What’s the secret to a successful day?
Whether it’s having more time to pursue our goals, or being more efficient with our work, we’d all love to find a way to better plan our days.
But quite often, our days can feel like they're running on someone else’s schedule. Our own goals and priorities can feel like they’re slipping away from us, as we go into reactive mode and put out fires at work or at home. And let’s also not forget the many digital temptations and distractions that modern life can bring.
While we can’t eliminate every single distraction or buy ourselves more time, we can certainly structure our days better to put us back in the driver’s seat.
Here are our favorite daily planning tips so that you can feel more productive, organized, and fulfilled.
Write your to-do list the day before
Write a to-do list before you leave the office or finish your work. This way, you can write down what you need to do while it’s still fresh in your mind. So take note of what you didn’t get around to doing, and then add it to your list. With a clear action plan, you’ll be able to hit the ground running when tomorrow comes.
Write an achievable to-do list
Speaking of to-do lists, you’ll want to make sure that you write one that helps you enhance your productivity, not derail it.
A to-do list that is either too vague or too ambitious can actually hamper your productivity. Too vague, and you’re left wondering what to do. Too ambitious, and you can feel overwhelmed and abandon your list altogether. Here’s how to avoid the traps of an ineffective to-do list and create one that will actually help you accomplish your work.
Use specific language. A good to-do list is like a set of clear and specific instructions. You should know exactly what it is that you need to do and how. The trick? Make sure your to-do list includes specific action verbs and nouns.
- Vague: Presentation
- Specific: Find 3-5 assets for powerpoint presentation
- Vague: Finalize article
- Specific: Add links; check spelling and grammar; edit intro paragraph
Be realistic. How many tasks can you realistically accomplish in a day? While the point is to be productive, you also don’t want to empty the tank before the day’s even started. Write down a list of 5 items you want to finish by the end of the day. These are your top priorities. This can be a mix of work assignments, personal errands, and goal-related tasks.
If you find yourself finishing the list, then add another task if you have the time and energy.
Set a daily intention
An intention adds clarity and purpose to your day.
An intention can be productivity related. For example: “I will chip away at my goal today.” Or an intention can be more internal or spiritual. For example: “I will come from a place of yes today” or “I will approach everything with gratitude.”
Write down your intention in your planner and check-in with it throughout the day. It will leave you feeling more empowered and focused as you go about your work.
No more notifications
Research shows that it takes us about 23 minutes to regain our focus after a distraction. So do yourself a favor and manage the notifications on your devices. This can mean putting your phone on airplane mode, enabling do not disturb on your computer, and signing out of chat. While you may not be able to put your devices on sleep mode all day, even just 20 or 30 minutes will give you enough breathing room to focus and get down to work.
Check morning emails after you’ve done something nice for yourself
Many of us reflexively grab for our phones first thing in the morning. But try to make it a habit to check your devices only after you’ve done something nice or productive for yourself.
Checking email puts us in backseat mode. We’re letting other people’s asks, requests, and priorities drive the action of our day. Flip the dynamic and let yourself determine the day’s agenda. Use this time to chip away at your goals. Write in your journal. Jot down 3 things you’re grateful for. Or just drink a cup of coffee in silence.
This morning activity can be 10 minutes or 1 hour long. Even just a short amount of time will help you feel more centered.
Use a timer
Another way to strengthen your focus and manage distractions is to use a timer.
The anticipation of an alarm going off will make you hustle and stay on task.
Set the timer for something small at first, like 10 or 12 minutes, and then gradually build your endurance. And don’t forget to take short breaks in between. The breaks allow your mind and body to recuperate, which will help sustain your energy.
Batch your tasks
We already know that multitasking isn’t great for productivity. But did you know that switching between tasks is also ineffective?
For example, if you’re answering emails, and then switching to brainstorming ideas, this toggling between skillsets is draining your energy and attention.
Instead, try task batching. This is a productivity technique in which you group similar tasks together and do them in one session. You do your admin work in one batch. You check emails in another batch. Do chores in another batch.
Batch your tasks and you’ll save precious time and energy.
Templatize your work
Save more time during the day by templatizing some of your work. This way, you don’t have to feel like you’re starting from scratch every time you do a standard task.
Create templates for pitch emails to clients or editors. Use invoice templates. Prepare common responses for “pick your brain” emails. Use Google Forms to gather information. Have templates for common powerpoint presentations so that you’re not designing a new one every time. If you’re a freelancer or small business owner, you’ll definitely save a lot of time by templatizing your work.
What’s your favorite way to plan for the day?