“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” — William Penn
Each new day brings new tasks, new challenges, and new opportunities. It’s what keeps things interesting! Without a little variety, life would be very boring.
However, a lack of structure can quickly turn the excitement into chaos. It’s why a daily hourly planner can be so helpful, no matter what your schedule looks like.
Good planning helps you see the day and use time in the best way possible. If you’re just writing down meetings and deadlines, you’re probably missing out on a lot of possibilities your daily hourly planner holds. It can keep even the most stressful of days organized while helping you look ahead and meeting all of your goals.
Streamlining your day will take a little bit of forward thinking and planning, but once you’ve got a process down, you’ll see all the ways you can benefit from ultra-clear planning.
Here are a few ways that you can use a daily hourly planner to get more done each day without feeling overwhelmed by it all.
1. Task grouping
One of the best ways to use a daily hourly planner is to structure your day by scheduling all alike tasks together in advance. This way you’re not spending your energy sporadically and switching back and forth between different items on your to-do list.
You may want to schedule brainstorming or creative time after meetings when ideas are fresh or put all correspondence together (like emails, calls and sorting mail). Doing so may even help jog your memory for tasks you’ve forgotten.
Instead of trying to multi-task throughout the day (which psychologists say is not actually very helpful) you’ll be focusing on one type of task. Then, you can set those duties aside for the rest of the day instead of returning to them multiple times.
2. Look for gaps
A daily hourly planner can work like a real-time schedule audit — which is great news if you regularly end the day wondering how you could have gotten more done.
With an hourly scheduler, you can see all of the events in the day, when they’re planned and, as a result, whether you are effectively using that time.
Not every day will look the same, but after a while, you can study your days to figure out a perfect flow. You’ll get a feel for which parts of your day are most creative, when you're less likely to be bothered (so you can squeeze in deep work), when you have free time, and how to better schedule your day.
This means that consistency is key. To get the most out of your daily hourly planner, you have to use it regularly. Just like forming or breaking a habit, it will take some time for you to learn about your day and how to best arrange a schedule, so don’t let the first few days or weeks get you down, you’ll begin to naturally find the best path for your day.
It’s also helpful to refer back a few days or take notes about what works well and what doesn’t so you can adapt as you keep planning.
When you identify gaps in your day, think about what kind of tasks can fit well in that time. If they’re short, you may want to utilize it for personal goals, like reading or taking a walk. Bigger gaps can be broken up into smaller pieces for admin work or you can use that time to tackle bigger projects.
3. Cross-check other calendars
One of the most appealing things about having a physical planner is that it forces you to write things down, which research has shown to improve memory, but for most of us, we deal with multiple calendars, some that are virtual and others that are out of our control. It can all get pretty messy pretty easily!
Think of your daily hourly planner as your master schedule. Daily or weekly, you should be updating it with events, deadlines or reminders on other calendars. It can feel a little tedious, but it will prevent things slipping through the cracks and helps you design a better day each day.
4. Schedule personal events (even self-care!)
It’s easy to think of a planner as a tool that is work-specific, but it can be very helpful for all parts of your life, especially as we increasingly mix work meetings and deadlines in with running errands and take time to relax as it comes. It’s a busy life! And keeping track of it is not easy.
Not only will putting personal items on your calendar help you better visualize the day, researchers say carving out time for self-care — even if it’s just a few minutes — has major benefits.
“If you feel as though there is always more you could be doing, you’ll need to consciously set aside time for self-care. In doing so, you will clearly give yourself permission that this is the most important and appropriate thing to do now,” writes time management coach Elizabeth Grace Saunders for the Harvard Business Review. “Scheduling helps you to see where self-care fits into your schedule, and how other essential activities have their places around it.”
5. Incorporate your goals
On the surface, your planner is about your to-do list and your schedule. But to get the most out of it, remember to be thoughtful about your goals, personal and professional. This may look like utilizing small blocks of unused time or completely reshuffling items to make room for what you want to accomplish. Much of goal-setting is defined by small, practical steps. Luckily, that can be easily built into any daily schedule.
Remember, you run your planner. Don’t let it run you. Use it as a tool to improve your life.