Most people have tried a few daily planning tools — planners, apps, task lists, alarms. But even when you diligently use these resources, you can still find yourself falling behind on your goals.
If that’s you, ask yourself the following:
- Do you make time for a weekly planning session?
- Do you consistently sit down on a day to day basis and prioritize what’s important?
- Is your calendar so crammed that it’s impossible to finish everything?
While planning tools can certainly help in achieving goals, if you don’t use them to prioritize your most important tasks, they offer ZERO value.
Consistent daily planning helps focus your efforts towards achieving your long-term goals. All you need are sticky notes and a few minutes each day to set yourself up for success.
In this article, I’ll explain how to implement smart daily planning habits (and stick to them) to create the life you want!
The importance of daily planning
High school rugby coach, Larry Gelwix, has 418 wins, 10 losses, and 20 national championships under his belt. When asked his secret for success, he responded, “We always WIN.”
In saying WIN, he referred to an acronym that guides his players — What’s Important Now?
Asking yourself what’s important now helps you focus on the crucial tasks at hand and move in the direction toward achieving your goals.
This becomes especially valuable in a world full of distractions.
Our days are flooded with messages on social media, endless emails, and diverting notifications on our phones. It’s easy to lose hours in misappropriated attention on less important tasks while missing out on what you intended to do.
Without a clear plan for the day, you can easily get distracted with other less important tasks. When you set aside time, either the night before or the morning of, to plan out your day, you clarify your priorities and commit to completing the most critical tasks for the day.
Daily planning tips
Success doesn’t look the same for everyone. But the tactics to succeed in long-term goals work for all. Here are some daily planning tips to think about as you learn how to plan your days for long-term success.
Schedule uninterrupted time for deep focus
One of the best habits of successful people: Focus.
Focus is the ability to place your attention on one thing only.
When you learn how to improve focus, you perform better at each task. You place your attention on one thing while ignoring everything else, like your phone, email, or social media. Your brain can concentrate better and think clearly on the project at hand. Ultimately, you create better quality work.
In fact, some consider the ability to focus more important to success than education or IQ. Studies show that interruptions and multitasking create a more stressful work environment. Brains function best when they can focus on one task at a time, and we need to allow time for recovery before moving on.
In Cal Newport’s book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, he makes the case that the ability to focus without distraction allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time.
Get clear on your priorities
In order to focus on what’s truly important, you need to learn how to prioritize.
You’ll need to get organized on a daily basis and work on the most important tasks, one at a time. Knowing your key tasks each day will help you avoid getting distracted by other people’s priorities.
But how do you know what your priorities should be?
It starts with digging deep to uncover your core values — discovering who you are and what’s important to you. These are the underlying basis of any meaningful long-term goal.
If you’ve already clarified your goals and dreams, this daily planning process will be simple. You will easily identify the tasks and actions that bring you closer to your goals, and which ones can take a back seat.
With your core values in mind, you can also start to eliminate the items on your to-do list that are out of alignment. These are the tasks that leave you feeling empty and stressed, instead of energized and empowered.
Allow time to “unfocus” between tasks
Your brain needs a chance to relax and calibrate in order to work at its best. When you unfocus, you activate the default mode network (DMN) of the brain.
This part of the brain manages memories and makes connections between the past, present, and future. It recombines old and new ideas, which enhances creativity and problem solving abilities.
Set aside time during the day, let’s say 20 minutes to an hour, to just relax and unfocus. Maybe that means sitting on the couch or going for a walk in between tasks. When you go back to work, you’ll approach each task with a fresh outlook and new solutions.
Plan time for creativity-boosting daydreaming
Daydreaming isn’t always a bad thing.
You may have heard bad things about daydreaming back in school. While I wouldn’t recommend spacing out during an important meeting or class, setting aside time for Positive Constructive Daydreaming helps brain function.
Productivity isn’t about fitting as many tasks as possible into the day. Leisure time is just as important as focussed work. When your brain is free to daydream is often when you come up with the most creative ideas.
Pick a low key, enjoyable activity like gardening, knitting, or walking. Allow your mind to wander. This will boost your imagination and help you come up with creative solutions.
Keep it simple
Remember that daily planning is a skill. And just like any skill, you become better at it with practice. The simple process in the steps below is all you need to start a daily planning routine that will keep you moving towards your goals.
To perform at your best, you should determine the essential tasks of the day, then focus on each task, one at a time. When you finish a task, take a break to allow your brain to recover before moving on to the next.
Start by prioritizing your to-do list. Then focus attention on those tasks in order of priority. As you continue daily planning, you’ll accomplish more of your goals, waste less time on distractions, and output better quality work.
Simple daily planning in 5 steps
SoulSalt’s Today and Not Today daily planning method will help you answer the simple question: “What’s Important Now?”
It will clarify priorities every 24 hours, so you stay focused and complete what you need to on time.
You can follow along with the video and read through the steps below to get started.
Step 1: Brain Dump
Get into brainstorm mode and activate divergent thinking. Think about what you want to accomplish, your goals, your aspirations, immediate tasks and responsibilities, and future projects.
Give yourself time to consider all the unique ideas floating around inside your head concerning what you want to accomplish today, tomorrow, and long term.
Now for the brain dump. Write each idea on a sticky note (or a small piece of paper), one per note. Continue until you clear your mind of all the to-do tasks.
Step 2: Sort
Download and print the Today and Not Today Daily Planner Worksheet, by signing up below:
Or, sketch out three columns on a sheet of paper. It should look something like this:
|TODAY (Critical)||TODAY (Not critical)||NOT TODAY|
TODAY (Critical): These are your priorities for the day. You know that if you don’t do this action today, there will be a consequence.
TODAY (Not critical): These are tasks that don’t actually need to get done today. But if you do have time and get them done, it’s like icing on your cake.
NOT TODAY: These items can wait.
Now, take each of the sticky notes and place them in one of the three columns. Only put the tasks where they belong.
Step 3: Prioritize
Go to your Critical category. Sort each of the tasks in order that you need to complete them.
Step 4: Get Going
Now take action. Focus on each task, one at a time, in order of priority.
Step 5: Rest and Recover
Congratulations! You’ve just out-finessed any to-do list. Before moving on to the first task on your list, give yourself a little time to rest and recover.
That could mean a 10 minute coffee break, a walk outside, a power nap—Whatever you need to allow your brain to recover before focusing on the next task.
Ready to plan your day around what really matters?
If you’re a responsible person who struggles to have a planning system that helps you actually feel and appear responsible, I can help.
If you are creative and have a brain that’s great at ideation and innovative thoughts, but you have a hard time getting things laid out and planned, I can support you.
If you’ve tried other systems and now realize you just want someone to guide you in crafting your own planning system, I have a solution.
Please check out our Be Focused online course. When you subscribe, you also get access to our private FB group. You are the very person I had in mind when I designed this course.