Jim Rohn once said "either you run the day or the day runs you." Daily planning is a cornerstone habit of successful people. We live best when we live 'on purpose.'
Here are some tips on daily planning:
1. Create a Daily Task List.
Do this every day. The night before is preferable because your mind can contemplate on the day ahead and you can hit the ground running the next morning. Include high-priority projects (ex. develop presentation), important calls or emails (ex. follow up on proposal), and the routine (ex. order contact lenses/fill out expense report.)
2. Make high priority items a high priority.
Stephen Covey called this putting 'first things first.' I think it should be taken literally. Try and work on your highest priority first thing. It may be an important project or some other high-value activity. If it is a big project, break it down in chunks and work on the first chunk. As the day goes on, you lose willpower. In addition, other things will come up. Knock this out and you will have an early victory.
3. Adjust, don't Abandon your game plan.
Planning every minute of your day is setting yourself up to fail. Leave white space. Stuff happens. Undoubtedly, you will get interruptions and emergencies. Your daily plan should be a good mix of structure and flexibility. If you go off on a rabbit trail, get back on track quickly. Too often when the day doesn't go exactly as planned, we think the day is shot and begin to dabble at things and become unfocused. Regroup and get laser focused again.
4. Batch Items.
Group similar tasks. Do your email only at certain times of the day. If you have several calls to make, make them one right after another.
5. Avoid Multi-tasking.
Our brains are not built to do two things that take cognitive effort at once. It's fine to fold clothes while watching a ball game. But trying to do several things at once that require thinking will slow you down and hinder the quality of your work. Just focus on one thing at a time. Determine to get after it and get it done. And done well.
6. Overcome Procrastination
The hardest part of this whole deal is getting ourselves to behave. It is much easier just to do busywork all day long, fight fires or be distracted. Use momentum. Here is a great technique to overcome procrastination, just get started. Tell yourself you will work on that tough task for 10 minutes before you decide whether you will work on it longer. Nine times out of ten, you will have gained momentum and want to continue. This is called 'acting your way into feeling.' It works.
When you plan your day, take a few minutes to visualize yourself at the end of the day having planned your work and worked your plan. As a Christian, I spend a few minutes in prayer thinking through my projects, appointments, meetings, etc. I ask for God's blessing, wisdom and impact.
Nobody ever wandered into greatness. This is all about living a life of intent and purpose. And the good thing is that life only comes one day at a time.