How to Plan Your Day Effectively: The Ultimate Guide

How to Plan Your Day Effectively: The Ultimate Guide

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Everyone makes goals, like wanting to lose weight, getting better grades, budgeting, and more. I think you’ll agree with me when I say the majority of goals remain unfulfilled. Most people make big goals and just leave it at that. There is no effort to follow up.

Luckily, planning your day isn’t difficult or time-consuming. Ever since I started planning, I saved so many hours of wasted time. I transitioned from a C-Student to an A-student, in addition to achieving goals I thought were impossible. This wasn’t because I was smart — it was because I took planning seriously.

This is the definitive guide on how to plan your day in 2020. Planning your day is the KEY to success. It is the definitive way for you to control your life.

In this post, I will tell you everything you need to know: how and where to start, the reason planning is necessary, and what you need, and all the things you can use planning for. Everything you need to know about how to plan your day can be found right here.

There are thousands of resources on how to create a beautiful planner, decorate it, and more. However, I want to get straight to the point: Decorating your planners is fun, but decorations don’t optimize productivity. I will show you now how to plan your day in 20 minutes or less.

 

My History with Planning

I was never naturally talented or smart. To be honest, I was a pretty mediocre student throughout my time in public education. However, I was able to rank in the Top 50 of my graduating class in high school. This continued in college as I was consistently placed on the dean’s list. This wasn’t because I was smart, but because of my ability to plan.

Take it from me — you don’t have to be a genius to plan or do well.

Because of my dedication to my agenda, I was on top of my assignments. My ability to break down complicated tasks into simpler steps was what allowed me to reach my goals.

Planning not only helped me do well in school but helped me lose weight, reach fitness goals, and do things I once thought were impossible.

Despite hearing this, why do you need to plan?

 

So, Why Plan?

Let’s say you wake up intending to finish that big project you haven’t touched in weeks. After all, it’s due in two days. You wouldn’t want to work on an empty stomach, so you head to the kitchen for breakfast. Unfortunately, the sink is piled high with dirty plates and bowls, so you’ll need to clean that before preparing and eating your meal.

You go to get changed, only to realize that your laundry is still in the dryer. Time to fold and organize. You finally get to sit at your computer, but you’re suddenly bombarded by emails (or Youtube recommendations), which you then open one by one. By the end of the day, you never ended up touching that project.

Without planning and prioritizing, this will only continue to happen. This is because we’re letting our environment control our behaviors and actions. It’s time to take control of your own life.

 

Top reasons why you need to plan

1. Planning keeps us accountable for our actions

A set schedule keeps us from on track and decreases the chances of you getting sidetracked. Studies have shown that if you write your goals down, then there is a higher chance of you succeeding. Planning your day allows you to take control of your own life rather than letting external factors control our actions.

2. Pareto’s Principle states that 80% of our results come from 20% of our efforts.

20% of your efforts account for 80% of the success you see. This statistic is the reason why you want to plan for maximum efficiency. Why spend so much time on something that doesn’t help us much?

You can plan your day effectively by assessing how you work best. What happens on the days when you get a lot done? How about on the days when you get nothing done? Eliminate distractions and implement more of the things that do work.

It’s not just about grinding and working endlessly — it’s about working smart.

3. Having a planner and a plan keeps you healthy and improves mental health

Keeping a planner can be amazing for your health — both physically and mentally. It is amazing for keeping track of your mood, scheduling self-care activities, and more.

I know that sometimes I get too caught up in school, work, and other extracurriculars. Scheduling breaks gave me something to look forward to. The scheduled breaks also motivated me to work harder, as I knew I can take a breather at a set time.

 

What do I need?

If you scroll through Instagram, it may seem like everyone is using the fanciest of planners. These are nice and handy, but you only need a notebook and a pencil/pen.

If you prefer using your smartphone or your laptop, then there is good news for you — there are many digital tools, applications, and websites available for free. I personally still prefer writing things out manually, but digital planning tools work great as well.

I recommend you to check out our blog post where I suggest affordable tools and applications!

