Using a to-do book can make your life significantly easier by allowing you to finally throw out all those papers with to-do lists written on them everywhere. I know you have them, I am not shaming you as I used to be part of that club too. However I got myself organized with my to-do book and I never wanted to go back. Ever. As I first-hand know how difficult planning your days can be when operating like that, I am going to show you how to plan your day easily and rather fast. Honestly once you get the hang of it, I am pretty sure that you’ll become an ex-member of the papers everywhere club too!
5 Easy Steps To Plan Your Day
1. Make a general to-do list for the week
The first step in making a day plan is to always tally up everything you need to. The best way to do this is to write down everything you need to do. The order doesn’t matter, it just needs to be documented. Seeing that I have a life plan, year plan, month plan and a week plan doing this is remarkably easy for me. If you have not designed your life like that I would still recommend making this general to-do list per week instead of per day. Making a day plan for the day to come or the next day everyday is very time consuming so I do not recommend it. Also you’ll have to remember each day what it is you casually planned somewhere that you needed to do that day. This is a habit that is working against you in many different ways, if you want to plan your day productively.
Making a to-do list per week instead of per day gives you more time to catch any extra time you need per task. Next to that it also allows you to spread out boring to-do’s so you won’t have to create a day where you are technically super frustrated with yourself because there’s nothing ‘’fun’’ on your to-do list.
To make a week plan I start with the things I want to see done at the end of the week. From there I start writing down what I need to do to accomplish the plans set as done by the end of the week, which in turn is also your general to-do list.
2. What do you already have planned
In order to plan your day effectively you need to see what was already planned so you don’t accidentally double book yourself. Seeing what you already have planned will also help you not overcommit yourself on any given day. This will make that instead of planning your day for optimal productivity you have planned your day for optimal levels of high stress. Of course this step stands on the pillars of you having actually written down or made a mental of what you already have to do on the days you are planning now.
Once you know what all you planned on the days you are planning, write them in your to-do book on their respective day so you can start getting an overview of how each day is going to look like.
3. Confirm your maybe plans
This step is one you only have to do if you set up plans that follow the rule ‘’if this, then that’’. When you do you have to check first whether your ‘’if this’’ has happened to implement your ‘’then that’’. This can be quite problematic if it involves calling other people, if you for example plan your day early morning or late at night. Well, let’s just say it’s problematic when you are making your day plans and the person you depend on for the activity you want to plan is not reachable. By the way this can be very detrimental for your motivation and to your ability to stick to your day planning.
In the event of you not being able to get a confirmation you can schedule getting the confirmation as the first thing on your to-do list. As for the allocated time of the maybe activity it could be best to break the cardinal rule of never double booking yourself. The plans to make as an overbooking are things that you can easily move and affect only you if you don’t do them. Examples are cleaning the house, doing your groceries or researching something you need.
Once you have a confirmation for your maybe plans write them on their respective day in your to-do book to get even more clear on what all you have to do per day.
4. Determine how much time each task takes
Before you can definitely decide when exactly during the day you will be working on what activity you need to give it it’s allocated time frame. There are two ways you can do this. You can either go with an estimate of how long you think you will need for the to-do or you can decide how long you want to work on the activity. When choosing the latter option it is imperative that you have a very clear and concise to-do. There needs to be minimum to no figuring it out in terms of what part of this task to do first. Therefore I recommend the latter for tasks that are part of a bigger to-do.
When you choose the estimate technique make sure to decide whether the task is to be finished in that time, which would be ideal depending on what you are planning or whether you want to have made some kind of progress on it. If you don’t do this up front you might risk working over your time limit in order to finish what you’d like finished and sequentially throwing your day planning completely off. Write all timeframes next to their respective to-do’s in your to-do book to use in step 5.
If you’re wondering how allocating times to your to-do list items helps you plan your day to be productive it is for the following reasons. When you work with a timeframe you know exactly how much time you have and dilly-dallying will be turned down as there’s an end to all tasks you don’t like doing. The second reason is because you might not be beginning your days with a blank slate as you can already have things planned and/or have maybe plans as we have seen in step two and three respectively.
4.1 Easy or hard to focus on
When giving your to-do’s timeframes make sure to take into consideration whether or not it is something you have trouble focusing on or not. To-do’s that you have trouble focusing on will need to be given some cushion time in order to help your wandering mind and also to actually be able to plan your day for optimal productivity.
5. Schedule tasks in the open blocks
Now that you have found and planned all of the plans you have to do on a given day you can now go ahead and schedule the remaining tasks in the times that you have left for the day. It is of course important to do this in a way that makes sense. For example if you have yoga at 3 PM and need to wash and dry your yoga pants you can’t schedule that after the yoga class. That needs to be one of the first tasks you do as then the pants have the most time to dry.
