I’ll admit it: I’m a recovering dayplanner addict. My boyfriend likes to tease me about the time I spend each evening painstakingly planning my day, my week, and my month. But the truth is that planning your time works, and it helps you to avoid the dreaded, “I have so much to do but I also don’t know what I have to do!” feeling we all find ourselves succumbing to from time to time. Unfortunately, the methods that we’re often taught for planning our time tend to make us feel less organized and can often cause us to lament that to-do list we didn’t complete. Planning your day efficiently can help you feel more organized and also help you to see how you spend your time and gain more of a sense of accomplishment from a day well spent. Here’s how to do it:
Plan on the Macro and Micro Level
A list of goals is a great way to start figuring out what to do with your time, but if all you have is a list of goals that will take years to complete, you’re going to be left feeling like you never accomplish anything. Start with the big picture: goals for this month or this year, and work your way down. Break things down into smaller steps and aim to complete a bit of each task each day. You’ll feel better checking off that minor step toward that big goal every day, and you’ll actually be moving forward in your long term plans!
Make a Schedule
For most of us, a to-do list isn’t enough because it doesn’t help us plan to spend our time effectively. Though it can seem tedious, planning your day hour by hour is a much better way to get things accomplished. Further, this method helps you to see if your goals for the day are reasonable or not and if there is enough time in a given day to do what you need to. Be sure to plan for relaxation and family time, because if you spend every minute of every day doing work, you’re soon going to burn out.
Organize By Location
If you’re sitting at your computer planning to do work and open your organizer to discover that everything that you need to do that day requires a car trip, you’re not being very effective with your planning. Organizing by location can be a great way to get things done. List according to “computer tasks”, “phone tasks”, “errands”, etc. The great benefit here is that if you find yourself sitting by the phone with five minutes to spare, you may be able to knock out all of your phone calls, when you otherwise would not have.
If the things you need to do involve a lot of driving around, it can be an excellent idea to organize things into geographic location as well, so you don’t end up driving across town twice in one day.
Do Things In Clusters
Rather than try to accomplish a bit of each kind of task every day, it can be helpful to cluster related tasks together. One day can be errand day; the next can be a day to catch up on emails. You’ll find that you work faster and are more focused this way. For example, in my case, I have one day a week during which I make things for my Etsy shop, another day that I catch up on my reading, etc.
Organization can be a tedious process at first, and it may seem silly to spend a half hour or so each day planning. But if you plan in advance, you’ll find you have more time and are making better use of it, in addition to feeling less stressed!