A scan is defined by Merriam-Webster as “…to examine by point-by-point observation or checking.” However, the definition goes deeper into that:
- to investigate thoroughly by checking point by point and often repeatedly
- to glance from point to point often hastily, casually, or in search of a particular item
Scanning, whether using either of those definitions, can give you the information you need to make a decision. And being able to make informed decisions is something that can really make a difference in your personal productivity.
You need to start your day by making several decisions so you know what action(s) to take. That’s why it’s important to scan two things right when you start your day: your calendar and your to-do list.
Now, this may seem obvious because both of those tools house vital information for your day, but when was the last time you scanned those two things first before doing anything else?
Before the news? Before email? Before Facebook?
If you can honestly say that you check your calendar and to-do list first thing in the morning, then I’m going to save you some time: stop reading this piece. You know what you need to do. Do it.
But if you’re trying to figure out why The Daily CT Scan is the best way to start your day, read on. First, let’s parse The Daily CT Scan into its parts:
C is for Calendar
The first thing you should look at daily is your calendar. It offers you a look at the hard edges of your day, which include things like:
- Daily Themes
- Monthly Themes
- Horizontal Themes
- Weekly Sprints
The first item (appointments) is pretty well understood. If you have made a commitment to meet others, then it is an appointment. Meetings fall into this category, as do any things you need to do at a specific time of day.
If you want, you can schedule regular appointments with yourself. I usually schedule these as Horizontal Themes. Common Horizontal Themes include exercise, morning and evening routines, email review, and social media updating. If you want to learn more about Horizontal Theming, check out The Productivityist Playbook.
The other items fall into the idea of “time theming” which is one of the core components of the personal productivity methodology I teach called TimeCrafting. Essentially “time theming” is using your calendar to create a framework through the use of overarching areas of focus for each day, week, and month of the year.
Even if you don’t theme your time, by checking your calendar first you will have an awareness of what commitments you’ve made to others throughout your day. That awareness will allow you to navigate the day far more intentionally.
Now it’s time to review the details of your day. You’ll find those in your to-do list.
T is for To-Do List
As I mentioned, this is where the fine print of your day exists. Basically, everything on your to-do list should be related to a deadline or due date of some sort. Some of those are imposed by others, and some are self-imposed.
How you deal with both in harmony is key.
This is why checking your calendar first is so important. If your day is filled with appointments, then getting any deep or focused work done is going to be challenging. If you have a day of the week that is more open, then you can dive into those tasks that will require longer stretches of uninterrupted time.
Ideally you should categorize your tasks on your to-do list by using whatever mode you need to be in to complete them. Sure, you can also work on your tasks by project as you see fit, but by assigning one mode (or more) to each task, you now have another way to look at your work every day. The other benefit of doing this: your Daily CT Scan is easier to do because you’ve segmented your to-do list just that much better.
There are 5 categories of modes that I refer to when crafting my time and shaping my to-do list. I’ve created a simple PDF that you can download for FREE so that you can get started with “mode-based work” now. Just click here and I’ll send it your way.
The Daily CT Scan also has a compounding effect. When you do it every day (especially at the start of the day), you’ll forge a stronger sense of awareness. You’ll feel more confident as you take on the day because you’ll know what commitments you’ve made to others and to yourself. You’ll be able to craft the day to work better for you. It only takes a few minutes to do every morning, and it will save you far more time over the long haul.
Ultimately, The Daily CT Scan is the best way to start your day because it puts you in the position to run your day instead of it running you.