Why You Need to Plan For Every Day and How To17 min read
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Do you find yourself waking up in the morning and immediately your mind starts racing through everything you have to do today? It’s a busy day, like most, and there are lots of balls that could easily be dropped.
Before you even get to breakfast, you are overcome with stress and that feeling of scatteredness. You’re not sure how to possibly accomplish everything that needs to be done, so you will just have to “wing it” and do the best you can.
Keep reading and I’ll tell you how to stop the madness. I’ll share with you why it is so important to plan out your days and how to do it.
Why Make the Time for Daily Planning?
Being intentional in our actions can make a big difference on the outcome of our days, but even more our years. However, it can be difficult to gain traction when you are in any sort of a rut.
The idea of making time in your day dedicated to planning may sound unrealistic or even absurd. I would like to challenge you though – that the busier you are, the more important it is that you take the time to plan – each and every day.
Proactive vs. Reactive
When you take the time to plan out your day, you are able to be more proactive about how you are going to use your time. You have the ability to clearly think out what you need to do and prioritize accordingly.
You are also able to take a look at a bigger picture when you are planning – looking at longer term goals and vision in order to follow a path that actually gets you somewhere that you intend to go.
Finish Everything You Need To
Not only will planning out your day allow you to be more efficient with your time, but you also will gain a better handle on what you are really capable of doing. With time, this will help you realize that you probably need to say no to more than you would like.
As you learn to accurately estimate your time and what you can realistically accomplish in a day, you will find that you are generally able to mark everything off your list.
Be Ready for What’s to Come
Daily planning also gives you the opportunity to prepare in any way necessary. This could be collecting supplies, doing some prep work up front, or even just mentally readying yourself for the task at hand.
Perspective & Momentum
The planning process I describe below also includes daily reflection. Taking the time to assess yourself and how your day went allows you to gain a perspective that you may not have otherwise. As you continue to perform these assessments, you will be able to see improvement, which will create momentum.
I talk about momentum a lot because it is one of the most powerful forms of motivation. Not to mention that it is extremely addictive. A little bit of momentum goes a long way.
Ultimately, planning for your day, along with allowing adequate margin, sets you up for a low-stress life. You have already planned out what you are going to do, so now all you have to do is do it. Even when curve balls come your way, it’s not the end of the world because you have extra time allocated for things like this.
There are still bound to be days where you are not able to accomplish everything on your list, but this is less common than it used to be, so it doesn’t carry the same weight that it did in the past.
When to Plan Your Day
The very best time to complete your daily planning is at the “end” of your day. The term “end” is relative to what your daily routine looks like, but generally, this would fall somewhere between 4-10pm.
It is essential that you schedule your planning for the end of the day and not in the morning. When I first wrote the draft of this post, I considered simply suggesting this. I then realized that in waiting until the morning to plan, you loose a number of benefits that you get from planning the evening before and it just isn’t worth it.
When you plan the night before, this clears your mind so that you are able to sleep better. You can lay your head on your pillow, knowing that all of tomorrows concerns have already been dealt with on paper. I also think that this helps your mind subconsciously prepare for the day ahead.
Having your day planned out the night before will also improve your morning. If you have any sort of morning routine, you will be able to be more present in the moment of what you are doing and not worrying about what is on your to-do list for the day.
How Much Time
I suggest setting aside between 10 minutes to an hour for daily planning. If you are just getting started, maybe try something in between because it will take a little longer in the beginning.
The main factor will be what all you intend to include in your planning time. If you add a number of additional tasks, it will take longer than if you are strictly filling out your Daily Game Plan.
If you find that it is taking you a long time to go through just a few basic steps, stick with it and I promise you will get quicker.
Some Ideas to Find the Time
If you are having a hard time trying to fit planning into your schedule, consider talking to your husband about the importance of this time. The two of you can most likely come up with something that works well for everyone.
Consider some of the following options:
- While hubby gets the kids ready for bed
- Before making dinner while the kids enjoy some free time
- Right after putting the kids to bed
- As dinner is being made if hubby or kids are able to help
- If you work, try planning your tomorrow at the end of your workday
I currently do my daily planning at 6:30pm and reserve an hour to complete a variety of tasks. After dinner, the kids and Hubby take care of cleaning up and spend some time together while I go off to either my office or the school room to plan.
