How to Stay On Schedule With An Hourly Planner

A dashboard deskpad filled out with many projects and tasks

Knowing how to effectively manage your time is key to having a successful day.

But what do you do when you have tons of meetings and deadlines to juggle? Or multiple tasks and events to keep straight? Enter: the hourly planner. 

An hourly planner features an hour-by-hour layout. While some planner users may prefer blank pages or a weekly layout, an hourly format is a great option for people with busy schedules and deadlines they can’t miss. 

So if your business or personal life requires efficient time management and sticking to a strict schedule, you’ll benefit from using an hourly planner

Hourly planners are also perfect for…

Students. High school, college, and grad students will benefit from using an hourly planner. Being a student means keeping many balls in the air: class schedules, papers, exams, and extracurriculars. With an hourly planner, you can make sure you stay on top of it all. 

Teachers. An hourly planner can also help teachers better manage their days. You can schedule your curriculum, coordinate parent-teacher meetings, organize teacher planning days, and more. 

Freelancers. Without a typical 9-to-5 schedule to stick to, freelancers have to set their own work hours. An hourly planner can help you build structure into your days, be productive, and allocate crucial time off. And if you are paid by the hour, you can use it to keep track of your time.

Appointment-based businesses. If your work week runs on appointments (e.g. realtors, hair stylists, fitness trainers, etc.) then an hourly planner can help ensure that you stick to your schedule and keep your clients happy. Use an hourly planner to schedule your appointments, fitness sessions, client meetings, and other timed work.

Busy bees. Maybe your day is filled with back-to-back meetings. Or you’re tired of running late to appointments and social gatherings. Or maybe you just wish you had a better handle on your day. Instead of feeling like you’re always chasing your schedule, use an hourly planner to help you stay on top of it.

Here are tips and strategies you can use to get the most out of your hourly planner. 

Make an effective to-do list

Before sitting down to plan your schedule by the hour, it’s a good idea to write down a to-do list first.

It’s important to remember that our day isn’t just made up of meetings and appointments. We need to make room in our schedule for everyday tasks and chores like meal prepping, doing laundry, or replying to emails.

A to-do list helps you capture all the granular details on paper. You’ll have a much better sense of what you need to do and can plan your day more effectively. 

If your hourly planner has a separate space for a to-do list, use it to write down your tasks, errands, chores, and other responsibilities you have on your plate. 

Identify your top 3 priorities

So after you finish writing your to-do list, place a star next to the top 3 tasks/activities to tackle today. These are your top 3 priorities.

It’s nice to have a mix of personal, professional, and goal-related priorities for a well-rounded day. If you’re having trouble identifying your priorities, ask yourself: What is something that I would really like to get done today? What would make my day fulfilling? What can wait until tomorrow or later this week? 

Some examples of top 3 priorities include:

  • Write in my journal for 15 minutes
  • Go for a run for 30 minutes
  • Submit my presentation for notes

Now that you’ve identified your top 3 priorities, you’ll know to make time for them in today’s schedule.

Add appointments and deadlines 

If you’re trying to figure out how to plan your day by the hour, start by scheduling in your fixed deadlines and appointments first.

Things like picking up kids from school, meetings, and work deadlines have a set time or deadline. Add these appointments/deadlines to your planner and let them serve as anchor points for your day.

Here’s an example:

  • 8:00 AM - Drop off kids at school
  • 10:00 AM - Zoom meeting with the team
  • 4:00 PM - Submit article to editor 

Now that you have your anchor points, you can see your day more clearly. You can then schedule the rest of your tasks and to-dos around these anchor points.

Add your top 3 priorities 

Remember the top 3 priorities you identified earlier? If they don't have a specific deadline, then set your own. And since you’ve already laid down the anchor points of your day, you can now see when you're available. So, for example, if you see that your mornings or evenings are free, then use that open time to work on your top 3 tasks. 

Don’t overschedule

Instead of planning your day down to the minute, make sure to be realistic about how much time and energy you can expend. 

For instance, you don’t want to schedule too many back-to-back meetings. You never know if a meeting will run over or if you’ll need extra time to take a pause and decompress. Give yourself enough breathing room so that you’re not playing catch up and running off to the next meeting or appointment.

The same goes for the number of tasks and errands that you schedule. An hourly schedule is there to give you a layout of your day. That doesn’t mean you have to assign a task or chore for every available hour or minute. 

Inevitably, meetings will run late, appointments will be canceled, and last minute requests will arise. Create time buffers into your schedule to make room for these changes and add more flexibility to your day.

Use planner accessories

Busy schedules can be taxing. That’s why planning has become a soothing antidote to our urgent, deadline driven days. Planner fans like to use their planning time to slow down and be more thoughtful. It’s a chance to get creative, decorate their planner pages, and plan their days with care. 

Use planner accessories like stickers, washi tape, and gel pens to add colorful hues and personality to your pages. It’s a simple and meaningful way to make your daily work more fun and exciting.

Written by JiJi Lee.

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