For this blog post though, I will just go over the methods. You can check out my blog post on supplies and apps.

I know you have a writing utensil and a notebook lying around somewhere, so let’s get to the important part: How do you plan for your day?

 

How to Plan Your Day

Now that you understand the importance of planning, it’s time to start. Starting is the hardest part of planning. Once you get the hang of it, everything becomes intuitive.

There are a million different ways you can plan, but I recommend you to take into consideration your goals and work habits.

1. Dedicate 10-20 minutes every morning or night strictly for planning your day-to-day tasks.

As you know by now, if you don’t schedule a time to plan for your day, then you won’t do it. Give yourself some time in the morning to plan what you have to do. Alternatively, you can do it the night before your day starts. However, doing this in the morning is beneficial because you get an overview of your day.

All you need is 20 minutes or less. Even 10 minutes will do.

2. Think about the goals you want to accomplish that day. List them.

List everything you need to do. These can be the tasks you need to finish or events you have to attend. After listing the things you need to do, make a list of everything you want to do. It doesn’t matter how trivial the task is — just write it down so you won’t forget. Be sure to include tasks that will help accomplish your goals.

3. Reorder these from most important to least important. Put the most important tasks on top and the least important tasks on the bottom.

Prioritize prioritize prioritize. This is the point I stress the most. Start with your most important tasks so you can get those out of the way. Finishing these big tasks first will allow you to focus more on the things that bring you enjoyment.

4. Schedule when you’ll do what. Give yourself a time limit for each task.

Schedule these tasks as you see fit. Schedule your most important tasks first. If there is time left in the day, you can incorporate the other things you want to do.

In addition, give yourself a time limit for each of those tasks. This allows us to work more efficiently. The sense of urgency discourages our tendencies to procrastinate.

However, A big mistake that beginners make is not estimating the appropriate time needed for a task. You need to be realistic about your schedule. What works for someone else might not work for you.

Give yourself the appropriate time needed for each task and don’t jam your schedule to the brim. A good rule of thumb is to always give yourself more time than you think a task will take. This may be 50% more time for larger projects or 20% more time for smaller tasks.

5. Account for breaks, such as lunch, study breaks, etc.

Be sure to take breaks! It’s not practical to work all day. Doing so will only burn you out and is counterproductive in the long-run. Plus, these pockets of free time will motivate you throughout your day!

Now that you got the basics, I will go over additional methods you can use to further enhance your productivity.

 

Enhance your Planning

Now that you know the basics of how to plan your day, here are some additional methods you can use to further enhance your planning. These tips will help you further organize your tasks and work more efficiently. Remember that you need to give yourself more time than you think you’ll need. This can be a prolonged time block or a sit-down session at the end of the day/week.

 

  • Time blocking

 

Sample Student Athlete Planner Plan your day

Time blocking is blocking out specific times for specific activities. With time blocking, you give yourself a set amount of time for each task. This visually gives you an idea of how much time you’re spending on a task. It also gives you a better idea of what your schedule looks like visually.

Many successful people, such as Bill Gates and Elon Musk, find this technique useful and implement it in their schedules.

Time blocking is useful because it creates a functional and useful limitation that can make you more productive. Rather than deciding for an hour on what you should work on, you already decided in advance. As mentioned before, the time limit intensifies your focus. Because you have a set time to do something, your intent to complete a task is much stronger.

 

How to time block

  1. Make a smart estimate on how much time it’ll take to do a specific task
  2. Physically or digitally block this time
  3. Repeat for all your daily tasks
  4. Take into account for breaks — be realistic.

You can find our free time blocking printable in our VIP Resources Library.

 

  • Pomodoro Technique

This is a good method to utilize when you want to break your bigger day tasks into more manageable bits. The Pomodoro Technique breaks work down into intervals. This works well if you have a big, dense task that seems daunting at first glance.

To do this, set a timer for 25 minutes. During these 25 minutes, aim to do work without interruptions and distractions. After this is over, you get a break.

During your break, make sure to get up, stretch, walk around. You take a 20-minute break after four consecutive 25-minute work sessions. After that, rinse and repeat until you finish your task.

