In my “Good Morning Habits” post, I talked about the importance of planning out your day. It helps calm some of the overwhelming thoughts that buzz around our minds first thing when we get up. However for some people, the process of daily planning is overwhelming in itself! It is something that I struggled with for the longest time because while I liked the idea of writing things down and organizing my day, I never knew how to do it. I would sit at my desk with an array of planners, notebooks, and colorful pens sprawled out in front of me without a clue of how to utilize them. Only recently did I develop a system that has proven to be both helpful and efficient for planning out my days. If you too find yourself feeling “stuck” when it comes to the process of planning I recommend following these steps to get you on the right track for a more organized and productive life!
1. Why do you want to plan out your day?
I believe that the first step in beginning anything is asking yourself why. Why do you want to plan out your day? Do you think it will help you keep up with your busy schedule? Will it help you stay on track with important deadlines or tasks? Do you just want to feel more organized? It’s important to understand that you should never do something simply because other people do it. If you don’t want to plan or you don’t think it is necessary for your life, then don’t do it! No one is making you buy those army pants and flip flops!
2. Figure out the best planning method for you
Once you have figured out the reasons you want to start planning out your days, it’s time to figure out how you want to do it. There are many different ways to go about planning and you need to figure out which method will work best for you. Do you like planners, notebooks, journals, or do you like having everything on your phone? Only you can decide what will be the most practical for your life. Personally I have always loved the idea of having a pretty bullet journal filled with my daily schedules and tasks. However, when I first tried using this method for planning, I discovered that spent about 2 hours working the first day page. Being the crazy perfectionist that I am, this method took up way to much of my time because I was way to concerned with the “look” of my day plans as opposed to the functionality. After taking some time to think, I figured that the best solution for me would be to use my phone because everything would look nice and neat without requiring hours of my time and a ruler. Using the app, “Planner Pro” I am able to write my daily schedule as well as my tasks. It is very similar to the basic Calendar function on iPhone however it includes other features such as daily tasks and notes.
Using my phone for daily planning has definitely prove to be effective and efficient for my life. I can easily add and make changes to my schedule without the horror of crossing stuff out in a notebook or trying to mess with whiteout. However, after a couple weeks of only using the app, I began to realize that I do like using paper. Mentally I prefer to write things down at the beginning of my day because it puts me in a great headspace. I came to compromise. I put all of my schedule related things on my phone so that I access them quickly and make fast changes when necessary. I use a notebook to write down my ideas and daily Intentions for the day. This notebook doesn’t go with me everywhere I go. I use it in the morning and at night for more general tasks or goals. I use my phone for specific scheduling and events. This method works best for me. Take the time to try out different methods and figure out what will work best for you. Remember everyone is different!
3. Write down the day’s schedule
Ok it’s time to actually start planning! No matter what method you are using the first thing you should always do is write down specific events with set times for that day. These can be appointments, scheduled phone calls, classes, meetings, or practices. By writing these things down first, you can see at what parts during the day you already have obligations or events scheduled. When you don’t put these things down right away you can either forget about them or not allow enough time for you to accomplish other tasks. For example, one day I had a series of events scheduled for the afternoon but I neglected to write them down. I spent my entire morning relaxing and taking my time on crossing off my to do list. When it got to the afternoon I finally remembered all of my events however I had already wasted so much of my time in the morning. If I would have written those things down, I would have known to utilize more of my time in the morning for accomplishing my tasks.
4. Create a task list
Once your events for the day are written down, it’s time to create a task list. This is a list of the things you either A) need to get done that day or B) would like to get done that day. I like to simply write my tasks down in the form of a to do list so that I can see them all at once and cross them off as they are accomplished. I recommend listing your tasks in order of priority or importance. You certainly don’t have to complete the tasks in the exact order you right them down but it’s nice to visually see which ones are a bigger priority for you.
I also highly suggest putting an estimated amount of time you think it will take to accomplish each task on your list. I always do this and it makes a big difference my productivity. For example if I have 30 minutes between practice and a class I can look at my task list and determine what task I can accomplish in that amount of time. If I didn’t write the estimated time frames down for each task, i would often assume that they all take to long and not attempt to get any of them done. Don’t forget that it is also important to write down tasks that you would like to get done that day even if they aren’t absolutely necessary or a big priority at the moment. These tasks could include things like trying a new recipe, taking your dog for a walk, or tidying up your desk. These things might not be crucial for the day but you should still write them down so that when you have time, you can accomplish them.
Once you have written out all of your tasks you can begin to plan out at what points throughout the day you can get them done. Make sure you allow enough time for each task but at the same time it’s important to be realistic. For example, my mom is always convinced it takes the entire afternoon to go to the store to get groceries. When you think like this, you limit your productivity. Be reasonable when setting time for your tasks!
5. Setting intentions/goals
After you finishing writing out your schedule and tasks for the day, it’s important to create goals. I actually prefer to use the word “intentions” because these are things that I intend to do. To me it sounds different to say “my goal is to be a millionaire” as opposed to “I intend on being a millionaire.” But naturally, you can use whatever word you choose; goals, intentions, objectives, etc. Setting these daily intentions will put your mind in a great place. I always set my intentions after I create my schedule and task list because I want to be able to look over my day and decide the best goals I can set for the day to really push myself to do my best. For example, on days where I can see that I have a lot of tasks to accomplish my daily intention might be something like, stay focused.
On days where I have many social gatherings (lol this never happens) and I know that the food options might not be the best, one of my daily intentions might be to eat intuitively and mindfully. These are things that I intend on doing that day. As you can see I keep my intentions brief and simple, however, you can make them as long and complex as you like. In general I don’t like to be too specific when it comes to setting my intentions. I also don’t like to create too many intentions because I find it overwhelming. I normally create 3 somewhat broad intentions that relate to the day ahead of me.
And your day has been planned! I hope you that you find these steps useful and like always, feel free to modify them to best fit your life. Everyone goes about their day differently. Also don’t feel discouraged if it doesn’t “click” right away. I spent many months trying and giving up on different methods of planning out my day before I finally found one that works for me. Take your time and be patient! Good luck planning!