Do you plan your day already? Is it one of your habits?
I have found that I am much more productive on the days when I have a plan than on days when I try to ‘wing it’. I use my plan for the day as my baseline to help me stay focused. Sure, things will happen throughout the day that may cause me to adjust my plan, but it is so much easier to make changes to a plan that already exist than go into a panic mode because you don’t know where to even start.
Here are the basic building blocks that you need to consider before you plan my day.
Plan Your Day by Planning Your Week
I have found that the most effective way for me to be productive is to plan my week on Monday morning (or Sunday evening, but that does not happen as often). Having my tasks and activities planned from a weekly perspective allows me to have a solid baseline but it also provides me with flexibility to change things around if needed.
It is also so much easier to plan for the week than for a day. When you plan for the week, I have so many hours to work with. You can dedicate each day to activities related to a specific project or you can break your project into smaller tasks and divide them up to different days of the week.
Be aware of your deadlines
Making sure you incorporate your deadlines is the first step you need to take when planning your week ahead in order to make sure you have a productive day.
At home, you might have deadlines like: birthday party on Saturday, due date of your bills, or summer camp registration deadline. At work this might be a due date of a report, upcoming launch of a new product, or a meeting with your customer.
Make sure that you look at deadlines that you have coming up over the next month, especially for the bigger projects and tasks. You don’t want to limit yourself to deadlines coming up the week for which you are planning for. For example, if you are planning a birthday party for your child, you don’t want to wait until the week before to reserve a venue. Or, if you have an upcoming presentation at work, you will need to start working on it at least a couple of weeks in advance.
Knowing your deadlines will help you decide what things you need to accomplish in a specific week and day in order to meet them.
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Plan Your Day with Your Priorities
We all have our priorities: both at work and at home. Some of those priorities you will be able to determine based on the deadlines we have just talked about. The other will come from looking at your overall goals.
When you plan your day, you absolutely have to consider your priorities when deciding what you will be working on that specific day. This will help you make sure that your day is not filled with activities that do not help you make progress on your goals.
When I review my goals at the beginning of each week, I am able to assign different tasks for specific days of the week to ensure that my priorities are addressed. If I don’t do that, my schedule will quickly fill with other people’s priorities instead of my own.
For example, one of my priorities for the week might be to create a training course on the new initiative at work. I will then break it down into smaller tasks for the week. So my task for Monday might be to create an outline. And I will put down ‘create content for the PowerPoint presentation’ as my Wednesday task.
Schedule Time for Each Main Task
Now that you have determined the specific set of tasks and activities that you will be working on each day, you need to schedule a specific time to work on them. It is not enough to say, I will write my blog post on Wednesday night.
Decide when exactly will you be working on a specific task. For example, schedule blog writing for Wednesday morning. Or block some time to create your presentation for a meeting with your customer Monday between 1:00pm and 2:30pm.
Before you schedule your task, think about the best option. Don’t just select any empty spot on your schedule. Instead, think about the level of concentration and the length of time you need to complete that task.
If you estimate that you will need one hour to make final edits to the presentation that you are working on, don’t schedule that task when you know you will only have 30 minutes. Also, if a task requires a high level of concentration, make sure that it is schedule during the time of the day when you will likely have the least interruptions. For example, for me those are the early mornings and early afternoons.
So be very strategic how when you schedule your tasks on your calendar. Otherwise, you might end up not completing the task.
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Scheduling specific times during the day for the tasks will help you make your plan and schedule more realistic. Having the weekly schedule baseline will help you say no to other things that will come to you throughout the week.
Let say that you have scheduled Tuesday morning to work on customer proposals. And on Monday, you receive an e-mail from another customer asking you to provide her with an annual report. And she is asking if you can do it by the end of the day on Tuesday. If you did not have time scheduled for the proposal work, you would most likely responded ‘yes’ right away. However, because you already have something on your calendar, you are more likely to respond back with ‘I have some prior work commitments through noon tomorrow, will Wednesday by the end of the day work for you?’. And chances are, she will be totally fine. This allows you to have more control over your schedule.
Start to Plan Your Day
Now that you know the building blocks of planning your day, it’s your turn. Improve the productivity of your days by planning ahead and planning the right way.
Do you have any other tips on how to plan your day to be more productive? Share below so we can all be more productive.