Our brains have a limited attention span — It’s impossible to work for prolonged periods without taking a break. Doing so will lead to you getting sidetracked. This system takes advantage of that fact, refreshing your brains.

You can use this method for projects where you have trouble focusing, such as a lab report, which can sometimes be intensive and requires a lot of focus.

 

  • Setting Reminders

 

Plan your day reminders

 

If you have a hard time adhering to a schedule or find you get immersive easily, setting a reminder on your phone might help you.

It might be hard to remember everything you have to do, which is why setting timers for important times is handy.

You can also use sticky notes and put them in prime locations. Additionally, if you’re more into digital reminders, you can also use sticky notes on your laptop.

 

Incorporate your Goals into your Day 

When you plan your day, you should consider your goals. What can you do that day to bring you closer to achieving it? An efficient way of tackling your goals is to break your big goal into smaller and more digestible chunks. Chunks of actionable steps.

To give you an example of what I am talking about, I will outline a lofty goal that feels impossible to a lot of people: Losing a lot of weight.

If you’re overweight and lose over 100 pounds for your health, it sounds nearly impossible. This feels even harder if you already have a hectic schedule.

Although you might feel like it’s hopeless, I want to show you how you can create a feasible plan without feeling overwhelmed. I will use Stacy as our example and show you how she can break this daunting goal into underwhelming and simple steps.

Stacy is 26 years old, stands at around 5’7 and weighs about 260 pounds. Her goal weight by the end of the year is 200 pounds (lose 60 pounds a year). Let’s say that she works in a 9-5 office job, in addition to her 2-hour commute.

This is what her schedule looks like now:

  • 6:00-7:00 AM – Wake up and get ready
  • 8:00-9:00 AM – Commute to work
  • For breakfast, Stacy usually eats a breakfast sandwich and coffee from her work cafeteria.
  • For lunch, she usually gets something at the Cafeteria, along with her other co-workers. Usually a wrap or a sandwich.
  • 12:00-5:00 PM: Desk work
  • 5:00-6:00 PM – Commute back home
  • 6:00-7:00 PM- Does housekeeping, consisting of either her laundry, dishes, cleaning, and more.
  • 7:30-8:00 PM – Eats dinner, usually something quick to save time.
  • 8:00-9:00 PM – Watches TV to wind down
  • 10:00 PM Goes to Bed

Judging from her schedule, it might feel like there’s not a lot of room for other things. I can attest because I have a schedule similar to Stacy.

However, to achieve the goal of losing weight, you don’t have to make a dramatic lifestyle change. Stacy doesn’t have to quit her job to lose weight nor does she have to starve. She can make subtle changes that won’t impact her schedule — instead, it’ll save her time (and her health) in the long run.

Stacy starts her journey by doing research. After her research, she decides that these are the things she needs to do:

  1. Take her “before” measurements, specifically her height and weight.
  2. Estimate her Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) (the number of calories your body burns in a day.)
  3. Set a daily caloric goal per her TDEE
  4. Plan her meals to fit this and track them.
  5. Eat the right balance of macronutrients and micronutrient
  6. Drink a lot of water
  7. Add exercise into your routine
  8. Record her progress regularly in addition to recalculating her TDEE.

The key takeaway for her was to eat high-quality foods and that the calories you consumed determined your weight loss progress. Those two factors would help her the most in getting her closer to the finish line.

 

To break down this goal, Stacy

 

  • Eats 1850 Calories a day. Stacy’s estimated TDEE is 2350 Calories, so she sets her Calorie limit 500 Calories below her TDEE to lose weight. 

To make this easy, she meal preps a week’s worth of food on her Saturday afternoons. The food she prepares is much more nutritious and lower in calories than the cafeteria food she gets. Stacy also saves hours of her time spent cooking, which is why she eat so unhealthily in the first place.

  • Track her food or drinks into the Myfitnesspal app.

Once you log something down in Myfitnesspal, the app saves the food entries. This saves you major time in searching for the food, entering the portion size, and repeating for everything else you eat.

