I may get paid commission for purchases made after clicking a link in this post.
Given your time is finite, it makes sense to use it as wisely as possible. By carefully planning your day, you can be sure to get the most out of every minute… and so achieve your goals in the shortest amount of time possible. Here’s how to plan your day for maximum productivity…
How do you approach each day? Do you make a careful plan for what you intend to do that day and then work steadily through it? Or do you prefer to take each day as it comes, dealing with whatever ‘comes up’ and working on whatever you feel like working on that day?
It doesn’t take a genius to realise that starting the day with a clear plan and then working through that plan is likely to result in a more productive day, than the ‘see what comes up / what I fancy doing’ approach!
Planning your day will help you focus your efforts and energies on the tasks and activities that truly move the dial and help you actually achieve your goals, while the ‘take each day as it comes’ approach is likely to result in you spending a lot more of your time on ‘busy work’ and time wasters.
In fact, it’s estimated that taking just 10-12 minutes to plan your day will save at least 2 hours of wasted time and effort throughout the day. (I personally believe it will save you much more than that!)
Daily planning will also make you much more ‘proactive’ and much less ‘reactive’ – you’ll spend much more of your day on the projects that you want to get done (projects that will help you achieve your goals) and much less time reacting to other people’s agendas (for example, replying to emails or scrolling on social media feeds!)
While it’s pretty obvious that planning your day is likely to result in a more productive day, there is more than one way to plan a day… and not all ways of planning will ensure you maximize your productivity.
Here’s how to plan your day for maximum productivity…
It starts with goals…
The simple act of planning your day will not guarantee you have a highly productive day! In order to plan a highly productive day, you first need to know where you are headed. Or, in other words, you need to set goals.
Goals tell you where you are headed. Goals tell you where you are ultimately aiming to get to. Or, to put it another way, goals are your own personal definition of success.
If you do not know where you are headed, then how can you know if you are being productive or not? In the words of Steven Covey in The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People*
‘If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster. We may be very busy, we may be very efficient, but we will only be truly effective when we begin with the end in mind.’
Two types of task…
In any given day, there will be multiple different demands on your time: projects you are working on, emails to reply to, social media, business related admin, life admin…
But all these different types of tasks boil down to two separate groups:
- Goal-focused tasks
- Everything else
‘Goal-focused tasks’ are the tasks that will help you make progress on the goals you have set yourself – the tasks in your Monthly Action Plans.
‘Everything else’ is all the other tasks that seem important, such as dealing with emails, replying to social media comments and other dull-but-necessary admin tasks.
One of the big reasons why most people are not as productive as they could be is because they spend far too much time on these ‘everything-else’ tasks, and far too little time on ‘goal-focused tasks’.
This is generally because these ‘everything else’ tasks feel more urgent… and also because they feel easier. Quickly checking your emails and/or social media feels a lot less challenging and a lot more fun than creating a new opt-in offer, building a sales funnel or updating an old blog post, for example!
Without a good plan, we tend to naturally prioritize ‘easy and urgent’ over the ‘harder and less urgent, but MUCH more important’ tasks… the tasks which will actually help us achieve our goals!
And so those goal-focused tasks are the tasks that keep falling off the bottom of the to do list.
So what is the solution?
The solution is actually laughably simple…
The solution is to BEGIN your day with goal-focused tasks.
Begin your day with goal-focused tasks
One of my favourite illustrations is the ‘rocks and sand’ illustration.
In this illustration, the demonstrator fills a jar with sand and then tries to put some big rocks in the jar… and the rocks don’t fit.
So the demonstrator tips out the sand and puts the big rocks in first, then pours the same sand back in and magically it all fits in the jar perfectly!
How come? Because the sand sort of just ‘fits in’ around the big rocks.
The point of this illustration is that, if you prioritize the unimportant things in life, you’ll never find time for the truly important things. But if you prioritize the important things in life, the unimportant will somehow just ‘fit in’.
And this illustration can be directly applied to daily planning!
If you begin your day with the unimportant ‘everything else’ activities (social media, checking emails and other admin), they will somehow expand to fill your entire day. Meaning the tasks that would actually help you achieve your goals will keep falling off the end of the to do list and NEVER GET DONE!
