Are you a daily planner dropout?
I admit it … I’m FANTASTIC at keeping a daily planner … for about two weeks. Then I slowly dropout of the practice. Ugh. It kills me because I LOVE using a daily planner yet for some reason the routine never sticks.
Or that’s how it was until I figured out these tips that I’m sharing with you to step-up your daily planner game and actually make the habit STICK!
Best of all, they’re all really easy to implement and actually FEEL GOOD! So let’s go!
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Quick Daily Planner Tip 1: keep it to one day
If you were in working in the 1990’s then you probably remember when FranklinPlanners were all the rage? Mine was hunter green leather and IT WAS MY ENTIRE LIFE! I mean, if I didn’t have it with me then I felt naked.
Sounds like how most of us are with our iPhones now but there’s a big difference. When a planner holds your entire life then it’s big, bulky, AND a huge security risk! Honestly, a lot of our planners weighed in at more than my fat cat, and that’s saying something!
So first tip, don’t use it to store your entire life! Just record one day at a time!
Quick daily planner tip 2: use electronic lists
My estimate, although far from scientific, is that 100% of you use a smartphone. Therefore, you have the ability to use apps on that smartphone to keep lists. DO IT!
Everytime a to-do or thought comes across your mind, don’t wait to get to your daily planner to record it, add it to an electronic list. This list serves as a catch-all and is probably always with you.
If you want to categorize and add notes to each item, I recommend TRELLO, which is set up like sticky notes. For simple to-do lists, Reminders and Notes on your iPhone do the trick. The best part, they can all be synced between your devices!
Quick daily planner tip 3: use an electronic calendar
We all have WAY too much going on, with times and dates constantly being changed, to keep a paper calendar. Do yourself a favor and keep all of your appointments on your electronic calendar.
Of course, Google Calendar is super popular and is great for working with family members. TRELLO, the app I mentioned above, has a calendar “power-up” that you can sync with your Google Calendar. There are lots of resources for keeping calendars and schedules electronically, so find one you like and get it off of paper PERMANENTLY!
QUICK DAILY PLANNER TIP 4: REVIEW WEEKLY, PULL DAILY
A little cryptic, I know. At the start of the week, get on your electronic device, and review your lists and calendars that you maintain there. That will allow you to organize your thoughts. You can then prioritize based on what you have coming up.
Then, when you put pen to paper, only put down what you need to do for the PRESENT DAY!
Depending on your habits, you can do this first thing in the morning. Possibly better, is to make this the last thing you do each day before you either leave work or mentally check out for the day. That way, your mind can relax because you have the next day well in hand.
QUICK DAILY PLANNER TIP 5: ONLY RECORD 3 PRIORITIES
I know, we all have BIG goals for what we can get done in a day. Yet each night we’re wondering what the heck happened to the time. Not nearly enough got checked off our list of 35 priorities!
What a feeling of disappointment, shame, and failure! That’s a horrible way to end each day.
So instead, only record AT MOST three priorities for each day. I’ll go into this more below, but here’s the kicker … if you get all three done then you can jump onto your electronic list and pick another one to add-in! What a way to end the day feeling like you’re killin’ it as opposed to feeling like you suck. It’s that easy!
quick daily planner tip 6: use time blocks
Time blocks are trendy because they work. I’ll go into this further in another post (sounds like you should subscribe to make sure you don’t miss it), but essentially, time blocks work because they are both visual and functional.
How they work is simple: you block off chunks of time and dedicate each block to a specific task. NO MULTITASKING!!
When you multitask, you decrease your attention to every task.
This only works when tasks are mundane, not on important activities.
Listening to a podcast as you fold laundry is fine. Multitask that way all you want! However, if the work you’re doing is important in any way then NEVER pair it with another task. NEVER EVER!
quick daily planner tip 7: use your peak performance window
We all have a time in the day when we are most alert, on top of our game, and productive. This is our Peak Performance Window. It’s different for all of us. Match up your most vital time block with your Peak Performance Window. Leave your routine chores for a slower part of your day.
QUICK DAILY PLANNER TIP 8: use the pomodoro method
The Pomodoro Method works really well for some people. It’s based on a technique created by an Italian named Francesco Cirillo. The method uses 25-minute time block chunks to divide your tasks into your day. When you have used 4 of these chunks then you take a break.
My only asterisk here is that most of the resources I’ve read to learn optimal productivity suggest a break every 55-minutes at most. That doesn’t mean a long break, necessarily, yet a stretch and walk-around, or get a drink pause from your tasks.
Either way, the key is to use time blocks interspersed with breaks to move and hydrate.
quick daily planner tip 9: batch similar tasks
There are two ways to look at this tip:
- If you have multiple small repetitive tasks you need to do, group them together.
An example of this using one time block each day checking social media, returning phone calls, and responding to emails. OR, on a weekly basis, say each Monday, use a single time block to review all of your numbers as opposed to checking repetitively throughout the week.
- If you have larger, involved tasks that are repeated, group them together.
Example, If your work involves social media posts, you can take one day a month to source all of your images, edit them, write captions, and put them into a scheduling app (e.g., Tailwind)
This tip capitalizes on the concept of FLOW. You get into a groove of doing a group of similar tasks and build momentum as you go, becoming more efficient. As opposed to starting and stopping for each individual task.
quick daily planner tip 10: set boundaries
To get the most out of your planner, you need to protect your time blocks with boundaries. Example, if you have one morning and one afternoon time block for responding to emails then ONLY check emails in those two time blocks. The other time blocks are used to focus exclusively on the task assigned to each one!
Do NOT check email and social media throughout the day.
Only check them during the assigned time blocks.
