for one of two reasons. One, they’ll never “finish” a purpose statement out of a desire to have something perfect in place they can implement. This pursuit of perfection blinds them from the purpose (pun intended) of the exercise, which is to get a statement that focuses their daily actions. Two, they won’t practice daily reflection with their purpose statement. Your goals and efforts are always evolving, and so should your purpose statement.
The most important ingredient for success, though, is to just get something on paper and get going. You need to embrace the “working” aspect of the title and understand your initial purpose statement is just a launching point. It’s a definition that is going to evolve by necessity to your ever-changing context. No matter how “perfect” it could be on day 1, it’s going to inevitably be different on day 2 – or else it isn’t serving you. A “working” purpose statement must be at work to fulfill it’s label. Get something down and get going.
So, if our goal is to get a working purpose statement in place that we can begin utilizing… How do we do this? Many people forget about the job descriptions or scorecards that come with their positions at work. Most times, these documents will have a purpose statement attached to them. This doesn’t have to be the one you ultimately begin working with, but it can offer a sense of direction for you to start with. Next, here are some questions that can offer some additional focus for you.
- If you were to hypothetically have your greatest month ever, what were the daily actions that drove this success?
- Likewise, consider your greatest stretch of performance ever. What occurred that led to this success?
- Why does your position exists? What would happen if it were eliminated tomorrow?
- If your workday were cut to three hours, what is the one thing that would have to be completed (or given attention to) on a daily basis no matter what?
Use 3 Words
The 3 word purpose strategy has been made popular in recent years by a number of thought leaders such as Brendon Burchard and Michael Hyatt. The premise is straightforward in design, but in its execution it creates more of a whole person perspective for purpose than the statement approach. Instead of just focusing on positional purpose, the 3 word strategy attempts to capture the future self or state that you are trying to live into.
The living into phrase is key here for this strategy. Your task is to identify three words that capture your drive, your purpose. For example, my current three words are Power, Growth, and Health. Power represents my commitment to always be in charge of my own narrative, and what I have to do today in order to ensure I’m continuing to build a future where I have this control. Growth captures my dedication to always be learning and improving my current and future skill sets. Health symbolizes my daily actions focused on my physical and mental well being, as well as my need for strong social bonds with family and friends.
How can you determine your 3 words? The questions from the previous section can offer a great starting point. But this strategy is most effective when it brings the whole person into perspective, and a heavy dose of future thinking. Therefore, you’ll want to take these additional questions into consideration.
- Where do you want to be in five years?
- What skills will you need in the future that you don’t possess today?
- What lessons have you learned from your past that can be used to build a stronger future?
- What aspect of your life do you continuously seem to be putting off, despite your awareness of how important it might be for your future?
What to Do With Your Purpose Statement OR 3 Words
It’s great to have a focus for your purpose in either a working statement or your 3 words, but it’ll be your execution that determines your success. You’ll want to create a list of 3-5 daily priorities that will bring your purpose to life when given daily attention.
Daily priorities are not meant to be an exhaustive representation of everything you are supposed to do daily, but are the key actions that push your purpose forward. Once identified you will want to begin every day with a plan to bring at least 15 minutes of attention to them in some specific way. Even better, you can create time blocks on your calendar to give them the space needed for achievement. If you have a priority titled “Becoming a healthy partner and father”, then you’ll want to begin your day aware of what you should be doing for success. You might have three tasks identified such as 10 minutes of meditation, 45 minutes of HIIT conditioning, and 30 minutes of family fun time. Once completed these tasks allow you check off that priority for the day.
Determine – and seize ownership of – your purpose. High performers understand and have planned for their purpose before the day begins.
Purpose = how you generate value now + goals + the future self you are growing into
Purpose statements are never perfect. They are meant to be “working” statements which are ever evolving according to your context.
Determine 3 words that capture the future self you are actively trying to live into. Use these 3 words to outline your actions for the day.
You should have 3-5 key priorities that if given attention and accomplished will fulfill your purpose statement or 3 words for that day. There should be consistency with these priorities, meaning they should have a sense of longevity and not be something you’re trying to determine each day.