Planning Your Day By Using the Highlight Method
Build by first deciding the most important thing you will do today
If you could only accomplish one thing each day- what would it be? Would it relate to a favorite hobby, getting work done to meet a deadline, or doing a favor for a loved one? Is this one thing important enough that you would be willing to sacrifice an hour to an hour and a half to get it done?
I came across the Highlight Method in the book Make Time by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky. They explain the method as “choosing to design time by choosing what to focus on.”
Approaching each day through the lens of a highlight has three advantages:
It clearly defines a daily goal
In a search to simplify life, having less that steals our time and attention is important. The idea of being and doing more with less is appealing. It speaks of narrowing down choices to only focus on the essential.
The highlight is where the narrowing down comes in. What is most important for today?
This is a process that can be used over and over again, daily. By chosing a highlight we decide that this thing is the most important thing to accomplish that day. If we get nothing else done except this one thing, we still know that it has been a successful day.
This one thing becomes what we focus on as our daily goal.
It Causes Us to Design Our Day to Allow Time for that Goal
Regardless of what highlight we choose, we can take that information and use it to plan the day ahead of us.
When are we most focused and when can we accomplish this goal? What other things do we need to do that day? Where does the highlight fit best?
My highlight the majority of this month is writing my first draft for an ebook on simplicity (focus on self care). I have missed a few days, however, most days my highlight has been working on this project. Each day I have set aside one hour to finish a post for Medium that will be a part of the book.
Writing this project has forced me to make several tweaks to my day: I haven’t been using social media as much in the morning, I’m choosing activities that let me focus on writing- having a set time and place and having a plan for what I’ll do if I don’t finish it at one sitting- and knowing what time I have to call it quits for the day (12:30 so I can drive to work).
In this case, my highlight has allowed me to structure my day. It keeps me from jumping down rabit holes and getting distracted in the morning. It also helps me to balance out commitments outside: knowing what time I need to leave for work, making specific times to call my family and knowing how much time I’ll need each day to finish my highlight.
It Gives a Measure for How Successful the Day Was
Creating a highlight and finishing it creates an instant win for the day. No matter what happens that day, you know that the most important thing (for you) was accomplished. This can help to offset any negative events throughout the course of the day and give us a sense of satisfaction at the end of the day.
The days that I’ve missed writing on Medium I’ve felt like I haven’t been living up to my full potential. It went beyond knowing that I would have to double my work for the next day or days. I simply felt like I was wasting time.
The highlight method is a great way to structure time and choose what to focus on.
It give us a specific aim, helps us with time management and gives us an instant win for the day. Highlights can be chosen from what needs to be done, what we would like to do or a passion project.
It relates to simplicity because it helps us to focus on less things, which in turn brings more peace.