How many times have you picked up a new notebook, day planner, or even an app with the intention of getting things better organized? You get it all set up, only to stick with it for a couple of weeks and forget about it. I think of it kind of like the first day of school. We tell ourselves, this year I’m going to be on top of my assignments, and take tidy notes. However, a month in and that plan goes out the window.

I’ve done it many times. In my late teens and early twenties I was particularly bad for buying a day planner and forgetting about it for a few weeks at a time. During my time away from my planner I was basically flying by the seat of my pants. Mistakes were made. Tasks fell between the cracks or snuck up on me last minute. I still performed well at work, and on college assignments, but inside it felt like chaos.

I simply wasn’t taking the time to plan my days properly and I was paying for it.

Things got better when I started creating my own journals. I found the layouts I created were less limiting than the day planners that were available to me. 

I also changed the way I planned my day. Certainly, I’m still not perfect, nor do I strive to be, but I think this method is what has kept me planning consistently for the past few years.

1. First things first

The method means nothing if you don’t dedicate a little bit of time each morning or evening to planning. I’m not talking a half hour. I’m talking ten to fifteen minutes tops. Take a look at your journal in the evening, reflect on our day, and plan the next. Alternatively, this is done in the (early) morning, reflecting on yesterday, and an action plan is made for the same day.

2. Create lists to pull your daily to-dos from

When you’re first starting out, this will take a bit more time, but it will be worth it. Start by creating a backlog of items you need to do. I typically give it a time-frame of one month so that it isn’t just one continuous blob of text. You might also want to create a “later” list of things to explore later that aren’t a priority now. A “to-don’t” list is another one I recommend if you’re feeling ambitious. It’s simply a list of tasks that you would like to phase out or explore doing differently. It can also become an inspiration when goal setting.

3. Find a daily/weekly spread that works for you

Some folks like the pre-made day planners that offer time blocking / appointment slots, others like plenty of blank space. Be as creative or not as you want. It’s all about preference. If creating your own from a notebook or binder, I recommend completing the layout for at least the month in advance, if not the entire year. That way you can plan ahead a little. Also, you might lose some gusto when it comes to the end of the week and you haven’t yet drawn the next (been there). Mine is simply the days of the week and a notes section with space to write underneath.

4. Start planning

Here’s some tips and tricks:

  • Put appointments under the proper date as soon as you can – write it elsewhere or text it to yourself if you don’t have your planner on you
  • Pull daily items from your mind of course, but also refer to your notes and backlog 
  • Pick five to seven priorities for the day – if you don’t have that many or want to focus on less that’s okay too! 
  • Also, pick one or two activities that will get you active, or that you find relaxing and put them in as well

5. Task management

  • Avoid simply putting the project name such as “build fence” or “PowerPoint presentation” – break it into tasks like “pick up supplies for the fence” or “write presentation copy”
  • You might also want to avoid including tasks that are too small or simple like “email Jeannie,” unless emailing Jeannie is a task that’s going to take a considerable amount of time you may want to simply jot it down in your planner as a reminder
  • Carry incomplete items to the next day. Alternatively, you can move them to the next week or cancel them completely.
  • Don’t include items that you do every day. Writing things like “do the dishes” or “make dinner” daily will result in boredom

But what about weekly?

I have tried to plan my week out in advance before, but you know what they say about the best-laid plans. It honestly made for a messy bullet journal as I had to keep moving this around. It also came with undue pressure – I’m not done this yet or I can’t do that yet.

If I have an appointment or due date, I write that out in advance under the date absolutely. If I have something I want to get done that week, but I’m not sure which day yet, I add it to the notes section in my weekly spread.

Note:

Also, I thought I would add. When you finish your tasks (work, projects around the house, chores, homework etc.), don’t keep adding onto the list and burn yourself out. The idea is to remind yourself to keep a proper work-life balance. Enjoy yourself. Get active. Relax. 

Conclusion

I know I’m more productive and motivated when I have an action plan each day and I’m hoping you will too.

If you’d like a head start on your planner layouts, I have a printable version available in my Etsy Store.

Happy planning!