How to Use A Planner With Time Slots For Busy Days

An hourly planner with time slots filled in with a busy schedule

Are you having a hard time managing busy days? Or struggling to keep track of multiple appointments and deadlines?

Then you’ll want to have a planner with time slots by your side. 

Planners are not one-size-fits all. A layout that works for one person may not necessarily work for another. So you’re going to want to choose a planner that has the layout and features that work for you, and will help you succeed. And the scheduling layout in your planner can make a big difference in how you manage your time. 

Some planners, like our Today Planner, use hourly time slots. This lets you schedule your day by the hour, and get granular with planning. With an hourly planner, your schedule may look something like this: writing at 9 AM, meetings at 10 AM, exercise at 12 PM, and so forth and so on. 

Other planners, like our goal-setting planner, use a time blocking layout. Instead of organizing your day by the hour, you would schedule your day by blocks of time. For example, you could block off the morning for writing, exercise in the afternoon, etc. 

If you’re trying to figure out the best scheduling option for you, then you’ll want to keep in mind your daily routine, priorities, and working style. 

Whereas a time blocking layout is great if you want both structure and flexibility in your schedule, an hourly planner is best if you have a busy schedule consisting of appointments, meetings, deadlines, and other time sensitive tasks. 

Here are some of the planner users that would benefit most from a planner with time slots.

  • Academics. Students and teachers know that staying on top of their schedule is a must. You need to keep track of class schedules, homework assignments, exams, extracurricular activities, and more. A planner with time slots can help you stay organized.
  • Appointment-based businesses. From hairstylists to real estate agents to personal trainers, appointment-based businesses need to keep the trains running on time. Any delays can result in unhappy clients and add more stress to your day. In order to be efficient with your time and stay on schedule, a planner with time slots is a powerful tool.
  • Admin professionals. Whether it’s submitting expense reports or processing payments, admin professionals can’t afford to let something fall through the cracks. And executive or personal assistants are probably managing their boss’s schedule on top of everything else. To help get everything in order, you’ll benefit from keeping an hourly planner. 
  • Freelancers. Without anyone to report to, freelancers have the flexibility to set their own schedule. To ensure that you don’t procrastinate or waste the day away, you can use an hourly planner to add structure to your days. 

How to effectively use a planner with time slots 

Below are tips and strategies for using a planner with time slots. This way, you can stay dialed in–even on the busiest of days.

Get clear on your vision

Before you start filling in your hourly schedule, you’ll want to get clear about your agenda for the upcoming week.

It always helps to make a comprehensive to-do list. It’s hard to keep track of appointments and reminders that are floating in your head. By writing things down, you will get super clear about what you need to do. 

So go ahead and jot down all the tasks, deadlines, errands, and projects that you have coming up. At the end, you will have captured a big picture view of your week, as well as a snapshot of all the specific items. 

Identify the essential tasks

The to-do list may look overwhelming at first glance, but don’t worry, you’re not going to do every single item all at once.

Take a good hard look at your list, and start circling or highlighting your priorities. Instead of making everything a priority, it’s more realistic to identify your top 3-4 essential tasks. 

Here’s how to determine if something should be done today or wait until another time.

  • Appointments. Any fixed appointments, especially if it’s with a client or manager, should definitely be at the top of your list.
  • Deadlines. Do you have a homework or project assignment that’s due? Any paperwork that needs to be filed by a certain time? Make those a priority. 
  • Upcoming deadlines. Also take note of any deadlines that are coming up on the horizon. So even though that project isn’t due for another two weeks, you probably want to stay on top of it now, so that you don’t run out of time later.
  • Goals. It’s also important to prioritize your goals. You don’t have to take a big chunk out of it in one day. But committing to a small action step will help you get closer to your goal. 
Add essential tasks to your hourly planner 

Okay, now that you’ve gotten clear about your to-do list and priorities, it’s time to start creating your schedule!

Add your fixed appointments, deadlines, and meetings first. These will provide anchor points for your day, and then you can schedule your other priorities around them.

Now look at the priorities that you identified earlier and make sure to add them to your schedule. When you write a task down, you’re more likely to accomplish it. 

Be realistic about your energy levels 

When it comes to planning your schedule, you don’t have to be a hero. Make sure to be realistic about how much you can take on and how much rest you’ll need. You probably don’t want to cram your schedule with back-to-back meetings or multiple projects that require a lot of mental energy. 

For example, decluttering your closet at 4 PM, followed by making dinner at 5 PM, and then hitting the gym right after might be too taxing. Give yourself enough time cushions throughout the day, so that you don’t feel rushed. 

Identify your peak hours

You can make your hourly schedule even more effective by aligning essential tasks with your peak productivity hours

For instance, let’s say you really want to make going to the gym a priority. But you’re not sure when to schedule it. To help you determine your best time, consider your peak energy hours. Do you feel more energized in the morning? Or in the evening? Does your energy drop in the afternoon?

It’s hard to get excited for a morning run if you’re not a morning person. So maybe it makes more sense to schedule it in the afternoon when you’re more alert.

You’ll feel much more confident on busy days when you have a solid action plan and hourly schedule in place.

Written by JiJi Lee.

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