Have you ever had one of those days when you are getting ready for bed and you wonder what the heck you did all day? Yeah, me too. I have found that if I don't plan my day and pick some specific things that I must get done that day, then I usually end up either overwhelmed trying to do everything or I just give up and catch up on my DVR. If that sounds like you, don't worry, there are things you can do to help.
Find a System
I highly recommend some kind of planning system. Trying to keep everything straight in your head is most likely going to lead to forgetting something or becoming overwhelmed. There are literally thousands of different ways to organize and plan out your day. From Apps, to planners, to just making a list on legal paper; the possibilities are endless. So how do you find something that will work for you?
The first step is to decide if you want to use a physical pen and paper system or an app. There are benefits to both. Most people carry their phones around all day anyway, so with an app, you are likely to be used to carrying your planner everywhere already. You can also set reminders and alarms to tell you when to do something. So if you are tech savvy and like to use your phone for most things I suggest starting there.
On the other hand, the benefits with pen and paper are that you can express your own personality as you plan, use different color ink, draw in the margins, and take notes where ever you want. Bullet Journals have become incredibly popular for that reason. You can also get a bigger picture of your month, week, and year as most planners are larger than your phone screen, allowing you to see more at one time.
If you are like me, you might find that a mix of the two works best. I use my phone for most appointments, mainly so that I have an alarm to remind me. But at the beginning of each month I look at the calendar on my phone and transfer it to a paper planner. I also plan out each day on the paper planner. I don't get many chances to put pen to paper any more, and I find that planning this way helps me think better and figure out what I need to do. Plus I do really like fun, glittery, bright colored pens.
Don't get caught up trying to pick the right system right away! You may have to try a few different systems to figure out what works for you and that's OK. They key is to pick something and get started, then keep trying different things until you find one that sticks.
Set Three Goals
After you have your first system picked out, I suggest picking three main goals that you have to accomplish each day. Make sure that you pick anything highly important that must be done today and put it on this list. If your bills are due tomorrow, don't prioritize folding laundry over paying your bills.
If you don't have three urgent things that must be done today then you can choose things that you want to get done today. However, just because they are things that don't have a specific deadline by making them your daily goals you are giving them a deadline. They now must be done today.
Make them small and obtainable, something that doesn't require a lot of steps or planning. For example, my three for today are: 1. Write a blog post, 2. Do two loads of laundry, and 3. Submit my entry for a writing contest in which I want to participate. .
Block Your Time
Once you set your three goals, look at your day. I use a planning system that allows me to see hour by hour where I have free time and where I need to be doing something. Do you have any appointments today, any times where you have to be out and can not accomplish your goals? Like picking your kids up from school or going to the doctors? Put those on your calendar first. Then look at the blocks of time in-between those. Thats when you work on your goals. How long will it take you to fold the laundry, write that blog post or enter the contest? You may want to over estimate at first but soon you will know exactly howling you will need for things.
Once you figure out how long each thing will take block that time out on your calendar. You have two hours while your kid is at school? Write your blog post and fold laundry. You have an hour in the afternoon while they nap? Enter that contest. The idea is to tell yourself what you are going to be doing with all of your blocks of time during the day, so that time doesn't get away from you.
If you are anything like me, taking time for yourself is a huge deal. However it is very important to take care of yourself. Once you start blocking your time what you are going to do with it, you will find you have more of it and you will feel less guilty about actually taking some of it for yourself.
Once you have the time you are going to work on your three goals for the day in your calendar, look at what you have left. Then take a block of that time and make it your time. Catch up on a TV show, soak in a tub, do something to relax. Even if its only 10 or 15 minutes at a time. read for 15 minutes, drink a coffee for 10, sit and do nothing for 10 minutes, or nap for 15.
Don't Beat Yourself Up
If you don't complete the three things on your list today its not the end of the world. Unexpected things happen and they prevent us from doing it all sometimes. You can always try again tomorrow. The key is to use your system every day, make it a habit. Once its a habit it will become natural and it will help you make better use of your time.
Do you use a planning system? If so which one? (mobile users please scroll all the way to the bottom of the page to comment)