I would love to be able to use the entire evening as family time and “down time”, but at this point, with homeschooling the kids and both Hubby and I working, it just doesn’t fit. As we work our way into our “dream schedule”, I hope to move my planning time to be from 4-5pm and then be able to take the entire evening off.
How To Do Daily Planning
Close Out the Day
Start by closing out your day. This includes finishing up anything left on the Daily Game Plan for today, assessing how things went, and performing a few quick maintenance tasks.
Review the “Habits to Work On” section of the Daily Game Plan and mark off any that have not been recorded. I use a check or slash for habits that I completed and an “x” for those that I didn’t.
I also keep a master list to track my habits overall and I use this time to transfer my progress. I’ve used both paper and electronic form and find value in both. The main goal is that you get a chance to see your progress over a longer time period.
It may seem repetitive to track your habits twice, but I have found great value in the success rate using this method.
Review the “Health Tracker” section of the Daily Game Plan and add in any information that may have been missed throughout the day. Take note of how you did with your health today.
There is a box in the bottom right-hand corner of the Daily Game Plan to jot down a few notes about your day as well as quickly assess some aspects of your life.
The questions include:
- How could you have been more productive?
- Did something throw you off track?
- One win for the day…
- On a scale of 1-10, I also rate:
- How productive was I?
- Lastly, there is a box in the corner where you are able to note what “quadrant” you spent most of your day. This concept is based on Stephen Covey’s Time Management Matrix in his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
The goal is to spend as much time in Quadrant 2, which is considered to be both Important and Not Urgent.
**This review process sounds and looks like a lot more intense than what it really is. I generally complete this step in about one minute.
Prayer & Gratitude Notes
Try to note at least one thing you are grateful for every day on the Daily Game Plan.
Generally, I’ll complete this in the morning or throughout the day, but if I didn’t have a chance to, I fill that in now.
I consider this part of closing out my day and transfer items to my task list, grocery list, notes kept in OneNote, calendar, wants and needs list, etc. If I have an excessive amount of notes, sometimes I will put this off till my weekly planning session.
If you don’t journal as part of your current routine, I encourage you to give it a try. Check out this post for some ideas on how to get started.
I spend about five minutes completing my daily journal page. The template I use makes completing this in a short amount of time very realistic. I share more about this template in “Why You need to Journal Consistently.”
If finances are tight or if you are working at adhering to a new budget, you may benefit from reviewing your finances on a daily basis. This is another thing that you can add into your “daily planning time”.
I will often hop into Quicken and do a quick reconciliation of our bank accounts and pay bills. I try to handle most of the financial tasks during my weekly planning, but sometimes due to bill or income schedules, I need to adjust this schedule.
Complete Daily Planning Pages
Refer to Your Weekly Plan
In order to keep the end goal in mind, it is a good idea to start your daily planning process by reviewing your weekly planning pages. This gives you a chance to make sure that you are staying focused on what you have previously decided to put your resources towards.
If your weekly plan is created based off of your monthly plan, which is created looking at your quarterly plan, which is created based on your annual plan, which is created in efforts to follow your life plan – you are close to guaranteed success.
Having this breakdown ensures that you are working on big-picture goals at all times without having to actually refer back to the big picture planning on a daily basis. If you want to be intentional about doing big things with your life, I have found this the best way to make it happen.
Start With the Weather
This might sound silly, but starting out by looking up the weather for tomorrow is an easy way to get the ball rolling. It doesn’t take much effort but gives you a little bit of momentum to move onto the next part of planning.
There are many days where I sit down to do my planning and I really don’t feel like it. I start with the weather, and 9 times out of 10, I am able to keep going through the process without any additional protest.
Review Calendar and Record Scheduled Items
Take a look at whatever you use for your main calendar. This could be a digital calendar that you keep in Outlook, Google Calendar, or on your phone. You may also keep your main calendar on paper in your planner.
Transfer over any scheduled activities or events to the schedule portion of the Daily Game Plan.
This is also a great time to take a quick look at the following day, and note any events or reminders in the “For Tomorow” section.
Write Down Habits You Are Currently Working On
Writing down your last five habits helps keep them fresh in your mind. When you continuously write these down day after day, you start making effort towards those habits and it encourages you to actually follow through with them.
Learn more about establishing good habits in this video.