In addition, if Stacy meal preps her meals for the majority of the week, she already knows in advance what she’s eating, how many calories are in her meals, and the nutritional value.

  • 40% of her calories will come from protein, 40% will come from fats, and 20% will come from carbohydrates to ensure she’s meeting all her dietary needs.

Again, by doing the initial research at the beginning along with the meal prepping, this isn’t something you should have to think about every day.

Here is a timeline of her progress here:

 

Weight Loss Planner and Tracker

 

Stacy also uses her planner to record her meals, amount of water she’s drinking, and any big milestones she hit. She also makes sure to reassess and reflect on her progress, asking herself questions like “what’s working and what’s not.”

Because of her persistence in eating nutritious foods, staying within her caloric limit, and slowly incorporating healthy habits, she can make immense progress in her goals.

All in all, when you plan towards your goal and you’re unsure what tasks you should do, think about the impact of your actions. Does it align with your goals: personal, business, or professional? What will it bring you in return?

Using these techniques will bring your planning to a whole different level. Besides planning for just your overall day, what else can you use planning?

Recommended Resource:

17 Best Time Management Tips for Busy Women

 

What else can I use planning for?

I just covered how you can plan your day, but you can plan for anything and everything: Fitness, Finances/Budgeting, Dieting, Homework, Work, Projects, and more.

Here are some examples where planning and using a planner will do wonders for you:

 

Meal prepping

Meal Prep Planner Free Printable Bit of Clarity

For example, if you want to meal prep, you can plan out your meals on a calendar for every day of the month. Planning meals will save you time, money, and mental energy.

You can receive this printable by joining our VIP Community.

 

Fitness

 

Sample Home Workout Plan

 

For fitness goals, you can create a workout plan that you follow every week, adjusting as you go. Planning your workout will motivate you to work out, as you know exactly what you need to do. Planning is taking responsibility for you and your health.

 

Budgeting

Budget Planning Bit of Clarity

You can use a planner to keep track of your finances and budget. It is the smartest thing you can do to track and save your money.

 

Keeping Track of your Habits

Monthy habit tracker bit of clarity

Do you want to adopt a healthier habit? It can be drinking more water, learning a new language, or just having a healthier mindset. Tracking your habits is one way to keep yourself accountable. It also visually gives you an idea of your progress and will motivate you to keep going.

You can receive this printable by joining our VIP Community.

 

Reflection

While planning is efficient, there will be certain methods that do not work. You’ll find that some ways of planning aren’t as efficient as others. You should reflect on how you plan daily.

Here are some questions that will help you assess if your schedule is working or not.

  • Am I getting everything done that I need to?
  • How do I feel, on a scale of 1-10?
  • What are my key/main distractors?
  • Do I have enough time for the tasks? Too much? Too little?
  • Am I getting burnt out?
  • Do I need to factor in more breaks?
  • What are my big accomplishments this week?

After you answer these questions, assess whether or not you should tweak your schedule. If so, how can you enhance your schedule so you optimize productivity?

 

What’s next?

Just start. It seems overwhelming at first, but you just need a pencil and paper. Don’t get caught up in perfection, as that will only delay you.

To help you get started today, here is a quick to-do list just for you. You can also download the PDF of this with the main, key points, and actionable steps.

  1. Get yourself a planner or use an empty notebook if you don’t have one.
  2. Block out 10 minutes first thing in the morning just to plan what you have to do.
  3. Prioritize — put your most important tasks first.
  4. Time block your schedule.
  5. Consistently do this every day. Set a reminder if you forget and schedule it in your planner.

Rinse and repeat.

You want to be in control of our own lives, not have our surroundings dictate what you do. As Benjamin Franklin states, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

Planning is honestly something everyone should do. Although it may seem daunting and time-consuming, it will save you so much time, energy, and money. You don’t have to be smart to plan, but planning is what makes you smart.

Comment below a planning tip you have for others to see. If applicable to you, how do you plan your day?

If you found this guide useful, please share it for others to read! It helps us out a lot 🙂

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