Never Waste Your Day
It's a new day and the sun is rising outside your bedroom window
You turn off the alarm clock and start the day knowing exactly what you have to do... or, perhaps, not?
The thought of not having to think about any of the actions that you will do that day, from the moment you get out of bed, sounds pretty good
I'm sure what I'm going to tell you sounds familiar. Compare two days of your life, one in which you follow a list of tasks that you have written on a piece of paper and another similar day, but without any list.
I don't think I would be too far out in saying that you likely felt more productive on the days in which you had a list. Knowing exactly what you have to do, from moment to moment, saves you a lot of time.
We are going to call this list an action plan, which is what this article is all about. It will be your strategy so that you never waste a day and never go to bed feeling like time has been lost.
Daily action plan: what it is and why it's important
A daily action plan is the guide and strategy that will ensure you achieve your goals.
Be careful though, an action plan is not about creating a list of a dozen things that you would like to do or things that you know you are not going to achieve today. For that, there are other tools and techniques.
Instead, you can see it as a list of actions, ordered by importance and broken down into detail so that there are no 'blockages' throughout the day.
When you wake up in the morning, it is important to know what is going to be the focus of the day. This is the only way to ensure that, at the end of the day, you will feel closer to your main goal.
A bad plan is better than no plan. - Frank Marshall
Keeping a detailed plan of your day will prevent you from falling into possible feelings of stress or being overwhelmed. Just think, if you don't have a plan, it will be much easier for you to be interrupted or be distracted, since a plan helps you to say no to the things that don't bring you closer to where you want to be
The importance of having an action plan lies in the ability to achieve results at the end of the day. If you know exactly where you are going, you will be clear about:
1. What you want to achieve
2. When you have finished
3. The results you expect
Problems and consequences of not having an action plan
Starting the day with a blank mind and without being clear about the path you have to take has some serious drawbacks. Both at the productivity, time management and personal level.
They can be summarized in the following points:
⇒ Your day will be disjointed because you do not have a clear focus and will therefore jump from one task to another without meaning.
⇒ You will try multitasking, as you don't know exactly what needs to be done
⇒ Many distractions will fill your day
⇒ You will have the feeling that you haven't stopped working, but at the end of the day you won't really have achieved much
⇒ You spend time on the less important and the most trivial things.
⇒ Starting the day without a clear motivation
And I am sure that there will be a few more things that I have not mentioned, but I think that you get the idea!
Find the balance within your daily actions that allow you to properly balance your professional life and your personal life. You have to ensure that all facets of your life advance equally without leaving the others behind along the way.
5 tips for creating a solid, leak-free daily action plan
Having said that, I'm now going to tell you how you can create your daily action plan. I have placed them in a logical order, but you can vary it as you see fit.
1. Your plan for tomorrow starts tonight
Make sure you finish your day properly. In the evening, you fully understand the progress you have made in your projects and you know exactly where you stand with respect to your goals.
The most logical thing to do at this point, before putting away your work, is to make it clear to yourself what your next steps should be before you forget them. This super simple step will already save you a lot of time.
In other words, your action plan for today starts with yesterday's last task: create an action plan for tomorrow.
Things you have to check:
⇒ Calendar: check if you have any appointments for tomorrow
⇒ Inboxes: check your emails, paper on the desk, individual notes, etc. You want to know if any of them are important for the next day.
⇒ Summary of the day: have you done everything you had in mind? What are the next steps? Take those responses into account to plan new actions for the next day.
2. Energy management
We do not have the same capacity or energy throughout the day. Although logically it would seem that energy would gradually decline throughout the day, there will be some natural variations in that pattern. For example, take a look at how my energy typically fluctuates:
Without going into details, the only thing that you need to know is that you define where your energy is. When you discover when you are most energetic, you will know where to place the most important tasks that require more concentration.
By doing this, you will be able to optimise your energy stores more effectively and leave mindless tasks for when you are feeling less perky!
3. Concentrate on Actionable Tasks
Your daily action plan shouldn't include medium or long-term goals. For that you can use a weekly, monthly, or annual plan.
In the daily plan, you go into detail and write the immediate action that you need to take.
