Planning your days can be really good for direction, achievement and confidence. It can be the driving force behind success and it does wonders for alleviating stress.
A simple checklist can go a very long way.
If you’re reading this then I can guess that it’s for any of these four reasons; you’ve got a lot on your plate and need to break it down, you’re wondering how to get the most out of your days, your current methods aren’t working or you keep putting off tasks.
If this isn’t you, keep reading anyway!
Picture this. It’s late on a Tuesday evening, you switch off the lamp on your bedside table. You lie back and your head sinks into the pillow.
You let out a joyful gasp as you think to yourself “I have had a good day today”.
This is because you have achieved something, you have ticked off everything on your to-do list. And you are ready to wake up and do it all over again.
Sound good? I have 5 easy yet very effective tips for planning your days.
1. Eat the Sprouts Last:
Whether you enjoy sprouts or not, we can all agree that they are not the most pleasing ingredient in your roast dinner.
I often find that setting one major task (the sprouts) per day as well as anything up to 5 smaller tasks (more enjoyable foods), leads to a successful day. Devouring these smaller tasks first can help to clear your mind, build confidence and sharpen your thinking processes before attempting the major task (e.g. writing a section of a report).
General advice is usually to get the most daunting task out of the way first. However, I think that this task is daunting for a reason. Whether it is because of the amount of time it needs or the difficulty of the task for example. Therefore it has to be approached with attention. Without the mental distraction of the smaller tasks (e.g. Laundry, making a phone call, sending an E-mail etc.)
Doing this should reduce the stress surrounding your days and lead to a sense of achievement in the evenings. Although time-management here is important. This leads us on to tip 2.
2. Allow Some Flexibility:
Sometimes things change or go against the plan; a task may take longer than anticipated or you may need that extra half hour in bed for example. Sometimes things just go wrong and you cannot plan for this. Or can you?
Allowing for some flexibility in your daily plan can again reduce stress and enhance the likelihood that your tasks will be completed. A strict routine with little room for manoeuvre is a big no. Also try not to base your plan on timescales, rather just a checklist of what needs your attention.
Which naturally brings us to tip 3.
3. Know Your Limits:
Listing everything that you have to do and trying eagerly to get through it will not help. Yes it may help you get tasks complete but it will only help you get flustered as well as limit your attention to detail.
Making a list of your tasks on a Sunday evening might be useful if you are comfortable in dividing them up and allocating them to specific days (this will also help with tip 5).
It is also important to remember that you are human and that looking after your health, both physically and mentally, should take priority over most things. Over-working can damage both of these so planning in regular breaks, exercise and relaxation is crucial to your wellbeing.
Equally, writing your daily plan the night before can benefit your sleep through clearing your mind.
4. Maintain Spatial Awareness
We live in a wonderful age in which remote technology is everywhere and not everything has to be done at a desk. Sitting in the same spot to complete all of your tasks can be very boring and repetitive.
Using spaces for their intended purposes will help you to avoid this by keeping your day as interesting as possible.
5. Keep A Goal in Mind
In most situations, planning towards a set goal or target can make the whole thing a lot easier. You will know what you’re working towards and why you’re doing it which can be vital in maintaining motivation.
You can keep track of these achievements by filling in a BACE Diary at the end of each day/ week.
These are commonly used throughout Cognitive Behavioural Therapy but can be applied to everyday life. They are used to help people notice their achievements and identify the factors that influence their mood. Such goals, no matter how small or large, can boost your confidence significantly.
It is worth noting that these are things that I practice daily but their effectiveness may vary from person to person.
Good luck with your planning, I can’t wait to hear how you get on!