One of the key differences between extraordinary people and ordinary people is that extraordinary people are able to get more done, achieve better results, and are productive during the day, and all this is because they know how to plan their day.
If you want to be more productive and get more things done, you must learn this skill. Planning is the key to success in everything you do.
Not only that you get to learn to manage your day, you also learn to manage and discipline yourself when you are planning.
While it is true that not everything will go according to your plan, but having a plan is much better than having no plan at all.
I carry with me a dairy-style notebook and do my planning on it every day. Each night before I sleep, I will take a few minutes to think about what I need to do the next day and write down whatever that I have missed out.
Of course, I’m not just planning my day the night before, I also do it during the day whenever an idea hit me or when I remember that I need to get a certain task done for the following day.
I can’t tell you how much productive I have become ever since I have adopted the habit of planning. I become more proactive rather than being reactive, plus, I have accomplished much more with planning than without doing it.
Richard Branson is known for his habit of bringing a notebook with him everywhere he goes. He said that he will write down whatever ideas that come to him at random moment so that he will never forget them.
This is what he writes in his blog post, “Ever since I was a child I have made lists of all kinds, including short-term tasks, long-term goals, and resolutions. It’s how I make sense of the world, bring order to the ideas in my head, and start turning them into action,”
If Branson, the billionaire entrepreneur believes in writing down ideas and planning, don’t you think you should do it as well?
Just like what Alan Lakein says:
“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.”
Remember that whenever you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.
Why You Need to Plan Your Day
Just in case if you are still not convinced and do not believe in planning, here are a couple of reasons planning can make you more successful and change your life.
1) You will be more proactive
Guess what will happen when you have no plan? You will end up becoming someone’s plan. If you have nothing to do during the weekend and suddenly your friends call you up for a drink, there is a high chance you will accept the offer since you have nothing to do in the first place.
Things will be different when you have a plan. When you plan your day, you will become proactive because you know what needs to be done.
On the contrary, going through your day without a plan will make you reactive and you will take on whatever that comes to you.
2) You can sleep better
When you write down everything that you need to do the next day, what you are actually doing is that you are putting everything in your head on the paper.
This activity allows you to let go of whatever “baggage” you have so that you can sleep more soundly at night. You know it very well that it is the end of the day and the next day will take care of itself after you plan it.
Some studies even suggest that when we bring our problems into sleep, we may often find the solutions in our dreams.
3) You wake up with a definite purpose
One of the most important reasons you need to plan before you sleep is so that you can wake up with a purpose.
A lot of people find it difficult to wake up in the morning and this is why most people choose to hit the snooze button and continue to sleep.
The truth is that these people do not have a clear purpose in lives. For instance, if tomorrow is a big day to you, whether it is going to be your wedding or you are traveling overseas for vacation for the first time, there is a high chance that you will wake up on time or even earlier than the alarm you have set.
The reason being that you have a clear purpose and you are excited about it. Thus, give yourself a reason to wake up in the morning by planning your day.
Of course, your plan does not have to be all about work, you can plan for your fun too.
4) You simply become more productive
Obviously, the most important key to planning is to become more productive. When you know what to do, it saves you a lot of time and you don’t have to think about what to do anymore.
Plus, you will be able to produce more results because you are dealing with the most important things in your day. You can achieve this only through planning.
Without knowing your plan, you will do whatever tasks that come to you; with a plan, you will know what is important and take action to get it done. Hence, you simply become a more productive person.
5) You will become more accountable
Yes, when you write down your plan of what you need to do, be it your daily plan, weekly, monthly, in life or in your career, you will become more accountable and committed to them.
Think about it, why do you want to write things down if you are not committed or serious about it? You won’t even bother if you are not serious.
The only reason you are writing it down is that you are serious about it and you want to get it done.
Your mind knows this when you write it down. It makes you more committed to a certain task and you will become more accountable.
There are plenty of benefits when it comes to planning. And I’m just sharing some of them with you from the above.
How to Plan Your Day the Night Before
Now that you know the importance of planning, the next thing you need to do is the most crucial part; you need to plan.
So how do you plan your day, particularly at night? Here are some guidelines that you can follow.
1. Remind Yourself to Plan
The first tip to planning is to remember to plan. If you are not used to planning, there is a high chance that you will miss it.
You might have used to go to bed after watching the TV. So you don’t have the habit of planning before you sleep.
And for most people, even if they decided to plan their day before they go to bed, they may forget to do so and go to sleep straight away.
Therefore, you must remind yourself to plan. And then make it a habit so that you will do it every time before you go into your bedroom.
Here are some good ideas that you can implement:
- Set an alarm to tell you it’s time to plan. You can set it to 30 minutes before you sleep or whatever that works for you.
- Put your notebook or your planner somewhere you can see it before you go to bed. For example, you can place it next to your bed or somewhere visible to you.
- Make planning part of your evening ritual.
2. Identify Your Biggest and Ugliest Frog
The key reason you plan your day is that you want to be more productive and produce more results in your day. Therefore, you must identify your biggest and ugliest frog and eat it first.
