Planning is one of the most important keys to success. I love planning and I do it every week. Just like what Sir Brian Tracy says, “Every minute you spend planning saves 10 minutes in execution.”
When I have a properly planned day, I found that I’m more productive and able to get more things done.
As a result, I move closer to my goals.
But when I don’t plan my day and just let things happen, I go through an aimless day without knowing what to do.
This usually happens at the weekend when I have more free time.
On the weekends when I don’t have a plan, I become reactive and just do whatever that comes to my mind. That means wasting time checking Facebook and watching more videos on YouTube.
I strongly believe that if you want to achieve something in life, like a goal, you need to make it intentional. Meaning, you have to consciously plan for it and make it happen. You can’t leave things up to chances.
And this is why planning is important because it will direct your life rather than going through life aimlessly.
So, how do you plan your day?
Here are 10 tips on how I plan my day. You can refer to these tips and apply whatever that works for you.
1. Planning is bringing your future to the present
First, you need to understand the purpose of planning.
For most people, planning is crucial to get things done and to become more organized. While this is true, planning is much more than just making you more organized.
Planning is about bringing your future to the present. This quote from Larry Winget says it wisely:
“Nobody ever wrote down a plan to be broke, fat, lazy, or stupid. Those things are what happen when you don’t have a plan.”
Yes, that’s exactly what happens when you don’t have a plan.
Your plan may not work, but it is not the plan that counts, it is the process of planning that matters.
When you go through the process of planning, you are giving instructions to your mind of what you want to achieve out of your day, week, month, and year.
You are telling yourself what you want to achieve and what you need to do to get there.
Therefore, planning your day doesn’t mean that you have to focus on just your day.
You should start with a bigger picture. For instance, start with your monthly goals, and then you break your goals into weekly milestones.
And from there, you turn your weekly milestones to your daily to-do tasks.
Hence, to plan your day, you don’t start with your day-to-day tasks, instead, you start with something bigger and further away from now – your goals…
2. Start with your goals
It really doesn’t matter if your goals are to be achieved within a month or 6 months or a year from now.
The key is to start with something further down the timeline, and which usually are your goals.
Let me give you an example here. I don’t start straight with my daily plan, I start with the goals that I want to achieve in the future.
For example, I want to brand myself for this blog. And so, I started to include more of my own opinions and voices in my blog post. And then I started to pictures of myself on social media like the Facebook page for this blog. Plus, I also started a YouTube channel and publish a video post every Friday.
If you notice, I don’t start by focusing on what I need to do on a daily basis.
Instead, I start with my goal of what I want to accomplish. And then I reverse-engineer my goal and bring it to the present.
I work backward when it comes to planning. I start with the bigger picture of what I want and then work there.
Like solving the jigsaw puzzle. You start with the complete picture of the puzzle, and then you work on the puzzle pieces by pieces until you complete the final product.
Hence, to plan your day, start with your goals.
If you don’t know how to set goals, learn from my masterclass, Goal Setting Formula.
3. What’s your planning tool?
So, what kind of tools do you use to plan your day?
You don’t have to follow exactly what other people use. I don’t use any digital tools like Trello for planning, I prefer a diary and a notebook.
Yes, I opt for physical planning tools than digital ones.
That’s just my own preference because I prefer to hold a pen and write when it comes to planning. You don’t really have to follow my methods here.
I use a diary and a notebook. The diary is where I write down my daily to-do tasks. I refer to my diary every day and just follow through the diary and complete all the tasks accordingly.
The notebook is where I write down everything related to my goals. It works as a master planner for my life.
For instance, in my notebook, I will write down my goals and ideas of what I need to do to achieve my goals.
I want to brand myself with this blog, so, in my notebook, you will find things like:
- Publish a video post every week.
- Include more of my own voices and opinions into my articles
- Redesign my blog’s homepage to include a lead capture page
- Focus more on branding myself
And then I will turn these objectives into actionable tasks and write down on my diary:
- Create an idea for a short video post
- Record the video post
- Edit and schedule the video post
- Write down the specifics for the homepage design I want
And when I go through each day, all I need to do is to refer to my diary and execute the steps there.
When I complete my daily to-do tasks in my diary, I know that I will automatically work myself toward my goal.
4. Schedule your action steps to your to-do list
I have shared an example of how I do it in the step above. So, you just need to create a strategic plan for your goal and then turn them into daily actionable steps as your to-do list.
When you plan, you need to start with your goals which determine the direction of your life.
And when it comes to your day-to-day operation, your daily to-do list should focus on specific and actionable steps that you can execute.
You can’t plan your day without knowing what you want to accomplish in the future.
Just like if you are a blogger, you need to have an editorial calendar. You want to know the overall direction of where your blog is going.
Hence, you can plan out all the blog posts you are going to publish for months ahead.
However, when it comes to the day-to-day operations, you don’t have to crack your head to think about your blog’s aim and direction again, you just need to execute and work on the pre-determined post that you have planned earlier.
That’s how I approach my planning process. I use a notebook for my goals, objectives, and missions to achieve.
And then I turn them into specific steps that I can take daily and write them into my diary. And each day, I just need to refer to my diary and do take action accordingly.
