If you’re going to construct a building, you don’t just start placing bricks on the ground, piling them up high, and slapping some mortar in between each one without a plan. You’d be sure to fail. Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail,” and he’s absolutely correct. No matter what you set out to achieve, you must take the necessary step of creating a plan, often one with many if not hundreds of steps and components. Constructing a building is important work. You don’t want it to fall down because it’s poorly designed or haphazardly engineered. You need a plan.
Each one of your days is important work, too, because they set up the foundation for your months, your years, and your life. It’s vital to create a plan for each of your working days to ensure you’re setting yourself up for success. The good news? Creating your daily plan only needs to take about 15 minutes each day if you utilize the 5 Daily Planning Pavers. They lay the groundwork for a productive day, day after day, year after year.
Isn’t it great that you can take charge of your day by taking just 15 minutes to plan for it and really set yourself up for success? Honestly, you need to have a plan of attack before the day takes you on, making you feel under attack and like you are expending all of your energy doing everything and anything you can just to make it through the day. A plan, even though it might not be fully executed 100 percent of the time, will still set you up for maximum success and productivity.
To take advantage of the 5 Daily Planning Pavers, you first need to set aside 15 minutes at the end of your day to plan your following one. Then you can wake up and start your day fresh and focused. You will already have a plan in place even before the temptation to check emails, peruse Facebook, listen to voicemails, or fall prey to how you feel that day which could easily determine how much you get done.
Attach your 15-minute planning window to a trigger or another habit you consistently do as part of your routine at the end of the day such as cleaning off your desk. Otherwise you could set an alarm on your phone for 4:45 if your day ends at 5 o’clock. The alarm will act as an alert to stop what you’re doing, wrap things up, and create your daily plan.
If you are a busy entrepreneur who is often on the road, changes up the place where you work, or your schedule and the time that you shut down for the day varies, it tends to be a little more difficult to root this habit. If planning out your day at the end of each day absolutely does not work for you, adjust to planning your day the following morning first thing during a 15-minute window you set aside. The important thing is that you do it as a consistent part of your routine and utilize the following steps to pave your way to a productivity day time and again.
The 5 Daily Planning Pavers
1. Review Your Current Day
Review what occurred during your day. Think about the appointments you had, consider the meetings you attended, and read through the notes you took, as those items may trigger additional tasks. Also look at your task list to determine what did not get done. Take a full inventory to determine what you did not finish so you can roll it over to the next day. Reviewing your day is a great way to remember an important task that may have fallen through the cracks or not been captured during the day.
2. Preview Your Following Day
Take a look at your calendar for tomorrow including any meetings or appointments you have. See when you are going to be working during the day and where, then determine if there’s anything additional you need to do to prepare for your day. If you have a meeting scheduled for 3 o’clock and haven’t had time to plan its agenda yet, you could make sure to allocate adequate time to prepare for the meeting the following morning. Previewing your following day gives you a day in advance to capture anything you might have missed and enables you to plan sufficiently.
3. Do A Mind Sweep
Do a mind sweep. Perform a brain dump. Whatever you want to call it, it is important to ask yourself some questions, let your thoughts marinate, and capture anything you did not get done for the day. A conversation or event that occurred may trigger an action that needs to happen. Get it out of your head and in your digital task list. Keeping tasks in your head never works in the long run. An important one is always bound to be overlooked. Focus your mind sweep on capturing anything and everything cruising around in your brain that could be of importance. It could be an appointment that will occur in two weeks that you received an email about or a project that came to mind because of a conversation you had with a colleague. It could be anything. Take the time to capture each action needed and get them into your working task system.
It is important to make the proactive choice of what to accomplish first each day and in what order based on your highest priorities. How you decide should be filtered against your goals and vision of success. Base your priorities on which ones are going to get you closer to achieving your goals which are your highest value activities. Everything else is honestly just busy work even if it’s necessary, like payroll and taxes.
Prioritize your tasks to make sure you get the most important ones done. If you wait until 3 o’clock in the afternoon to attack your highest priority task, you’ve already invited Murphy to move in. Your day may have gone crazy as they tend to, you may have lost energy after dealing with a technology issue for hours, or you may have become distracted by other tasks begging for your attention. The chances are if you don’t make your highest value activities a priority, they will not get done. You will have a much better chance of accomplishing them if you tackle them first thing in the morning.
5. Time Block
Time blocking helps you execute your task list and gets the job done. You may have a task list as long as your arm but the reality is if you don’t block out time to work on specific tasks and get really realistic on how long each task will likely take, you will be setting yourself up for failure or disappointment. Tony Robbins says, “If you talk about it it’s a dream. If you envision it, it’s possible. If you schedule it, it’s real.” Take his advice and schedule your tasks into your daily calendar using time blocking.
Time blocking also give you the ability to cut out distractions for a feasible, set amount of time. I recommend working in 60 to 90 minute blocks of time but you don’t have to start that way. Focus is something you develop overt time like a muscle, so work your way up to longer time blocks if needed and properly develop that habit first. If you’re not used to having a closed door policy with no electronics, phone off, and no distractions, start with 20 minutes. Set a timer and give yourself 20 minutes to focus on a single task. Block out what you are going to be doing for that 20 minutes on your calendar. Determine ahead of time what your goal is and exactly what you’re setting out to accomplish to make the best use of that time.
If you don’t utilize time blocking, some tasks tend to take all day or double the amount of time it would take to complete had you scheduled a time block for it. If you schedule a task for 60 minutes, your goal is to accomplish that task in 60 minutes. It is like you’re running a sprint. The time block gives you a competitive edge and makes you much more likely to meet that deadline on the clock. You will also be more effective and efficient if you have blocked that time out and been proactive with your task instead of reactive, just letting it happen whenever you “have the time.” As you’ve probably learned, you never just “have the time.” You need to make the time for what matters most to you.
Planning your day does not need to be a huge, fully orchestrated, carefully thought out event. You just need to quickly review your current day, preview your following day, do a mind sweep, prioritize, then time block those priorities as tasks on your calendar. It should only take roughly 15 minutes to tackle the 5 Daily Planning Pavers at the end of your day which in turn could save you hours of time, loads of stress, and the feeling of being overwhelmed.
Make planning your day a habit so you can always have a plan of attack to conquer your day with ease. It will enable you to take on distractions in a different way, have a systematic approach to your tasks that works, and be really clear about what you are going to do with your day. The bonus is that when people beg you to give them your time, you’ll know whether you only have 30 extra minutes for them or if you do not have any extra time allotted. The point? You’ll be more in control of your day and what you accomplish during it. And that’s good news for your goals.