Plan Your Day for Success
So you’re busier than ever, and running around feeling scattered and ineffective in any of the areas that matter. You wake up with the best intentions to optimize your day so you can show up and show out. By 1:00 PM you realize that the morning has escaped again along with your focus and drive to crush the day.
Truth is, for many of us, we’re almost addicted to the chaos of our days. At least it gives you something to complain about and share with the rest of your friends. After all, you want to fit in right?
Not properly scheduling and planning your days to execute with excellence is killing your momentum, success, and spirit. Lacking control of your day, operating from a reactive state to whatever arises, and not having clarity on what you should even accomplish for the day needs to end. Others will gladly occupy your time and plan your days for you if you don’t take control. Greg McKeown talks about living by design and not by default in his book, Essentialism. It’s truly a great read, I highly recommend diving in, especially if you find yourself drowning in a nearly insurmountable amount of work in different areas.
“If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.” -Greg McKeown
Let’s look at a few simple, yet super effective ways to start planning your most productive days ahead.
1. Avoid over scheduling your days
Adhere closely to this advice as if your future success depends on it, because it does. We want to do it all! If you are an entrepreneur or professional that is into personal development and growth, say no more. We want to read everything, follow all the latest hacks, attend every mastermind imaginable, take on new clients and projects, work a full day, meditate, hit the weights, go for a run, catch up with our friends, make time for the kids, visit our parents and volunteer at the next community event, because we can squeeze that in too! Did I even mention, getting our hair done and running to the market? You get the point, and I am sure you feel the pain as much as I do.
Overcrowding your day leads to brain fatigue and exhaustion. Feeling pulled in too many directions leaves many of us feeling hopeless and less motivated.
Be intentional of what you choose to schedule in your day.
Be selective about when you schedule and agree to do things.
Be mindful of how you can strategically take on the day in its entirety.
Be focused so that what you schedule aligns with your overall goals.
Bonus: Remember to plan transitional time between your tasks and meetings. Brendon Burchard suggests, “Release tension, Set Intention” in his book High Performance Habits, How Extraordinary People Become That Way. Create time to reset between tasks, and allow yourself time to physically commute between meetings. Showing up to your next meeting or to complete the item on your list requires your excellence and presence.
2. Prioritize your tasks for the most productive day
If you were about to take a road trip, you probably wouldn’t get on a 100 miles of highway without first filling the gas tank and maybe grabbing drinks and snacks too. Hopefully, you would prioritize getting gas for a long road trip before leaving. Similarly, we are on a long stretch moving toward a goal and the journey is long (or shorter given your specific context).
"KNOW WHAT TO SAY YES TO AND WHAT TO SAY NO TO... YOU CAN DO ANYTHING YOU WANT IN LIFE BUT NOT EVERYTHING" -TOM BILYEU
Not all tasks, meetings and objectives are created equal. You have to assign a level of importance to everything you do, so that when there is a conflict of doing one or the other (because things happen outside of our control) the decision is already made.
Know your main goals. If you have multiple goals you have to rank them also.
Know what goals each task or meeting contribute to.
Create a very short list of non-negotiable tasks that get done no matter what.
Develop the discipline needed to hit your top 3 ranked tasks everyday.
Bonus: Leave time in your schedule, one or two days a week, to catch up on any tasks that are incomplete. We all have hectic days and weeks that make adhering to your planned schedule nearly impossible. Don’t beat yourself up, strategically create Time Buffers of two or 3 hours to get to the tasks that slipped through the cracks. Those tasks are still important and need to be completed to see overall progress.
--> STAY CALM AND GET IT DONE <--
3. Schedule “unavailable” time
This may be one of the most impactful tips on planning a productive day that I can share with you. Unavailable time is not downtime for social media, errands, watching TV or lazing around. Unavailable time is distraction free time for gathering your thoughts, allowing yourself to reflect, taking inventory of everything going on, deciding which direction you want to go, what’s working well, and what needs to be revised or discarded.
Greg McKeown talks about the “perks of being unavailable” in his book Essentialism. As he explains this concept, it’s about a level of clarity you achieve so that innovation and growth are the result. It’s about creating a space to escape, discern, and step-back to gain perspective. You “don’t get that space by default - only by design,” explains McKeown.
Schedule 1 full working day to be unavailable OR
Schedule a few hours once a week or more OR
Schedule time monthly for several hours to be unavailable
Make sure you are disconnected and unplugged from the digital world and any other distractions around you
Before you say you are entirely too busy to make this happen, consider that Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, as well as Bill Gates make time available to step away even in the business of the multimillion dollar companies they run. It doesn’t matter how you divide your time to make this happen, it only matters that you are intentional in creating this time and guarding it. McKeown refers to this as space to design, space to concentrate, and space to read.
“In order to have focus, we need to escape to focus" - Greg McKeown
BONUS TIP 1: Create space for what is energy-giving and fulfilling to your mind and spirit. This includes time to nurture yourself and make time for your inner-child, allow your adult self to play, its life changing and stress releasing (I promise).
BONUS TIP 2: Sticky notes are your friend. An assortment of sizes and colors (if you please) are encouraged. Jot down things that come up during the week that you know may want to move to another day or revisit at a later time. Use them to create a dashboard of random ideas and thoughts. Line them up on the back cover of your planner or last page and move them when you need to.
BONUS TIP 3: Try a weekly master task list. I write mine out on a 3 x 5 sticky note. Brain-dump your work related, goal related, home related tasks for the week all in one location and leave it in your planner to pull tasks from everyday. As you add tasks from the list to a specific day, cross it off and watch the list shrink.
How to Plan Your Day, 9 Strategies for Success, Tony Robbins
Essentialism, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown
The Art of Visualization, Jim Kwik