Brian Tracy, the best-selling author of Eat That Frog uses the metaphor of a frog as your task. He says that you must eat the biggest and ugliest frog the first thing in the morning, which means you must get the most important and difficult task done the first thing in the morning.
Once you got the most important work done, you will feel lighter and able to go through the day with confidence.
And do remember that your important task must be the task that gives you the most result that you desire.
3. Plan Using the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is a popular time-management technique that you should implement. This technique allows you to focus on your work and get rest to prevent burnout.
How it works is simple. Basically, you focus on your work for 25 minutes, and then you take a 5 minutes rest. And you repeat this process for about 4 sets, and then you take a long 30 minutes break.
This will make sure you get enough rest so that you can maintain your focus at a higher level.
I find it difficult to focus on one task over a long time frame because our minds need to rest and we used up our willpower like our phone batteries.
When you truly focus and work for 25 minutes, you will be able to produce a great result. And when you take a short 5 minutes break, you are recharging your brain and refresh it.
Try it and you will see how powerful it is.
4. Use the Time-Blocking Method
This is another effective time management technique that will make you productive and I strongly suggest you use this method in your day.
When you block your time for a task, you are giving that task an uninterrupted time. For instance, you can time-block an hour or two to write articles for your blog or to cold call your prospects.
I do this for writing the content of this blog. Even for now, as I’m writing this sentence, I’m doing it during my time-block period.
The key to successful time-block is to make sure you that get rid of all the distraction and focus 100% on your work.
And you must time-block your most important task so that you can get the most done and produce the most result.
5. Write Them Down
This may sound too simple to do and when things are too easy, people tend to ignore them. Never let its simplicity fool you. You must write down your plan.
There is no way you can remember everything in great detail with your mind. You will forget easily when there are distractions.
So get yourself a good notebook. I buy myself a good diary or a planner to do my planning each year. I write down my daily tasks each week and review the next day the night before.
Even when I’m writing this, my planner is just right beside my computer. Whenever an idea comes across, I will just write it down into my planner.
6. Schedule Some Fun
Never to forget to schedule some fun into your day as well. Neil Fiore, the popular author of the book, The Now Habit, suggests readers schedule fun time into their calendar first before they even put in their work.
The reason is that you want to tell yourself that the rewards and the fun are there.
What is the point if all you do is work, work, and work without fun? Unless you are really passionate about your work and you find it fun to work, else you will find it boring and difficult to command your energy to go through your day without the fun.
So schedule something fun too. It can be your hobby, it can be playing games, etc., anything that makes you engaged and energetic.
7. Never Overestimate Yourself
One of the biggest mistakes most people make is that they overestimate themselves. It happens to me too. I write down too many things that I want to accomplish, and at the end of the day, I got less done than I expected.
Never overestimate yourself and your time. We all have only 24 hours a day, not to forget that we spend almost one-third of the time to sleep and there will be distractions during the day as well.
If you can get the three most important tasks done for the day, you are doing pretty good. Your tasks must be something important that will move you forward toward your goals.
Less is the new more, and small is the new big, my friend.
It is not about the quantity, it is about the quality. As long as you get the most important task that will yield you the most result done, you are doing great.
8. Find Out What Works
For me, I prefer the “Richard Branson style” of planning. I prefer to plan using a physical planner or a notebook rather than relying on technology.
Of course, I’m not saying that you should follow exactly what I did. Instead, you should find out what works best for you. If you prefer to use an iPad or plan using your phone, by all means, go for it.
You can also use web-based planner such as Trello if you want to. The key is to find out what works out best for you.
If you are not sure what your best option is, just experiment with a few and you will know soon enough.
9. Plan and Schedule According to Your Peak Moment
If you want to produce an amazing result, you must plan your most important work around your peak hours where you are the most productive.
Everyone is different. For me, my mornings are the best moment. I’m the most productive and there are literally no distractions in most of my mornings.
Thus, I time-block my writing work in the morning. In the afternoon, I usually plan for work that requires less of my creativity such as replying emails, scheduling updates on Facebook, reading, learning, etc.
“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.”
Lao Tzu said the above quote. You will become the most productive and successful when you understand yourself. So plan your day according to your strengths.
10. Reflect and Review
Finally, you must reflect your day and review what you have done. There is no way you can tell if you are doing things right unless you do a post-mortem, right?
So reflect and review your day. Just like what Steve Jobs did. He looked into the mirror and asked himself this one question every single day:
“If today were the last day of your life, would you want to be doing what you’re doing?”
And he said, “Whenever the answer has been no for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”
And this is one of the keys to his success. Steve Jobs reviewed his life and his work about what works and what doesn’t, and he did it every day.
When you do this, you understand what you want, you can then course-correct yourself to reach your goals, and you will improve each day to become a better person, in both your career/business and your life.
If planning is not your habit, you should make it so. It can seem like something so easy to do, yet, most people have been fooled by its simplicity and think that planning is not necessary. They are so wrong.
And if you have been doing it for years, just remember that you don’t have to make it complicated. You don’t have to spend hours doing the planning until you have no time to attend your most important work. As long as the system works for you and you become more productive, it is a great plan.