5. Your to-do and tasks should be specific and actionable
When you plan your day, the steps you put down on your daily to-do list must be specific and actionable.
If you want to overcome procrastination, you must give your mind a set of clear and specific instructions to follow.
You can’t write down things like to build traffic or to design a website logo. Those are vague steps that you cannot execute.
Your steps must be actionable such that it is something you can do.
Rather than having a task to “build traffic”, you need to be more specific of what you need to do to build the traffic. For example:
Write a 1,000 words guest article and submit it to abcblog.com
Create a list of 30 other bloggers in the same industry and email them to promote my ‘ultimate guide’ blog post.
Reach out 20 influencers on Facebook and request them to share my ‘ultimate guide’ post.
Now, these are the more specific tasks and actionable steps that you can do.
The clearer you are with what you need to do, the more likely your mind will follow through and get it done.
6. Plan your day, week, and month
By now, you should understand how to plan your day. Planning your day doesn’t start with your day, it should start with something further down the timeline.
Hence, don’t just plan your day, plan your week, month, and year too.
In fact, I don’t really plan my day. I start with my yearly goals and then work backward.
Every week, I schedule a time to plan for my week and review my monthly target. I write down what I need to get done each day for the week.
And every day, I just review and remind myself of what I need to do daily. I don’t really plan my day, instead, I do weekly planning.
I do daily review, but I don’t plan daily because I already have my plan done on my weekly planning.
And yes, sometimes, I will add more tasks and some ad-hoc work to my daily tasks. That’s okay as long as you know your direction and where you’re heading.
7. Never overestimate your ability
Do not overestimate what you can do in a day. If you have more than 10 tasks to do in a day, you probably not going to finish them all.
On average, I only have about 6 to 7 items on my daily to-do list.
There is no point to have 20 things to do but at the end of the day, you get to only complete just 7 of them.
Plan and do the most important tasks first. You want to focus on the tasks that give you the most results.
Follow the Pareto’s 80/20 Principle and do what is important first.
Please understand that it is not about quantities, it is about doing the right things that give you the most success.
You don’t want to cramp your day with 100 tasks and feel dejected and exhausted by the end of the day. You want to focus all your energy and to become effective.
And that means, doing the work that produces the most success.
8. Don’t forget to include playtime and downtime
Yes, your to-do list doesn’t need to be just about work. You can also include other more enjoyable activities like your time off and playtime.
Imagine looking at a to-do list that is full of work but no play, it makes you feel dreaded. You will lose motivation and feeling no mood to work.
Life is more than just work.
Hence, plan your fun time and time off too. What hobby do you enjoy? If you have 30 minutes or an hour break, how do you plan to relax and recharge yourself?
Create a plan that includes both work and life. Your playtime is also a form of celebration and something that you look forward to.
For instance, your playtime can inspire you to work harder because you know that once you have completed your work, you can enjoy without feeling guilty.
So, make sure you include some playtime into your planning.
9. Schedule your time for planning
If you want to get the most out of planning, you must make it habit and schedule time for planning.
Make planning happen by turning it into a habit. Block off time for planning.
Try to plan on the same day, time, and place if possible. This can help you better transform it into a habit.
Planning is like skill. The more you spend time in planning, the more you get to know yourself and how to go through each day.
If you find that planning is difficult or feel it doesn’t work, think again. How many times have you plan? How much time do you really spend on planning for your life and your day?
People spend time planning their vacation, but they don’t even spend 10 minutes to plan for their future.
You will never know what works best for you until you do it.
Things may be ugly and messy especially in the beginning, but that’s alright. You just need to do more of it to find out what works for you.
As I said, planning is a skill, once you have mastered it, your life will become a masterpiece.
You can achieve anything you want because you know you can plan it and consciously get yourself there.
10. Execute and celebrate your victories
Planning isn’t complete until you execute and mark your victories.
You don’t want to just plan but without execution, right? So, work your plan. Stick to it and work it out.
There will be times when you can’t stick to your plan due to unforeseen circumstances and uncertainties. But having a plan always beats having no plan at all.
The key is in the process of planning, not in the plan itself.
When you plan, you create an idea inside your mind of what you want to accomplish and what you need to do to get there.
You become more prepared and well anticipated when things happen.
One more thing, every time after you completed a task, mark it as a victory.
You can put a small “tick” symbol in front of the task or write the word “victory”. It is up to you how you want to mark your wins, but you must do it.
You want to make yourself feel good about your hard work. And as you see yourself making progress through the day, it makes you fulfilled.
Don’t just mark your victory for the sake of doing it, feel it. Take a moment to really feel the emotion of completing a task.
When you feel good, you become more driven, and you will want to do more. And that’s how you can achieve more success in life.
Planning your day doesn’t need to be complicated. In fact, it should be something fun and exciting to do.
And you don’t have to spend an entire day or block of an hour to do your planning. If you believe that planning requires a lot of time or it is something serious to do, you may end up procrastinating it.
Make planning easy and fun. I carry my diary and notebook with me most of the time.
And every time after I review my plan, I feel excited because I can see the path I’m traveling and I know that as long as I keep to it, I will reach my ultimate destination.
I hope this article is helpful to you.
So, how do you do your planning? Share your ideas by leaving your comments below.