The best way to plan your leftover to-do’s day easily is to go per day and see how much time you have left before and after the plans that are already made. This time needs to be cross referenced with the times you have allocated to each to-do and when exactly you need what finished, see the yoga example just mentioned.
The best way for me to explain to you how to plan your day easily with a to-do book is to now switch over to an example. I’ll show you a page out of mine that was pre the entire world slowing down, you know when I still left the house on a regular basis..
Plan Your Day Template
General To-do List:
- Write New Blogpost
- Create new pins
- Do groceries
- Put away groceries
- Research new psychology theories
- Upload new stock photos
What I Already Had Planned
- Physiotherapy at 10 AM
- Gym at 4 PM
I don’t make maybe plans anymore; they spike my anxiety in ways I just can’t fathom when living a life I love. They only create the maybe activity of me having a mental breakdown. I do have to be fair if this had been me in 2016 pre May 9th then yes I would’ve had maybe plans.
I have made this process way easier for myself by timing myself for recurring tasks so I know exactly how long they take. Yes I love planning everything. I can’t ever walk past a paperchase without peeping in to see if they have new notebooks for me to plan things in, even though I only use the day planner I made for myself as it is perfectly optimized to plan your days in. Anyways my love for day planning has gotten me off track.
Recommended: Day Planner 2021: Stop Planning on Someday
This is the exact one I use.
Before timing myself I notoriously estimated the time needed. I won’t show you my old technique as it will help you ruin your day and that is not what you are here for. I will show you my new technique. Per task I write down what I need in terms of materials and then I write down every eenie meenie thing I have to do for the task as a whole. An example: writing this blog post:
Materials 1 min
- New document
To-do’s 2 hours
- Brainstorm Outline of the post (20 minutes)
- Organize brainstorm (10 minutes)
- Type out paragraphs per point (1.5 hours)
Give every one of those points a time frame and you now will know give or take how long a to-do will take. You can see here that gathering what I need this time takes just 1 minute, so in the overall time I will just disregard it. This may seem like a bad idea because doing that for every to-do will add up, which is a good catch of you however when estimating you should always give yourself an extra 10/15 minutes as a courtesy to catch any hiccups that you might encounter. For this example that could be the wifi connection not working.
My general to-do list with time frames looks like this
- Write New Blogpost – 2 hours
- Create new pins – 1.5 hours
- Do groceries – 2 hours
- Put away Groceries – 30 minutes
- Research new psychology theories – 1 hour
- Upload new stock photos – 1.5 hours
Schedule tasks in open blocks
First I have to sort out how much time I have between my already scheduled plans.
My day generally starts at 6 AM so between that and having to leave for my Physiotherapy I have 3.5 hours to plan my to-do’s. My Physiotherapy is an hour so my ‘’free’’ to schedule time starts again at 11 AM till 4 PM that means that I have 4.5 hours left to plan as well. I go to the gym for two hours so my free time starts again at 6 PM.
6 AM – Start of My Day
3.5 hours of ‘’free time’’
10 AM – Physiotherapy
4.5 hours of ‘’free time’’
4 PM – Gym
3 hours of ‘’free time’’
Knowing the free time I have I can easily schedule the rest of my task to my will as on this list I have nothing that is pressing apart from researching psychology theories, which I will schedule first thing in the morning. My day planning then looks like this:
6 AM – Start of My Day
6.00 – 7.00 Research psychology theories
7.00 – 9.00 Write new blogpost
10.00 – 11.00 – Physiotherapy
11.00 – 13.00 Do groceries
13.00 – 13.30 Put away groceries
13.30 – 15.00 Create new pins
16.00 – Gym
19.00 – 20.30 Upload new stock photos
As you can see in how I plan my day, I have left the hours 9 – 10 AM, 3 – 4 PM and 6 – 7 PM unaccounted for. These hours are there to either get ready for the next activity, for me to eat or an activity that is always directly adjacent to the previous activity. In this case the hour between 9 – 10 AM is for me to have breakfast and drive to my physiotherapist. The hour between 3 – 4 PM is for lunch, getting ready for the gym and any hiccups I might have had while getting my groceries. The last unaccounted hour is for getting home after the gym, a shower after the gym (an activity directly adjacent to the previous) and dinner.
The unaccounted time can be moved as well. For example I am most likely having lunch at 1.30 PM instead of at 3 PM. This means that my activity ‘’creating new pins’’ moves an half an hour, which is okay because it is accounted for in the totality of my day.
Well there you have it. A full explanation of how to plan your day effectively using a to-do book. I hope this helps you plan your days for more productivity and enable you to live the life you love.
Always remember planning your day is only half the task, doing is the other half.
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