But if you begin your day with goal-focused tasks (the activities on your Monthly Action Plans), the ‘everything else’ tasks will somehow just ‘fit in’, as the sand fits in around the rocks.
If you truly want to succeed in blogging and in business, you need to start prioritizing your ‘goal-focused tasks’… and that means doing them FIRST!
Or, in other words, if you truly want to maximize your productivity you need to plan to spend the FIRST hours of your available time each day on the tasks and activities that will truly help you achieve your goals.
Don’t do ANY admin tasks until you have done your goal-focused tasks
But it’s not enough to simply plan to do your goal-focused tasks FIRST… You also need to plan to NOT do ANY of those less important ‘everything else’ activities until AFTER you have completed your goal-focused tasks for the day.
This is where so many people go wrong… They plan to do their most important work first, but before they begin their first goal-focused task for the day they think ‘I’ll just quickly check my emails’ or ‘I’ll just quickly check my social media comments’… And from there they see something ‘super urgent’ that just ‘has’ to be dealt with ‘immediately’… Or else they fall down a rabbit hole full of ‘good ideas’ and ‘shiny objects’… And before they know it, the day is gone and once again they have failed to do any of their goal-focused tasks.
Many people spend every single day like this, and then get to the end of the year and wonder why they have not made any progress on their goals!
The solution is, once again, laughably simple…
Simply DO NOT allow yourself to do ANY of those ‘everything else’ tasks, like checking emails and social media, other business-related admin… even life admin and household chores, until you have FIRST done your goal-focused work for the day.
So, if you truly want to maximize your productivity, plan to do your ‘goal-focused work’ FIRST and your ‘everything else’ work AFTER.
It’s that simple.
Give each task a specific time slot
I wonder if this scenario has ever happened to you…
You’ve made a great plan for the day, prioritizing your most important tasks… so then you make a start on your plan… but somehow, by the end of the day, you have only managed to do Task #1… even though your plan seemed very achievable at the start of the day.
The problem is that, with just a few tasks on your Daily Plan and a whole day stretching out in front of you, it feels like you have more than enough time and so you literally work slower… and you allow yourself to be distracted… and that first task – that should have only taken an hour or so has somehow taken up the whole day… meaning you are now behind on all the rest of the things you have planned…
But I wonder if this scenario has ever happened to you…
You have a task that would normally take you 3 hours… but it NEEDS to be done in 1 hour’s time or somethings bad will happen… and somehow you pull it out of the bag and manage to get it done in way less time than it normally takes you… This is because that hard deadline literally made you work faster and focus single-mindedly on the task that had to be done.
Well, there’s a way to harness that ‘deadline power’ to ensure you get more done EVERY day… and that’s to give each task a specific and realistic timeslot.
For example, instead of a plan that looks like this:
- Create new opt-in offer
- Write first draft of email welcome sequence
- Write and schedule blog post
- Check emails
- Check social media
- Run manual backup of website
- Update plugins
- Make dentist appointment
You have a plan that looks like this:
- 9.00-10.00: Design new opt-in offer
- 10.00-11.30: Write first draft of email welcome sequence
- 11.30-13.30: Write and schedule blog post
- 13.30-14.30: Lunch
- 14:30-15.30: Check emails
- 15.30-16.00: Check social media
- 16.30-17.00: Run manual backup of website & update plugins
- 17.00-17.15: Make dentist appointment
By giving each task a specific and realistic timeslot, you are effectively giving yourself a series of mini deadlines… Instead of seeing your whole day stretching out in front of you and feeling like you have plenty of time, it’ll be clear to you that actually you don’t have a lot of time for each task – this concentrates your mind and helps you focus… you’ll literally work faster!
This tip is not to be underestimated. By adding specific and realistic timeslots to your daily plan, you can improve your productivity by as much as 80%!
Another thing that can go wrong here is that you begin the day well… making a good start on your first goal-related task of the day…
But then an email pings up on your laptop, or a social media reply pings on your phone… It looks important / intriguing… so you stop what you are doing to have a ‘quick look’ at whatever has just pinged… hours later you surface and realise you’ve just spent the last 4 hours scrolling on Instagram, chatting in Facebook groups or down a ‘shiny new object’ rabbit hole.