In other words, break down your goals and projects into small steps that you can take TODAY. For example, if you want to prepare a vacation, you have actions like:
⇒ Define dates.
⇒ Decide place
⇒ Book accommodation
⇒ Book flight, etc.
Or if you want to continue with an online course in which you are enrolled, try to write "do lesson X" as an action instead of "do the entire course".
4. Group similar tasks
This involves working in batches of tasks that share a similar or the same context, in order to take advantage of resources and avoid sudden changes in context.
These 'context changes' are the main culprits for spending our time doing nothing; changing from one thing to another is a big time sink and it takes time for the brain to regain full concentration on a new task. The less you divert the brain from its work flow, the less time you will waste.
The fewer context changes you have to do in the day, the better. Therefore, try to group tasks at the same time that require similar preparation.
Think of everyday examples, like cooking. You can save time weekly when cooking if, instead of making single food preparations of half an hour every day, you invest 2 hours one day a week to preparing your meals in advance.
Or when you manage the email. It is far more practical to dedicate a single time during the day to sift through, delete and answer emails than checking them several times a day.
5. Limit good intentions
Remember, your daily action plan should not just be an agenda of good intentions and tasks that you will never do. You have to be disciplined in this regard and be aware of what you are capable of actually doing.
The ambition to want to do a lot of things is fine, but for motivational purposes it can be very stressful as you will reach the end of the day having only achieved half of what you planned.
It is much better to start with few tasks. It doesn't matter that you think there are only a few things to do as the first step is to simply complete the ones you write down.
As you do this, you will acquire a greater ability to manage new tasks on a day-to-day basis. Plus, you will learn to place them according to your energy levels.
Ultimately, your productivity will increase and you will be able to get more done in the same time 😉
6. Where do I create my list?
Anywhere but in your head. Your mind is not made to remember.
You will always have the manual option that never fails: paper and pencil. Althoug, if you work a lot with your computer, I recommend using a digital application, such as TickTick or Todoist.
I've been through a multitude of tools. I like to try and see which one best suits my needs, and for now Todoist is the one that is winning to do the daily planning. It's free, easy to use, intuitive and very complete for the average user.
Recommendations when working on your daily action plan
After seeing the tips to create your daily action plan, I am going to make some basic recommendations so that - at the end of the day - you feel satisfied with what you have done and how you can continue to improve every day.
Start with the most important task
You may be tempted to start the day with small and unimportant tasks or check your emails. And many of you will try to kid yourself by saying that it will "just take a moment"
This is an error, as two things can happen:
⇒ 1. That little task was not as small as you thought and it takes time.
⇒ 2. You come across an email that takes you to some other task that you hadn't planned for today.
Eventually, the end of the day may come and you will realise that everything you did had been "small tasks" and the goal you are pursuing is now even further away
This has a solution: make your main focus the most important task and start with it.
Dedicate at least the first hour of your day to what will have the most impact on your main objective and forget about the rest. It's the only way to make sure other distractions or trivial tasks don't get in the way.
In this way, you ensure that, even if you have not done everything you would have liked, you have at least made some progress.
Measure how long it takes to do the task
What is not measured cannot be improved - Peter Drucker
Many tasks you do on a daily basis are repetitive. And one of the biggest problems people have when planning the day is that they don't know how long it will take to do something specific.
If you measure the time it takes to perform a task several times, you can get a good estimate for the future, and in this way fine-tune your daily planning (and weekly, monthly, etc.).
This is not the time to do everything you can think of
Here's the thing: I am writing an article right now, but a part of my brain, at the same time, is creating new article ideas or other projects to carry out. But, of course, I'm not going to stop writing right now to develop those ideas.
Instead, I quickly jot them down in my notebook - which I always have in my pocket - and remove the ideas out of my head so I can continue writing without distraction.
The idea is that I have eliminated the fear of thinking that I will forget it while I am writing the current article. I don't want to have to concern myself with 100 hundred different tasks at the same time. If I jot the ideas down I can review them later when I have time and take action on them the following day, if need be.
What's your plan for today?
With these brief guidelines, you should be able to get down to business and put your action plan in motion.
You need to stop procrastinating and concentrate on your next task.
And, finally, tell me what your daily plan looks like by messaging me on social media or dropping me an email to [email protected]