We all have the same amount of hours in a day.
So how it is that some people accomplish so much and others nothing at all?
I believe this happens because of two things: planning and self-discipline. Today, I’ll talk to you about planning. (When I’ll write about self-discipline, I’ll leave you the link here)
So… do you plan your day beforehand or you just leave on chance what you can accomplish in a day? Most people I’ve talked to, they seem to have more success when they have their day planned – actually, most plan their week and/or their month, too. But for now, let’s focus on planning your next day and let’s leave “long-term” plans for later. Cool?
Let me show you, then, how to plan your day better!
1. Get A Calendar
Ok, first of all, get a planner. You need space for details, so make sure it has a page for each day. I like having a fancy planner (I still love getting school supplies for some reason). It makes me feel… (how to describe it?) Like when you played with the older kids at school. I get this giddy, grown-up feeling.
Anyway, if you don’t want to spend money on it, just get a plain notebook. It doesn’t matter how fancy it is. Write a different date on each page so that you have space to write a lot of things with details.
Use this notebook only as a planner. Don’t have it as a notepad and don’t write irrelevant things on it if you can avoid it.
2. Do It The Day Before
Planning works better if you do it the day before. You don’t want to waste your precious energy in the morning to create your plan. So every night before sleeping – or when you stop working for the day, whatever works better for you – take some minutes to plan your next day.
Write down on a piece of paper the tasks you want to complete tomorrow and make sure your goals are achievable. Chasing a dream is great but chasing the impossible – the real impossible, not something we believe it’s impossible – leaves you dissatisfied.
So, take into account that a day has 24 hours and you need to sleep 8 of them. Write down the tasks and next to them, write the estimated time you’ll need to finish each task.
Then put these tasks on your daily schedule of your planner based on the estimated completion time.
3. Be Thorough
Not being specific makes your plan useless. The devil is hiding in the details and if you’re not specific, you can almost always find a way not to do what you have to do. So after deciding when you’ll do what, break the tasks into steps to tick off your checklist. For example, if one of the tasks is creating a post, you can have:
- Step 1: Find the topic
- Step 2: Find the title
- Step 3: Write the draft
- Step 4: Edit the draft
- Step 5: Add images
- Step 6: Do a final check and publish
- Step 7: Share it on social media
Easy-peasy, right? Now all you have to do is follow the steps one by one. Completing steps gives you the satisfaction and motivation you need to keep moving because you feel that you have accomplished part of your tasks.
4. Prioritise Your Tasks
Requiring a lot of time doesn’t make a task important. So, make sure to start with the important tasks; the ones that if you finish, you’ll feel satisfied; you’ll feel like you did something today.
For example, if you have an exam or a presentation in two days and you’re not prepared for it yet, then no matter how much you clean your house, you’ll feel like you didn’t do anything at the end of the day.
I’ve heard this first on the video below and I have to say that it works like a charm on me. Check it out for more great productivity tips.
5. Make Time For Breaks
There’s no way you’re going to work 18 hours a day every day. You’ll just burn yourself out eventually. So when planning your day, schedule breaks in your day to relax and to recharge a little. How short or long these breaks will be, it’s up to you. See how much work you have each day and let some “empty” time in-between.
What’s important here is to actually take the breaks. Sometimes, you get rolling and it’s easy to miss a break because you don’t think you need it. And you may not need it at that moment. BUT, if you do take it, you’ll feel better and more motivated to go back to work because you’re still full of energy. If you wait until you get tired, then the whole day will be gone. Especially if you get tired close enough to the time you go to sleep and then… bye-bye extra work.
But if you take a break often, then you recharge and you can keep working for more time. Plus, you can be more laser focused, thus being more productive. Have you heard about the Pomodoro technique?
6. Include Time For Everything
Put everything in your daily schedule. And when I say everything, I mean everything. Include the time you’ll be eating, the time you’ll relax, time for exercise, meditation, etc.
By the way, I used to believe meditating is stupid, but it’s actually a great mental exercise. If you haven’t tried it, give it a chance for a month and if it doesn’t work, just give it up. It’s not like you have anything to lose. You can start with only 5 minutes a day. The app I use for guided meditation is called Headspace and I love it.
7. Make Time For Things Going Wrong
When you assign some time to each task, you should remember that this is just an estimation. It may take longer than you thought. And then the whole plan will have to change, plus, you get this feeling that you’re getting late and that you have to rush.
So make sure to leave some time out for delays. If you don’t need them in the end, you can take a break earlier or work on your next task until it’s break time.
8. Don’t Overcompensate
You couldn’t complete all your work yesterday or, worse, you didn’t even try. You were tired, bored, lazy or all of them. Or you may have had an emergency. In any case, the result is the same. You have more work to do now.
Please don’t try too hard to do it. Because if your schedule is heavy, there’s not a lot you can do. A day lost is a day lost. You can’t go back and change it. All you can do is move on and do the work.
If you lost a day’s worth of work, check if it’s possible to move your whole plan a day later. And if it’s not possible, split the work and do a little of it each day for the next week. But don’t try to do the tasks of two days in one because it’s not easy – or even downright impossible, in some cases. You’ll just get stressed to catch up and rush through your tasks. You may do everything, but the quality will be far worse than it should. And you don’t want that.
9. Reward Yourself
Last but not least, make sure to reward yourself if you do things on time. Go out with some friends, go for a movie, or just spend time relaxing.
Sometimes when I finish tasks on time or even earlier, I tend to start tasks assigned to the next day. And even though that’s good – and for some reason, I’m more productive when I’m ahead of schedule – it’s useful to reward yourself when you have finished on time. It sends the right signals to your body – that you finish on time, then you’ll get rewarded. If the reward is more work, well… that’s not very appealing.
So today before sleeping, don’t forget to plan your day tomorrow. It’s going to take some days – probably a week – to start seeing results. Don’t give up if you can’t make it for a day; just continue with the day tomorrow.
Let me know what you think about planning and, if you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer! Any suggestions are always welcome, so tell me about topics you’d like me to write.
And if you’re trying to be more productive, check out how to fight procrastination.
See you next time!