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There is nothing more frustrating than getting to the end of the week, knowing you have been working your butt off, only to discover you still haven’t completed the tasks you said you would at the start of the week. Creating a plan for the day helps keep you focused daily.
Working reactively to everything that pops up is one of the most inefficient uses of your time.
Working proactively on tasks that are aligned with your goals is essential. It means you understand their importance and is the only way to ensure that all of your time is spent on activities that get you closer to your goal.
“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” ― Yogi Berra.
Plan for the day – every day
You usually are most motivated first thing in the morning, and most stressed at the end of the day.
Take 15 minutes at the start or the end of each day to write down a plan for the day.
The plan can be flexible, but having a plan, in whatever shape you can, is better than having no plan at all.
Another benefit of creating a plan for the day is that assigning work to specific times reduces the urge to procrastinate. You are no longer deciding what to work on during a given period; the decision is already made.
I have found the hard way that I have to plan for the day ahead, however vague, to actually get me to complete anything. If I don’t have a plan for the day, I just spend my time thinking of the things I could or should be doing but not moving any of them forward. Also known as procrastoplanning 🙂
Estimate how long the tasks will take
Make sure you factor into your planning how long each task will take to complete.
Knowing how long the activities are likely to take means you are realistic with your planning. Experts agree that if you don’t consider how long things take, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
Knowing that you have thought about each task on your plan and how long it takes makes you feel in control of your schedule.
This, in turn, can decrease your stress level. A Win-Win!
Use a daily planner to help you document this and keep you on track throughout the day. This means you can then use your precious productive time in the morning to actually completing a task.
What to include in your plan for the day
Creating a plan for the day puts you in the right frame of mind each day to get things done.
Your daily plan should include the following:
- The 3 most important goals you are working towards.
- Under each goal, write down up to 5 of the highest priority activities that you need to get done to help you progress your goal.
- Who you need to contact.
- Who you are waiting to hear back from.
- List the top priorities for the day. These are the activities that have to get done today, no matter what.
This will help you focus on what is essential and stop you from getting distracted.
A daily planner is an excellent way of planning your day.
Make a weekly plan
Once you get into the habit of making a plan for your day, every day. Why not build on that and plan your entire week.
You will never get off the treadmill if you only have short term thinking.
Start thinking more in the future and work out what you will be doing each day of the week IN ADVANCE.
I know this is a big step if you are not into planning, but it makes sense.
Take 15 minutes at the beginning or end of the week, and look through your master to-do list, inbox, calendar, etc. Come up with a plan of which tasks you will be looking to do each day of the week.
This only needs to be a rough guide as each evening you can plan the next day. The weekly plan helps you create a flexible weekly routine. Which gives you the scope to block out time for similar activities.
The day planning will now look at what you have already planned to do and consider anything left over from previous days.
“There is virtue in work, and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither” – Alan Cohen.
For any of you having trouble chipping away at substantial tasks, help is at hand!.
Here is a tool to help you hit these in one fell swoop and provide you with the motivation to keep going.
It is called (10+2)*5 and was created by Merlin Mann, author of 43Folders.com.
The (10+2)*5 simply means 10 minutes work + 2 minutes break multiplied by 5, completing 1 hour. Although any of the numbers can change to suit your list.
Identify from your list, tasks that can be worked on (not necessarily completed) in blocks of 10 minutes or less. During the work allocation time, you work with a single-minded focus on achieving a single task. During the break period, go and do whatever you want but be ready to start work on the next job on your list in the following work period.
Repeat for however many time are appropriate for you.
You do not need to finish your task in the allocated time. You just need to move it forward.
If you finish a satisfying amount of work in fewer than ten minutes, go right to your break, then start another work session straight after.
Do NOT skip breaks!
The point of this is for you to create a jam-packed routine of work and break schedules.
The result? You’ll bash through an hour’s worth of work and will find yourself looking forward to both the breaking and working parts of the cycle.
If you want more time management to help you get things done then take a look here.