Personal Productivity

Daily Planning: 6 Ways to Live Your Day On Purpose

How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.
— Annie Dillard

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.

A successful life does not result from chance; nor is it determined by fate or good fortune, but rather through a succession of successful days
— Ari Kiev

4 Productivity Practices of High Performers

The world comes at you fast and hard every day. It is easy to get distracted and diffused. High performers cut through all the noise and trivia to focus on what matters most.

Here are 4 Productivity Practices of High Performers.

1. Capture Everything.

This is absolutely essential. Develop a system where you capture anything and everything that comes your way. Phone messages, emails, requests while walking down the hall at work, responsibilities that come out of meetings and ideas that come to you in the moment.

Get everything down: big and small, long term and short term, ideas inspirational to your dreams and everyday mundane items. Rather than have random sticky notes all over the place, try to minimize your collection ‘containers’ to 3 or 4.

For example my collection containers are:

My email inbox - I flag all emails that need a response or follow up.
A full size paper pad where I write down all phone messages, random thoughts, etc. I also bring this paper pad to meetings to write down anything tasks I have committed to do during the meeting
A technology app where I keep on-the-fly requests (walking down the hallway at work) or random thoughts when I don’t have my paper pad with me.

Getting stuff off your mind and written down gives you psychological comfort. I dislike feeling that I am forgetting something or failing to follow through on a commitment.

All of these items comprise a Master Task List(MTL). A MTL is the list of everything you need to do:, big and small, important and mundane.

“Our minds are for having ideas, not holding them.” – David Allen

2. Plan weekly.

Think of zooming in and out on a map. All week long you are zooming in: rolling up your sleeves and doing the work in front of you. The weekly plan is like zooming out to see the big picture.

Taking a step back once a week to process your tasks and set weekly goals is a must-have habit. This is where you eliminate completed tasks off your MTL and get all your ‘To-Dos’ from your collection buckets on to your MTL. Most importantly, plan your week based the tasks on your MTL. You will not be able to get everything done, so choose the most important and absolutely necessary.

3. Chunk Big Projects

We procrastinate because a large project seems overwhelming. But a project is really made up of a series of small tasks. If you break down a project into a series of tasks then you can concentrate on just the ‘next action.’ 

Here is an example of ‘chunking a project.’

Project: Prepare Presentation for Fall Conference


  • Research content (4 hours)
  • Develop outline (1 hour)
  • Develop flow and bullet points of content (2 hours)
  • Add stories, quotes and humor to content (2 hours)
  • Develop strong introduction and conclusion ( 1 hour)

4. Set Aside Regular Times for Focused Work

This is critical to getting anything worthwhile done. Regularly shut out the world for a limited period of time and get down to doing your best work.

To keep me focused with periodic short breaks, I use an app called 30/30. You name the task and set a timer for a certain amount of time to do concentrated work. It sounds silly but I say to myself “when the timer is on, the rest of the world is off.”

I once read “Be a maker in the morning and a manager in the afternoon.” I love that principle. As much as I can, I try to do my most important work in the morning and schedule meetings or more routine work in the afternoon. 

There are many more personal productivity principles (somewhere deep down there is a book on the topic in me) but these are the Core 4.

If you really want to make a difference, you have to be different and do things differently. Most people fly by the seat of their pants and hope for the best. These 4 practices will help you live more purposefully.

Please share any personal productivity practices you have found helpful in the comments section.