That said, even though I am a huge proponent of paper planners, using any sort of digital planning tool to plan your day out is just fine. As long as you are not relying solely on your memory, anything works! I have actually been using Google Calendar more and more lately because you can enter the address of where you need to be and it will then tell you how the traffic is when it's time to leave and how much time it will actually take you to get there. As much as I love my paper planner, it can't tell me that!
(Be sure to scroll all the way to the end of this post to enter a giveaway for a cute paper planner!)
So the habit in question is not so much which type of planning tool you are using, but when and how to really plan your days effectively. The when is easy—morning! Now that you're getting up early, you will have a nice, quiet 20 minutes to go over your schedule and your daily goals.
The how is a little more detailed, and something I will actually be working to improve right along with you. I have been thinking about how truly effective planning is way more than just scheduling appointments into your calendar, and I'm trying to implement these new ideas into my own daily planning sessions.
How to Plan Your Day Effectively
1. Know your goals
I recently attended a social media conference and I was struck by how many of the presenters talked about really knowing what the end goal was before you created any strategy or implemented any tactics. You should do nothing in your business if it does not bring you closer to your desired outcome.
I decided this principle should apply to much more than just my business. What if I planned my day in such a way that it always brought me closer to my goals? Wouldn't I be more deliberate and more productive if I planned this way?
These goals can be things like getting out of debt, raising your children to be good members of society, losing weight, or to organize your home. There are hundreds of different goals, and each of us has our own set—do you know what your goals are?
2. Know the reasons why
The next step is only slightly different from knowing and understanding your goals—but it is important. If you don't know why you have set a particular goal, you will not be nearly as motivated to do whatever it takes to achieve it.
Don't set a goal just because you feel it's something you should be doing. Make your goals for good reasons.
For instance, if my goal is to get out of debt, some of the reasons could be:
- So I can begin to save for college for my children
- So I can have financial freedom
- So I can travel more with my family
- So I can rid myself of the anxiety debt brings to my life
- So I can give more generously to others
Think about why you have goals, and it will provide your motivation for achieving them.
3. Create an action plan
Everyone has a to-do list. Sometimes the things we feel we must do aren't actually bringing us closer to our goals, though. Make your to-do list into an action plan and be very deliberate about which to-dos take priority in your day. Do those things first.
Stephen Covey teaches this principle, and so do many other successful people who write about how to be successful. I particularly like the book Eat That Frog for teaching this principle—we must do the big things first and sometimes they are the most unpleasant. But if you get eating the frog out of the way before you do anything else, everything you do afterward will seem easy!
It is easy to fall into a pattern of doing things randomly and then feeling like you haven't accomplished anything. Be deliberate in your action plan, and you will start to feel that you are really doing something each day!
Now you can finally schedule. We will all have mundane things that must be scheduled into our day. Grocery shopping is a necessity because probably one of your end goals is to stay alive. Doctor, dentist, hair, and other appointments must be done and will probably fit into an end goal in one way or another. Then there are all the activities that the kids are signed up to do—most of my scheduling is comprised of chauffeuring them all over the place, but it does fit into one of my desired outcomes: Strong, educated, contributing kids.
Once you have scheduled those necessary tasks, begin to schedule in the rest of your to-do list. If you have a goal to lose weight so you can be healthier and your action items regarding that goal are to exercise and to make healthy meals for yourself—schedule those things in.
Put your very most important to-do lists into your daily timeline!
5. Do it
The final step is to actually do the things you've scheduled. Look at your planner often throughout the day so you know you are staying on track, but do not get discouraged if your day doesn't go as it was planned! It probably will never quite align with your original schedule because life happens.
But because you have a plan, you will be much better equipped to take the unexpected as it comes—and you will complete a lot more of your action items than if you never had a plan at all.
Just 20 minutes each morning is all it takes to plan effectively and the difference it will make in your life will be huge!
Small Habit: Daily planning session
Big Difference: Get more done and achieve your long and short term goals
This post is part of my Small Habits That Will Make a Big Difference 30 day challenge. To see all of the posts in this series, click here. Or, join the challenge and receive a daily email with a new small habit that can affect your life in a big way.
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