When you plan your day the right way, your days can be much more productive. It’s not about how well decorated but how functional your planner is. There needs to be a system to our planning. Otherwise you will end up with pretty looking pages full of colors and stickers but all you do with it is enjoy its looks. And that in itself will not make you more productive.
How to Get Started
First, you will have to find a planner that works for you. I have tried many planners in my life. And I made them all work. But over the years, I have learned what I like and what I don’t like. The only way to figure out what kinds of planners you enjoy the most is by using them. Because a planner might look pretty and you might like everything about them when you buy it, but once you start using it, you will find out what features are actually useful and which ones are totally unnecessary.
Last year, I used Simplified Daily Planner by Emily Ley. And I loved the fact that it was simple, had a space for each day, and it was sturdy. The one feature that I was missing from the Simplified planner was the weekly view – I like to have both the weekly view and daily view. So I was hoping to find something for 2020 that would have that. But I could not! And I did not want to spend a lot of money on something that was not really what I wanted.
And then I came across a video from Lydia Senn where she talked about her Personal Planner. I decided to check them out and I fell in love! Literally. This is a planner that I could customize based on my needs. The only regret I have is that I did not get a larger size. I can fit everything in it, but I think a larger format would be more visually appealing to me 🙂 I like to have more white space. Something to remember for next year. But it has been working so well for me. So this is what I am using in my pictures below.
Block Known Meetings/Appointments
I start to plan my days by looking at my work week and noting any meeting times on my planner. Since my work meetings are in Outlook on my work computer, I don’t bother specifying what those meetings are exactly. The point is to block the time in my planner for meetings. That way I know that these are the times when I cannot schedule anything else.
This is also the time where I would check my phone and put in any appointments coming up. Again, I don’t put in any of our after school activities that are routine for us. For example, I know that my daughter has a swimming class every Friday, so I don’t put that in my planner. That activity is already on my phone and our family calendar in the Command Center. So I don’t see the need to rewrite the same thing in my planner.
In our house, the time between 4 PM (when I end my work day) and 8 PM is the time for family and household activities. So that is when we go to after-school activities, do homework, cook and eat dinner, and do our evening routine. So this is the block of time that I will just mark in a different color on my planner.
Plan Your Day by by Writing Down Your Top Priorities
I have found that the best way to have a productive week is to set top priorities at the beginning. I divide my priorities into three categories: personal, work, and side business.
For my personal category, I put down any projects that I want to do at home, any party preparations, major school activities that I might be volunteering for, or things like budget or personal development.
In my work category, I would write down my top three things that I want to accomplish that week. I try not to limit myself to three because that allows me to concentrate better and get more done.
And finally, in my side business category, I note my priorities for my blog, YouTube channel, social media, and any course or guest posts that I am working on. This is also where I would put down any training that I want to take that week.
Since my word for the year 2020 is intentional growth, I’m trying to be very intentional about all my commitments. I really want to dedicate some time to decide what is important to accomplish that given week and not get distracted by things that are just busy work.
Schedule Your Priorities in Your Planner
This is the phase of of planning that feels like playing the Tetris game 🙂 I basically look at my week and see where I can block time to work on my priorities. I and schedule that in!
For example, if one of my priorities is to complete Project A, then I will block two hour on my calendar on Monday and Thursday to work on it. Those are the days that I have chosen because they do not have a lot of meetings and I know are best to dedicate that block of uninterrupted time.
My side business priorities are scheduled at lunch time, evenings, and weekends. And my personal priorities are very similar and are mostly accomplished on the weekends.
Leave Open Space in Your Planner
Once you schedule your priorities, you should still have plenty of space in your calendar that are free. That space is to allow for flexibility and for you to have time to work on other things. I don’t know about you, but each day comes with it’s own to-do list of smaller tasks that are not related to my top priorities.
For example, my work priority might be to work on project A but I still have to submit my work report, schedule a meeting with my supervisor to discuss upcoming meetings, and review a document. And that free space on my calendar allows me to do just that.
And this is what I love about this planner. Having the whole week in a single view allows me to have an ongoing to-do list. Because if I don’t finish my task on Monday, I don’t have to rewrite it for Tuesday. I just cross off everything that I have done on Monday, and whatever is left, I will do the next day.
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A Few Additional Things
There are two other sections in my planner. One of them is to plan my workouts and the other one to record my weekly meal plan. For workouts, I simply put in what I will be doing on a specific day. Since I work out the first thing in the morning, it’s really helpful not to think about what workout from BeachBody I will be doing first thing in the morning. That decision was already made so I can just jump into my workout.
For my meal plan, I use my own printable. I plan my meals on the weekends so I can get all the groceries I need for the week ahead.
However, I like to copy my dinner meal plan into my planner. Why? Because sometimes my days don’t go according to plan. I might have planned a meal for Tuesday that takes a longer prep time. I did that based on my schedule – Tuesday looked like a day where I would have more time in the evening to cook. However, life happens and that is no longer the case. So as I’m going through my day, I can look at my weekly plan in my planner and decide if i can swap my Tuesday with Wednesday or if I can cook something simpler with the ingredients that are required for the meal that I have planned.
Plan you Day BUT Allow for Flexibility
In my opinion, a good plan is the one that allows for flexibility. We all know that life will happen and sometimes our days will look nothing like we have planned. We have an unexpected work project that comes up that becomes a priority or one of our kids get sick and we have to take time off work to take care of them.
So I strongly suggest not to schedule every minute of your day! Put the most important things only. And when life gets in the way, you can move things around to another day.
That is the beauty of planning. You want your plan to work for you and not the other way around.
Do you use a planner to plan your day?
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