Every day is a gift. Your time is precious, and your goals are important. That’s why you should honor your time, and yourself, by starting each morning with a plan of action that lists your priority tasks for the day. Doing so will also help keep you on track and motivated in creating your best life–step by step, day by day, goal by goal.
Here are 9 tips for fun and effective daily planning.
1. Write It Down
It’s important that your plan be written down, pen to paper.
An architect doesn’t plan a skyscraper in his head and leave it at that. A building needs a tangible plan if it’s to be built.
Similarly, if you want to build a towering life, you need to externalize your vision into a written plan.
Besides being more effective than mental planning, written planning is more rewarding. Few things beat putting a big read checkmark in front of a completed goal!
2. Pick Three Key Daily Goals
Every day you should list three Key Daily Goals that you intend to accomplish. These goals should be personally important goals, which often (but not always) means they are unrelated to your job.
As a rule of thumb, goals assigned by your boss don’t count here . . . unless you love your job and the goal serves your long term dreams in some way.
If you work eight or more hours each weekday it may end up being impossible to complete three important goals each day. In fact, on a majority of days it will be a challenge to complete just one. And that’s fine! One important step each day is a win.
The other two goals just give you some flexibility (“I simply can’t do goal 1 today, but I bet I can do Goal 2!”).
And they give you opportunity (“I got off early and have an extra two hours . . . Let’s tackle Goal 2!”).
3. Use Related Project Time Blocking
Think of your day as consisting of half-hour to one hour blocks of time, and when planning try to group similar or related tasks together as much as possible.
For example, instead of doing the laundry in the morning, going to the post office in the afternoon, and reorganizing your closet in the evening . . . see if you can group these together during the same “Chores and Errands” Block.
When we allow constant interruptions to important tasks or projects, or focus suffers and with it our effectiveness. That’s why responding to emails, texts, and calls is another good candidate for Project Time Blocking. Try to find one or two blocks during the day committed to emails, messages, and refuse to respond to them during any other time.
Note: If you’re at a job that simply doesn’t allow for this, try creating mini-blocks. For example, dedicate the last 10 minutes of each hour to responding.
4. Track Your Progress
Use your daily planning to track progress in ongoing or habit related goals. Track your daily water intake, whether or not you meditated, or how long you’ve went without drinking.
Daily habit tracking helps reinforce our success, keeping us on track. It’s also highly rewarding to see those successful days add up over time.
5. Establish Your Theme For The Day
Consider establishing a theme for the day by writing out an affirmation or an intention statement.
Say you want your theme to be productivity. An affirmation might be . . .
“I am a highly motivated, highly disciplined goal achiever!”
An intention statement might be . . .
“I intend to stay focused and achieve my goals today!”
Whether it’s an affirmation or intention statement, when writing it down try to feel the truth of it. Let the statement and those positive feelings set a tone for your day. That way you are owning your theme rather than allowing external circumstances to set it for you (“Today I will spill coffee on my crotch and then be late to work. Today is going to suck!”)
6. Write A Gratitude Statement
Start your day off on a positive mental foot by writing out one to three things you’re grateful for today. It could be something big, like “I’m grateful to be alive and healthy!” Or something simple like, “I’m grateful for the lovely view I have from my window.”
Deliberately focusing on gratitude at the start of the day will help inoculate you against focusing on the negative throughout the rest of your day. It will make you feel better, do better, and be better.
7. Review Each Day
At the end of each day (or the start of the next day) look over what you accomplished, or failed to accomplish, on your plan.
First, list your victories and pat yourself on the back for them. Victories deserve to be acknowledged and celebrated.
Next, think about what didn’t go according to plan, and write out ideas for how you might improve tomorrow.
Remember, every so-called “failure” is a learning opportunity. Your daily planning review helps you find the lesson, refine your approach, and become progressively more effective.
8. Make It Fun
If the idea of daily planning sounds like a chore, then make it more fun.
Here are three ideas:
- Get a rainbow of pens or highlighters to color code your projects and goals.
- Doodle and draw your own icons and symbols to represent your daily tasks.
- Decorate your plan with planner stickers. Here’s Some Stickers you might like!
- Dedicate some pages to be a vision board of your goals. Reflect on those images each day.
9. Consider Buying A Goal Planner
You can plan in a hardbound journal, a spiral bound notebook, or on loose leaf paper. All are equally affective mediums. But if you want to go for more structure, there’s a wide array of goal planners you can choose from.
Consider getting a 3-month planner rather than a full year one, since ninety days seems to be just the right amount for planning your medium term goals while giving you the flexibility to review and revise your annual plan every quarter. Plus, you get to treat yourself to a new planner every three months rather than just once a year . . . a true bonus if you’re a goal planner fanatic like I am!
I highly recommend the Clever Fox Ultimate Achiever’s Goal Planner. I’ve used about ever planner under the sun and this is my current #1 favorite. I love the hell out of it, and am about to buy my 3rd one. (P.S. If you buy one please be nice and use the above link so I can get a small affiliate commission from the sale).
Keep in mind that your day will rarely ever go perfectly according to plan, and that’s okay. The point isn’t to have every last minute accounted for, but rather to have clear priorities each day so you can stay on track to achieving your biggest goals.
You’ll quickly experience a greater sense of accomplishment and forward momentum as daily planning becomes a habit, but the biggest benefit comes later . . .
After those days begin to add up to weeks and then months, you’ll gain a new perspective. You’ll see how all those seemingly small successes each day compounded over time to bring you further than you may have originally thought possible towards achieving all of your biggest goals.
More still, you’ll discover that the decision to live each day deliberately, with a plan, helped you become are more confident and capable person.