Last week on the blog and podcast, I talked about how it’s important to not just use technology for planning, but to find harmony in planning with technology and paper products. Now I want to share with you how I plan out my days because that’s probably my most frequently asked question.
It’s important to note once again that this is about finding a system that works for you. I’m not trying to tell you that how I plan is how you should plan. But maybe you’ll be able to walk away from this post with new ideas on how to plan or integrate systems into your routine!
First, I think of my planner as a private and personal item. Not that it’s a journal or diary, but that no one else accesses my planner. So keeping this in mind, I use it to delegate to others, whether it’s my husband, John, my kids or my co-workers. This is essential for my planning because I know I can’t do everything. I have to plan out who to delegate tasks to and make sure that happens.
Using a planner is also a form of monotasking (which I go in depth about in podcast episode 010). Which is great to stay on track. Technology is where everything else is stored – your accounts, photos, games, email, social media and more. There’s so many different things that can grab your attention on your phone, it’s basically a multitasking tool. And I talk about how that kills your productivity in episode 009 if you want a bit more info.
Having a planner eliminates the feeling of overwhelm. Which I’ve mentioned a lot before – is not the feeling of having too much to do, it’s actually not knowing where to start. It’s a dedicated space for productivity and goals.
I am often asked how many planners and I have, and that’s a loaded question. Since I design planners, I also test them out and what I can improve. Some people use one for both work and personal, and some use one for work and another for personal. It’s really up to you and what you think will fit best.
A great tip if you’re using only one planner is to divide your day in half with a dotted line. One half for work and the other half for personal.
In my planning I like to also start by coordinating schedules. If you have a partner or family, it can be very helpful to use a master calendar to help with scheduling events and plans. This is also great for work teams. I’m a Mac girl, so I use iCal on my computer for home and work tasks.
I need my calendar to show everything so that I don’t double up one day and book a conference call and dentist appointment at or near the same time, for example. iCal allows me to have repeating tasks and appointments, whether it’s a birthday or soccer practice. The best thing is that I can coordinate with John, so he can put in appointments and then it will shoot directly to my master calendar. We share it so everyone has access – and that’s one of the best benefits in using technology – it allows you to coordinate with multiple people.
Next, I will transfer any tasks that pertain to me from the master calendar over to my paper planner. This might sound redundant, but copying them over is to my own benefit because it enhances my memory and enables me to more easily see connections between the different bits of information.
On Sunday’s, usually in the afternoon, I sit down and look over my master calendar. I plug in appointments and events that affect me into my paper planner. These are only timed appointments. I don’t put in my tasks. Any appointments that are shared, I put in – such as a doctor’s appointment for Jack, because that affects my time.
This reinforces what I need to get done in the week ahead so I can adequately plan. When I schedule these things ahead, like a call with my business coach, I can think about having a list of questions or anything else that I need to prep.
Once I’m done planning out my week and transferring tasks, I like to get the family together and sit down to brainstorm what we all need to accomplish this coming week. That’s timed appointments, homework, projects and chores. We use our Weekly Kickstart notepad as apart of our family headquarters.
If you listened to podcast episode 005, you know we consider ourselves Team Dalton and that we have a family mission plan. We’re all responsible for making our team work. With this master list, everyone knows what they have to do and I don’t have to stand over them to make sure they do it. If Kate has soccer one day, she knows to get her gear together and be ready!
I started doing this when my kids were very young. We’d use stickers or drawings before they could read, so even then they knew what their responsibilities were. There was definitely more hand-holding then, but now they know what to do. My goal as a mother is to empower my kids to be able to leave the nest (as sad as that makes me!) and fly. I want them to feel successful. The added benefit of this is that it allows me to bank up the extra time I would be spending checking up on them. Now I just look quickly and see that they have checked off their tasks!
Everyone has their own planner. They can create mini goals for themselves and make deadlines. As a former teacher and current mother, I want to teach my kids how to work toward their long-term goals, and putting them in charge of a planner and the tasks in there has definitely helped.
After sitting down with the kids and hanging up the Weekly Kickstart, they leave and John and I sit down to discuss our week ahead at work. Again, here is that separation between work and personal. We create a weekly snapshot by going over and plugging in timed appointments. This way, we get a clear idea of the flow of our week ahead.
So after my timed and shared appointments are in, I don’t just write in every other task I want to do for the week. Instead, I begin each day with 10 minutes of focused planning time. I sit down, without my computer and without answering those priority three emails or notifications, and I have zero distractions. Looking at my Weekly Kickstart, I plug in tasks I can accomplish for that day into my planner. I plan Tuesday on Tuesday. I use my priority system I discussed in episode 006, and this sets me up for success because I am creating an achievable day.
If I mapped out what I was going to do each day on Sunday, there’s a much smaller chance of success. We all have rough days when we can’t get as much done as we hoped. That’s okay – the next day comes and it’s a fresh slate. Tell yourself, “you know what, I’ll do better on Wednesday or Thursday, but right now I’m focusing on Tuesday.” It allows you to plan your day accordingly, and I think that’s important.
I like to schedule blocks of time for me to focus and monotask throughout the day. These are times that I’m in do not disturb mode. I dig into a project/activity and let myself get into the zone. It’s important to know that my blocks of time are not always the same each day. I need flexibility to do what works best for me and setting up each day the way I want to.
A helpful tip is to turn off your phone notifications and set a countdown timer for the allotted time you need to work. Place it face down and let a quick little “ping” tell you when you need to move on to the next item.
Lastly, I want to emphasize that this is one of the most important parts. Each evening, I finish my day with five minutes of download time. I spend a minute listing out my accomplishments of the day. Doing this makes me feel motivated and accountable for setting realistic days. I assess my day and how I felt and then I write down three things that I am grateful for specifically from that day. Next, I focus on what I’d like to do for the following day. It allows me to release stress and worry and be able to get home and focus on my family.
You don’t have to use the Daily Download, you can just use a piece of paper. But I leave it out because it helps to jump-start my morning and get ahead of the game.
Tell yourself, “I’ll do better on Wednesday or Thursday, but right now I’m focusing on Tuesday.” It allows you to plan your day accordingly.
That is essentially in a nutshell how I plan! I hope you’ve found some helpful tips throughout this post or episode 012. Like I said, we need to make our planning and systems work for us. I’d love to hear about what it is you do to plan and any ideas you have that may help others or myself.
Comment below any tips, strategies or questions you want to share. As always you can connect with me on social media and find me at inkwellpress.com!
Next week I’m going to be posting about our first interview! It’s with Alex Mandossian – also known as the productivity guy. He’s giving great productivity advice and hacks that you can start using ASAP!
Until next time, happy planning!