If I had to break down any time management system to its simplest tool and the one that is most essential to being productive it is this: Plan your day in advance. It sounds so basic but you would be surprised the number of people who just head into their mornings without a defined list of tasks they want to achieve for the day. When the inevitable day comes that they look around and wonder why so many things are left undone, they lament that they just don’t have the time to do it all.
The reality is we will never get everything done each day but it’s also true that if you do not plan your day at all, you will get even less done. If you’re like me and you have a running list of things to do, then accept the fact that not everything will get done but try to accomplish the big things on your list so you’re moving forward. I’ve written about this area on this blog before but I know for some of my readers that the idea of keeping a system like mine isn’t too appealing. I maintain numerous projects in several areas of my life and each of those projects have a number of tasks attached to them that I survey each night before putting together my daily plan. Even if the thought of such a plan is detestable to you, you can still benefit from pre-planning your day. Try these steps:
- Before you go to bed, take a few minutes to look over the next day. What appointments do you have? Put those on your daily plan.
- What two to three items would you really like to tackle tomorrow? Maybe you’re cleaning the house and have to force yourself to tackle the garage. Note it and give yourself a block of time to start knocking out the work you know you need to do. Keep your list here to those two to three things that really need your attention and don’t overload yourself.
- Next, put down a few little items that you can get to if time allows. Who have you been needing to call? When you’re at the store, are there a few things you can pick up? What’s for dinner? Take these items and try to “batch” them together. For example, put all your phone calls together and if you have a 30 minute window the next day, take that time to call those people and cross it off your list.
You would be surprised what you can accomplish with just this one simple action. In my own practice, I plan my day out the night before and review the plan in the morning just before I leave adding anything I may have missed. I block out time for exercise, my study for my work as a pastor, and other related items so I’m not shortchanging myself on time. I make certain items a priority and I don’t waver from them. If you’ve never put a daily plan together, give this a try and tell me if it doesn’t help take away stress, anxiety, and give you a refreshed feeling of accomplishment.