Some notorious interrupters that you need to set boundaries around are emails, social media, news feeds, phone calls, online shopping, Google searches, and unexpected visitors (including family members). Don’t be afraid to let a call go to voicemail, assuming answering phone calls isn’t actually your job, or to tell a visitor that you have an appointment in order to stick with your daily plan. That’s something I learned in real estate!
Note: This isn’t to say that you DON’T answer calls or respond to emails, which would be rude. The tip is to do these tasks in the time block assigned and not during a time block assigned to another priority.
Quick daily planner tip 11: use an undated planner
Repeating, tips #2 and #3, maintain all of your lists and calendar items electronically. We’ll also refer to tip #4, pull to your daily planner one day at a time. That means that you don’t need a dated planner to flip ahead and mark out items on a specific day.
By keeping an undated (aka, perpetual) planner, you save paper and feel more productive by using each sheet in your binder.
There are many out there to choose from. I happen to like Designworks, Ink line “Standard Issue Supplies”. It has several styles with a running calendar across the top so there is a calendar to identify each day yet it’s not predated on the page.
Quick Daily Planner tip 12: learn from pavlov
In case you need a reminder, Ivan Pavlov conducted experiments with his dog, in which he found that objects or events can be used to trigger a conditioned response. We can use this to our advantage too.
If you have a task that just makes you cringe, or that you avoid, pair it with something you enjoy. Yes, basically eat your veggies so you can get dessert! I’ll share one of my own examples, I don’t get my cup of coffee in the morning until the kitchen is clean. I LOVE my coffee and now don’t even think about the pain it is to clean up dirty dishes because it’s all part of getting my morning cup of sunshine!
quick daily planner tip 13: use a timer
I’m guilty as the next person who loses track of time. The solution is SO simple! Set a timer for each time block and stick to it! Especially for tasks that you LOVE and could keep doing for hours and hours.
In my case, that’s sewing! I not only pair my sewing with a less desirable task (see tip #12) but I also set a timer so I stop within a reasonable time frame! With many of us having Alexa or Hey Google available, setting a timer has never been easier.
quick daily planner tip 14: overestimate your ETC
ETC is “Estimated Time for Completion”. Always leave a buffer because life always throws curve balls and what you expect to take 40 minutes to finish will probably take 50!
The best part is that you have an electronic list to fill in any extra time that becomes available so you don’t have to worry about NOT having enough to do. AND if the day ever arrives when you actually get through all your lists, then take a walk outside or spend time focusing on one of your special relationships!
quick daily planner tip 15: Use the IPOMR flow
The IPOMR Flow, something that I just made up, haha and I’m sticking with it. Phonetically, let’s pronounce it “eye-palm-er” flow. This is the process for putting together your daily planner. It goes like this:
I – Inspiration
Start each day with a positive thought. This is your mantra for the day and can be one you use for a season of life or one that you create each day. If you’re unsure how to come up with one, fill in the blanks of the following statements and then choose 2-3 to go into your inspirational statement for the day.
- I feel [positive feeling] today.
- I am a [favorable characteristic] person.
- I can [verb + accomplishment].
- I will [productive verb].
- I do [encouraging adjective + noun].
For example, here’s my daily inspiration for today:
I feel energetic today. I am a motivational person, and I can create a planner guide that will inspire my readers.
That’s obviously very specific to my priority today (i.e., writing this blog post). You can have it more general to get yourself pumped up for your day with a phrase that you can repeat to yourself.
At very least, you can simply repeat “I feel, I am, I can, I will, I do” as a mantra and let the moment put it into context.
P – Prioritization
Get out your electronic calendar and record any appointments you have scheduled including any travel time or preparation time necessary for that commitment. Set each as a time block.
O – Organization
Set a block of time for your communication tasks at the start and end of the day. If necessary, set aside a smaller time block in the middle of the day if you can’t quite make the switch to only checking email or social media at the beginning and end of the day.
Note: If social media is one of your necessary responsibilities, add in a predetermined amount of time (e.g., 20-minutes) to monitor any new posts so you can respond quickly to comments. This builds the engagement of your followers.
Productivity Hack:People are surprisingly respectful of such boundaries when clarified upfront.
In your email signature and on your voicemail message,
announce that you check these communications at designated times.
Add that if a true emergency exists, please text to ___________.
Look at your electronic lists, choose up to three priorities to time block based upon how much time you have available outside of your scheduled commitments.
M – Motivation
Add in activities you enjoy or breaks to help keep you positive and moving forward throughout the day.
R – Reflection
At the end of the day, look back at your daily planner and make a note of how you feel about your day. Phrase your reflections in positive terms, which does take practice. This is also a great time to add notes of gratitude!
Quick daily planner tip 16: add creativity & joy
I’ve left the best tip to the end! Make your planner a fun and creative opportunity for you to ADD to your day. With so many planners to choose from, even the undated kind, you surely can find one that’s pretty and makes you happy to see. If you pick one, like I use, that isn’t beautiful on the outside, then use ModgePodge and some pretty wrapping or scrapbook paper to decorate the outside to look the way you like.
Get a full spectrum of gel pens, highlighters, stickers, and sticky notes to make your daily planner colorful. This also makes time blocking and crossing off your accomplishments more fun when you can add colors, doodles, and flourishes. You don’t have to be an artist, just have fun.
My favorite is to use brush pens and calligraphy to write out my headings!
You can also get a template for stars, bullets, boxes, and other sectional components. This is a great way to customize your daily planner pages.
Note: Many of the Designworks Ink, Standard Issue Supplies journals come with a little plastic template. So cute!
why daily planners work
So many people rely on their daily planners as a way to have a visual perspective on their day. This can increase flow, improve productivity, develop awareness, and develop self-confidence.
If you find that you don’t maintain your daily journal, then start small and add one piece of the IPOMR Flow at a time. Eventually, it will become a useful tool to keep your days flowing and your mind clear!
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