Look for Inspiration
Take a minute to look for an inspirational quote or scripture verse that speaks to you. You can search by word or topic using Brainy Quote or many other quote finders online. I will also sometimes fill these out in advance if I come across quotes throughout my day that I want to include. You can also take a screenshot of anything that catches your eye
I will also sometimes fill these out in advance if I come across quotes throughout my day that I want to include. You can also take a screenshot of anything that catches your eye and save it for later.
If you want to avoid the process of searching for something, there are also plenty of “Quote of the Day” sites and apps available.
Write Out Memory Verse
Writing (and re-writing) can help you memorize verses and memorizing does a great job of exercising your mind. I mostly use this to help me memorize a bible verse each week, but you could use it for poetry or any other quotes you find worthy of memorizing.
I mostly use this to help me memorize a bible verse each week, but you could use it for poetry or any other quotes you find worthy of remembering.
Record Meals & Snacks
Ideally, you are working off of a meal plan, so this process is simply copying over your already planned breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for the day.
If you don’t have a meal plan to work off of, this would be a great time to start by just planning out your meals for the next day. You can also take a few minutes to make sure you have all needed ingredients on hand – this alone will make your tomorrow go smoother.
This is also a great time to look at your upcoming meals and note any prep work or food that needs to be taken out of the freezer in the “For Tomorrow” section.
Write Down Tasks For the Day
Review your task list or pull off of your weekly task list if have created one. As you write down the things you have to do, estimate how long they will take by placing a line between the two “time bubbles”. I use a system where each bubble equals 15 minutes, and there
I use a system where each bubble equals 15 minutes, and there are eight bubbles total, so no single task should take more than two hours. If you find your tasks take longer, I would suggest breaking it up into parts, but you could also change the time represented by each bubble.
The To Do section of the Daily Game Plan is separated into three sections – Home, Computer, and Other. You could easily change your categories to what you do most of. I generally use the other section for errands, phone calls or emails, etc.
You will notice that there are far fewer lines on this To Do list than what you may be used to. As moms – much of our lives are driven by routine or things that happen on a daily basis. There is a section at the bottom of this page to input all of your recurring tasks, including a section to list the tasks you are including in your daily planning time.
With everything we do on a regular basis, we generally don’t have a lot of time left for many extra projects and tasks. I encourage you to limit the number of items that you put on your To Do list and be realistic about the time you have available.
Pick Your One Thing
When I created this box, it was with the intention that your One Thing was supposed to be “the one thing you can do, such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary.” (Read What is the Most Important Key to Productivity Part 2 to learn more about this)
You can also use this box for the most urgent thing you need to do today, the first thing, etc.
I used to have a “top 3” list on my planner but found that many times I was not able to finish three extra important items. It became all about prioritizing, and you can always narrow it down.
Correct Schoolwork (or review homework)
This is a great time to go over your kids’ schoolwork (or homework). As a general rule, I will make notes on the page and go over these with each child the following day at the beginning of our individual studies time.
Kids Daily Pages
My kids have daily pages that I write out their school assignments on each day. I have found that this allows me to stay more in tune with the work they are doing and how they are progressing along. After I review the school work that they completed that day, it gives me insight on what I should assign for the next.
(Their daily pages also include a spot for them to write down something they are grateful for, something to work on for the day, notes and prayers, as well as a spot to write out a memory verse.)
If you homeschool, this is a great time to prepare yourself for tomorrows school day. Try taking a few minutes to review your school plan for the day.
I write most of this up during my weekly planning time and then use my daily planning to pull out all the needed material, teachers guides, etc. I will also go over any lesson plans at this point if I didn’t get a chance to review them all over the weekend.
Email and/or Social Media
Last, but not least, another administrative type of task to fit in this time is to take care of email and/or social media notifications.
I try to keep my email inbox empty at all times. If there are any messages at this point, I will either address them or add whatever needs to be done to my task list and archive the message for now.
Tips For Establishing The Habit of Daily Planning
Stick with it – it WILL take much longer at first, but you will get faster as you do it more often.
Keep your planner open and accessible throughout the day – use it as a tool to guide your time.
Set aside time to make it happen! Talk with hubby to come up with a time he agrees to help out so you can have this time alone if possible.
Be sure to check out my daily planning pages that are available for purchase here. If you would like to learn more about this planning process and take things a step further check out the Monthly Planning Course and the Optimize Your 365 Course on Annual Planning.