I like to think of my calendar as “the boss of me.”
This way, in the moment, I’m not relying on my default brain to make decisions about what to do (because it will always choose the cake and cookies over going to the gym).
This is why I plan.
- If you want to listen instead of read, here’s the podcast episode that goes along with this post — Best Planning Practices.
Over the years, I’ve honed this skill and consider myself a time management expert. In this post, I’m sharing a few ways with you to get started planning your day so that every day you can get a little bit further ahead.
How To Plan Your Day
Below is a five step process for how to play your day.
1. Choose The Right Tool
The first step is to choose the right planning tool.
I like to say, “you don’t need another planner, you need a plan.”
Meaning, choose one tool. Stick with it. Then create a plan that works for you.
The key to success is in the plan, not the planner.
That said, choose one that works for you.
I’m obsessed with Google Calendar for this.
Here’s a look at a blank gCalendar. This is what it looks like (in week view) when you first start using it.
Here is a look at my other favorite planners and journals.
I also really like Asana and the Productivity Planner for my planning needs on a regular basis.
- Related: Time Management Tips For Busy Moms (free course)
2. Create Calendars For Categories
Within your calendar, create separate calendars for each area of your life that you want on your calendar.
For example, within my gCalendar, I have the following calendars:
Here’s a look at the many calendars I have in gCalendar and also how easy it is to click “Create new calendar” once you’re in there.
Here’s a helpful link on how to create a calendar in gCal if you haven’t done it before.
I have to say that if this sounds foreign or overwhelming, it is 100% worth your time to set it up right now.
It’ll help you create plans that design your future, which means you’ll be able to take massive action and accomplish all your awesome goals.
3. Fill In The Week Ahead
On the Thursday prior, spend about 30 minutes to one hour planning the upcoming week.
The best way to do this is to fill in blocks.
The more detailed you are, the better.
- Work time
- Down time
- Gym time
- Important tasks
- Daily tasks
- And everything in between.
If you do it right, and include your down time, this schedule gives you more freedom.
Here’s an example of a very basic calendar using gCal.
I just threw this together for purposes of this post, but you get the idea.
You want to color-code the type of event, and then you want to fill out the entire week. I didn’t do weekends here, but you want to include anything you have scheduled on the weekends, too.
- Related: Overscheduling (podcast)
4. Do What’s On Your Calendar
It’s not enough to plan your day.
You have to actually look at your calendar and do what you say you’re going to do.
For example, if I have on my calendar that I’m going to go to core power yoga at 6:15am on Tuesday, I know that means I have to go to bed at a decent hour the night before.
I always keep my calendar up in front of me, too. This is a game changer.
It’s in a browser tab if I’m on my computer or it’s on my phone if I’m not. This makes it so much more accessible so I know what I’m doing all the time.
5. Say No To Everything Else
It’s tempting to want to people please and say say to things that come up in the moment. But for every yes to someone else, that’s a no to yourself.
Start by practicing saying no to small things so you can work on any guilty or worry that comes up.
The process above is how you actually plan your day.
I also want to add in a few of my favorite planning tips…
- Always put the results you want to produce on your calendar. So, in the example above where it says “work,” if you have specific results you want to produce (like if you run your own business), go into the entry and add the specific results you plan to produce during your workday. Do this for each day.
- Give yourself enough time. Make sure that you give yourself the right amount of time for the thing that you need to do. So, even your #1 priority might not need the most time. It just needs enough time. (E.g.: If health is a #1 priority, you may only need to devote 1 hr per day to it).
- Turn obstacles into strategies. Whenever you feel stuck or like you’re not sure how to do what you want to do, make a list of obstacles and turn them into strategies. I don’t know why this works so well, but it does.
- Don’t sit in indecision. Being indecisive takes so much energy and it kills your plans. You’ll basically spin out and waste a bunch of time. It also feels really responsible and it’s not. If you struggle with making decisions quickly, listen to this podcast episode on decision making and check out this blog post on decision making. Learning how to make decisions is a skill that’s totally worth working on. Total life changer.
- Evaluate your plans. I’m all about a good plan, but you also have to make sure the plan is working. It’s not enough to do the plan. You have to take a look and see if it’s getting you the results you want. Give your plan time. Make sure you don’t rush it. But take enough action so that you have results you can evaluate on.
- Stop being busy. I’ve created a 4-step process to help you stop being busy. This is a free training you can check out here.
- Related: How To Balance It All (podcast)
A Final Note!
Planning isn’t about punishing yourself. It’s about freedom. It’s about taking the time you have and choosing thoughtfully how you want to use it.
You can do anything you want at any time. Planning is simply a method of deciding intentionally ahead of time (instead of in the moment).
This helps you plan from your highest self (your future focused brain) instead of your default, toddler brain that doesn’t have your best interest in mind (it’s too easily tempted).