How much work can you really get done today?


What kinds of things does work cover?

For many workers, it’s either a task or an appointment.

We handle tasks in to-do lists.

We add to these lists every day, either with a constantly growing one or on scraps of real or digital paper, scattered about.

Items on to-do lists are like weeds, they keep turning up and there is never enough time to get them all cleared away.

Appointments go on a calendar.

They are a commitment that we will meet with someone at a particular time, and they go into a slot.

More often than not, we are pretty good at keeping appointments.

Dan Charnas, in his book Work Clean – The Life-Changing Power of Mise-En-Place to Organize Your Life, Work and Mind, writes about how many people deal with the day.

Underplanners plunge in unprepared.

How the day goes is likely to be a surprise and what they do is determined by how others interrupt, order or interact with them.

Overplanners go to war with the day.

Their schedules are tight, with no space for disruption or the unexpected. They expect you to set an appointment for every discussion.

Both approaches don’t really leave us with a feeling that it’s been a good day at work.

Dan suggests that working clean with time means two things:

  1. Work out what you want to do
  2. Organise those in sequence

What you want to do – appointments or tasks can be collectively called actions.

He suggests starting with listing three actions that you want to do tomorrow. Put them on your calendar in the order you want to do them – fitting them in around any appointments you already have.

Then, do your actions.

If you did everything on your list, then move to setting out four actions.

Keep increasing the number of actions until you reach the point where you can’t always cross off every item on your list most of the time.

For example, if you can mostly do six things every day but never break seven, then your optimal number is six – what Dan calls your Meeze Point.

Less than that, and you’re probably not pushing yourself enough.

More than that, and you’ll probably just be overloaded and feel like you’re not achieving anything, even though you really are.

Your Meeze Point is the number of things you can really get done today.

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