Allowing yourself to be distracted and ‘multi-task’ in this way will seriously stunt your productivity.
The solution is to ‘mono-task’… Or in other words, get rid of all distractions, switch off your emails and close all tabs that are not related to the task in hand, put your phone on ‘do not disturb’ mode and focus all your attention solely on the ONE TASK you are doing RIGHT NOW!
This is actually harder than it seems… Most modern humans are used to being in a near-permanent state of distraction, thanks to the constant buzzes and pings of mobile devices. But if you want truly want to maximize your productivity, you HAVE TO mono-task.
Once you’ve written your daily plan, you need to work through it task by task, focusing solely on the one task you are supposed to be doing at that moment and NOTHING ELSE!
Write your daily to do list the night before!
Another thing that can go wrong with daily planning is the actual act of daily planning itself!
For many people, daily planning is in that category of ‘easy and fun’ activities… Which means it’s all too easy to spend WAAAY too long planning… essentially using daily planning as a way to procrastinate getting started on the ‘hard but important’ goal-focused activities for the day… in other words PROCRASTI-PLANNING!
Fortunately, there is a very neat solution to this problem and that is…
Write your daily to do list the night before!
If you write your daily to do list in the morning, right before you start work, it’s very easy to use it as a tool to put off doing the ‘real work’ of the day… And as a result, that planning can take up a lot of time! But put daily planning at the end of the day and it will take up a whole lot LESS time because you want to get through it quickly so you can get on with the ‘fun stuff’ (whatever you do in your leisure time!)
You’re also much more likely to write a BETTER plan if you do it the night before. I call this the ‘grocery list effect’… What I mean here is that if you go to the shops without a grocery list, you are much less likely to make healthy choices (especially if you are hungry!) than if you make a grocery list at some earlier point, and then stick to your list as you go round the shops.
In the same way, if you make a daily plan right before you use it, there’s a good chance you’ll make ‘unhealthy choices’… In other words, you’ll fill it with stuff you ‘feel like’ doing right now.
But if you write your daily plan the night before, you are much more likely to make ‘healthy choices’… In other words, you’ll pick goal-focused tasks that are much more likely to get you to where you want to be in the future!
And finally, making your daily to do list the night before has another really positive effect… It will actually help you switch off and enjoy your evening, instead of worrying about work-related things. This is because you know you have created a realistic and achievable plan tomorrow, so it’s all going to be taken care of tomorrow… so you don’t have to worry about it this evening!
Give it a try – I think you’ll be amazed at what a difference it makes!
Stick to your plan
And finally, it should go without saying that – if you want to maximize your productivity, simply following the above steps is not enough – you also have to actually stick to your plan and do the work!
READ MORE >>> How to stay motivated as a blogger
READ MORE >>> How to stop procrastinating (and start being super productive!)
READ MORE >>> How to stay focused… and massively boost your productivity!
Wrapping it up – the formula for maximizing your productivity
The formula for maximizing your productivity is simple:
- Set goals (So you know where you are ultimately headed!)
- Turn those goals into Monthly Action Plans
- Always write a daily plan the night before which:
- Puts goal-focused tasks FIRST and ‘everything else’ AFTER
- Includes specific and realistic timeslots
- Ensure you turn off all distractions and mono-task
- Stick to your plan!
If you do follow this simple formula, you’ll be more wildly productive than you ever dreamed possible!
Over to you!
I’d love to hear from you if this article has helped you or if you have any tips or suggestions of your own to add. Let us know in the comments section below!
- Why setting goals will make you more successful
- How to actually achieve your goals: The real ‘secret’ to turning your dreams into reality
- 21 habits that will massively boost your productivity
- 24 Google Calendar hacks to boost your productivity
- 10 ways to be a more productive blogger
Don’t miss a thing!
Pin this post to read later
*This blog post contains affiliate links, this means if you click on a link and go on to buy the product I recommend, I will get a small commission, but you will not be charged a penny more – thanks in advance!