Armed with an obsessive love of color-coding and all things related to organization, I’m on a mission to help you maximize efficiency in your business and life so you can spend time on what matters most to you.
Equally right and left-brained, I’m that unique business owner who can think like a creative, but act like an administrator. This blog is where you’ll see me bring that dual-brained magic to life, taking the left-brain side of life and breaking it down for your right-brained self.
Today we are wrapping up our five-part planning series by answering the question that started it all — how do I plan my days?
We’ve all had those days where we’ve started it feeling super pumped and ready to take on the world… but by the end of it, we’re wondering where on earth the time went and how our to do list is longer than when we started. Implementing daily planning into my routine has made such a difference in making days like that the exception, rather than the rule.
More of a video person? Scroll to the bottom of this post to watch the video version!
Author Annie Dillard once said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” When you think about it that way, intentionally choosing how you want to spend those days and creating a plan to make it a reality becomes a lot more important!
While the Simplified Planner shows up in basically every step of the planning process, daily planning is where it really carries the heaviest load. It is a daily planner, after all!
I keep my Simplified Planner by my side throughout my entire work day, refer to it constantly to keep me on track, on task, and accomplishing what I hope to from day to day!
In addition to the Simplified Planner, I also use the Quarterly Creative’s Calendar and Google Calendar when I’m planning out my day, but simply as a reference point to make sure there isn’t an appointment, task, or major thing I’ve forgotten to transfer to my Simplified Planner for the particular day in question.
Perhaps more so than any of the other pieces of the planning process, how I plan my days starts with how I’ve already planned my weeks, months, quarters, and years. Even if I sat down and created a plan using the exact steps I’m about to share, it wouldn’t be nearly as effective if I didn’t already have a roadmap for what I want to be accomplishing on a larger scale.
Even if you’re a free spirited, laissez faire kind of person, any good plan starts with a structure. As entrepreneurs, we don’t have the same kind of or amount of structure that someone with, say, a 9-5 job does, but there are still ways to create structure for your days and some ways the structure is created for you.
This is why planning my days starts with one of the most important things a business owner can have — boundaries.
It took a bit of time when I first started my business, but I made it a priority in the first year to decide what my working hours were. These aren’t completely hard and fast, because one of the perks of running your own business is flexibility, but for the most part, from week to week I have set office hours where I plan to be at my desk, in my chair, working in and on my business.
Those starting and ending hours serve as the first element of structure for planning and organizing my days.
Next come the appointments. What meetings do you have throughout the week, with clients or creative collaborators? What appointments do you have for your business, yourself, or your family? What regular commitments do you have, like a weekly lunch date or a Bible study? Make sure they’re written down.
And finally, add in the non-negotiables — things like a morning routine, any meal breaks, or specific activities and the like that you want to happen every day.
After you’ve given yourself the structure for the day using your work boundaries, appointments, and non-negotiables, next comes determining what you’re going to get done in a given day.
I do this by looking at my to do list for the week, what I’ve already accomplished, any relevant due dates, and from there determining the top three priorities for the day.
Now before you get all huffy with me thinking, “Sarah, if I only did three things every day, I would never get all the things done,” calm down. I’m not saying you can only put three things on your to do list every day.
Trust me, there are definitely way more things on my to do list nearly every day. The important thing here is identifying the top three priorities.
Ask yourself this question — if I only got three things done tomorrow, what would make me feel accomplished and productive?
Focus on those things first. Once you get them done, you’re more than welcome to knock out as many other random things — big and small — off your to do list as you’re able. But the important thing is that by identifying what’s the priority and focusing on those first, you ensure that even if nothing else happens that day, you accomplished what you set out to accomplish.
The final piece to organizing and planning your day is time blocking.
If you’re not familiar with it, time blocking is exactly what it sounds like — blocking off a length of time, be it 30 minutes or 2 hours, where you will accomplish a specific task or group of tasks.
This is not to be confused with task batching, where you group like tasks together. The two very regularly go hand-in-hand, which is why it’s easy to confuse them, but they’re not the same!
I use a combination of the Pomodoro Technique and time blocking to create additional structure. My main work days are broken down with a 30 minute start up and shut down to bookend each day, and in between there are three 2-hour time blocks with a 30 minute break in between.
That might sound a little confusing so here’s what it actually looks like Tuesday – Thursday of every week:
10-10:30am — Daily Start Up
10:30a-12:30pm — Time Block 1
12:30-1:00pm — 30 minute break (usually lunch)
1:00-3:00pm — Time Block 2
3:00-3:30pm — 30 minute break
3:30-5:30pm — Time Block 3
5:30-6:00pm — Daily Shut Down
We time block our days last because, after figuring out your boundaries, appointments, and non-negotiables, and adding your priorities and other to dos to the list, it basically becomes a puzzle!
Based on the amount of time you have between any appointments during those working hours, when does it make the most sense to accomplish which tasks?
As much as possible, I try to make sure any non-fixed appointments (ie. something that isn’t recurring from week to week) fits within the time blocks I use to structure my days. That way, even if I have to cut out of work in the middle of the afternoon for a doctor’s appointment, my other time blocks are unaffected and I’m able to use them to focus on my main priorities for the day!
Fill in the puzzle and the next day, follow the plan!
That’s it, friends! The final post in the planning series! I hope you’ve enjoyed this look into how I plan my years, quarters, months, weeks, and days, and have picked up some great tips to start implementing into your own planning routine!
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