The business world talks about time management a lot.  They discuss organizing priorities and needing to get everything done while balancing your professional and personal life. My Franklin Covey planner has been by my side for about 7 years and during college I had scheduled out every moment in that planner- when to eat, when to work out, when do what homework assignment, and so on (and embarrassingly enough, at one point I also wrote out when I would be showering, brushing my teeth, and spending time socializing).

I planned out my days for two reasons:

  1. the fear that I would forget something (more along the lines of homework, not so much with the brushing my teeth and showering!) and,
  2. so I made sure I had the accurate amount of time to accomplish everything I wanted to do… and I have a LOT that I want to do!

Looking back now I recognize that I was attempting to schedule a balance in my life, one I could observe and manage appropriately.  When I took “FOCUS: Achieving Your Highest Priorities” during a college internship, I began to add in the people-list aspect. Even though I got a bit of slack for it- it really worked! I felt productive and on top of my day, every day. This workshop focused on the 4 Time Quadrants that Steven Covey discusses in Habit 3 (Put First Things First):


Urgent & Important

(putting out fires)



Not Urgent but Important

(proactive work)


Urgent but Not Important

(putting out other people’s fires)



Not Urgent and Not Important

(wasting time)

I was quickly able to assess where the work I was doing existed and start to move into spending more time in Quadrant II.

Lately, my planning style has shifted and I am working hard to keep up with the transition. I am now using Outlook as my scheduling calendar since the syncing with my phone and the company makes things unbelievably easy. I have also transitioned into a less structured Franklin Covey Daily Planning pack. I still keep my work and personal to-do-lists in my planner but have been seeing some really incredible articles about the other lists one should be reviewing on a regular basis.

Peter Bregman, a strategic advisor to CEOs and their leadership teams, wrote an article for Lifehacker about having a “Your Focus List” and a “Your Ignore List” that you review every day. Bregman explains how it is easy to know what goes on our focus list, but people rarely think about their ignore list, and therefore are very easily sidetracked or distracted while they are trying to be productive. Giving some time and energy to have the awareness around what tends to distract you (or push you into Quadrant IV), you are better equipped to stay on track and stay productive.

Another one I have discovered showcases a list of 10 things the author, J.T. O’Donnell, tries to do every day. Looking through her list resonates strongly with me and convinced me to start my own list of things I want to make sure I do every day:

  1. Wake up when my alarm first goes off (no snooze button)
  2. Listen to upbeat songs with a positive message on the way to work
  3. Read something related to professional and personal development
  4. Reach out to a professional/social contact who might be on tilt
  5. Review my IDP (Individual Development Plan)

This list will allow me to accomplish my task list in a more proactive and positive mindset, allowing me to work from Quadrant II more often.

What are some things you feel enable you to work in a proactive space and be at your best every day?



Danielle Aaronson

Danielle Aaronson

Danielle’s mission is to inspire leaders to make intentional choices that move them to positive action. She speaks at conferences, management summits, and leadership programs as well as facilitates efforts with executives and senior leaders at organizations seeking to influence their culture. Her mantra, “be the change you wish to see in the world” has allowed her to strive every day to be the best she can be and help others recognize the potential they have to make a positive difference. @deaaronson

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