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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

Why Planning Your Day is Vital for Productivity (And How to Do It)

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Why Planning Your Day is Vital for Productivity (And How to Do It)

Aren’t you amazed at how some people can manage to do everything they want within their planned time? Do you want to find out their secret? Planning your day isn’t as difficult as it may seem.

If you want to be someone who can actually achieve what they plan, you need to start spending some time planning your day. Don’t worry, today you’ll find all the A to Z of why and how to plan your day.

These tips for planning your day will work perfectly for students, as well as career-oriented individuals. What’s even better is that you’ll learn all the expert tricks of how you can improve your productivity by planning your day accordingly.

Doesn’t it sound like a one-stop solution to all your work problems? That’s exactly what it is. So, keep reading to find life-changing tips!

Why You Should Start Planning Your Day

Before we move onto the fool-proof formula of planning your day, first let’s convince you on why planning your day is a task you should spend time and energy on.

You’re Prepared

With a plan in mind, you know what’s coming. The responsibilities of the day are clear, unless an unexpected or urgent task comes up.

The point is, when you head to war prepared, there’s a higher chance of victory. However, if you’re attacked without a clue, you not only have to fight harder, but there’s also a very low chance of your success.

If you wake up knowing the things you have to do, you’ll be more motivated. Since there’s less time to procrastinate, you can’t do anything but focus on work. Your subconscious is prepared, and so you take on the tasks with full motivation.

This actually works wonders to get you to finish your tasks of the day promptly.

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Allows You to Prioritize

You can work all day long without accomplishing anything. This is a very rookie mistake that you need to avoid. How, you may ask. Well, planning your day is the answer.

When you plan your day, you have the opportunity to prioritize your work in a way that ensures that important jobs are fulfilled[1].

Without a plan, you start doing what comes to your mind. It is a very haphazard way of doing things because nothing is connected or coherent.

On the other hand, when you proceed with a plan, you can give more time to what needs it the most. If, for example, you’re going through a tough time in life, you can prioritize self-care that day. The great thing is that, since you have a plan, you can still squeeze in the urgent tasks.

So, it’s a win-win situation where you get what you want without compromising on your responsibilities.

Enhances Time Management

One way or the other, productivity always comes down to one thing: time management.

What better way to manage every second of the day to its full potential than planning it out?

When you schedule your day, you’ve basically put every minute to use. Task 1 is designated for one time slot, task 2 for another, lunch-time for one hour, and so on.

All the needs and jobs are taken care of. Yet, nothing overlaps. Personal commitment, work deadlines, and everything else are perfectly planned out throughout the 24 hours. You don’t feel burdened, and you don’t waste any time.

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Creates a Structured Life

There are days when you just want to wing everything. It’s great to be spontaneous once in a while, but it’s not something you should do every day.

As fun as this lifestyle sounds, it won’t be long before it starts taking a toll on your mental health. Surprises and urgencies are not that fun to deal with when they start affecting your personal life and work efficiency.

Planning your days brings an order. It makes your life systematic. Don’t confuse this with a boring lifestyle. A structured life means that you’re clear about what you want to do. It doesn’t mean you’ll follow the same routine every day. However, whatever routine you want to follow is pre-planned and well thought out.

Not only is it an effective way to boost your productivity, but a structured life also helps you get rid of bad habits while strengthening good ones.

How to Start Planning Your Day Perfectly

It’s now time to finally talk about the easy yet effective method of planning your day for productivity.

1. Start With a Goal

The first part of your plan is to have a clear goal.

Never proceed with your day’s plan unless you have a goal for the day in mind. Daily goals are important when it comes to keeping you on track and helping you achieve something at the end of the day.

Your day’s goal should be in line with your week’s goals so that you’re moving forward instead of wandering around.

With this goal in mind, plan your tasks accordingly. Make sure that each task leads to the accomplishment of your goal so that by the end of the day, you have fulfilled what you have in mind.

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2. Look at Each Day as Part of a Week

Although you’re planning your day, don’t look at it individually. Consider one day to be 1/7th of your week. Similarly, do not look at one day differently than your entire month.

The point is that each day should contribute to your bigger plan of the week, month, year, and life. It should all be cohesive. Ultimately, everything you do in one day should be coherent with what you want to achieve in the longer run.

Don’t forget to keep the future and the bigger picture in mind when planning your day. Also, keep the previous day and the coming day in mind. For example, if a task from the previous day was left incomplete, make sure to carry it on the next day. If you know you have a deadline in the coming days, schedule a part of it in your current day.

3. Categorize

A day is comprised of much more than just work. You have personal commitments, work deadlines, social life, house chores, and so much more. A perfect plan should include all these categories.

One major issue is that a lot of people tend to focus too much on work and too little on themselves. For the perfect daily plan, don’t forget to add in some personal time. Some alone time is necessary for mental strength, creativity, reflection, and other important things that help you keep going[2].

Having categories in your plan will allow you to balance it all out. You’ll know you have to set aside a certain amount of time for one category. This way, no part of your life will be neglected.

4. Be Flexible

Don’t make a plan that’s too stringent. You never know what surprises life will bring in the coming day. Therefore, always have enough room in your plan for adjustments.

Mark the things that cannot be moved around at all so that you know you need to get them done no matter what. This way, you won’t have to think long and hard to make room for the unexpected urgencies.

Be flexible enough to accommodate an urgent work task, a mishap, health issue, uninvited guest, and other similar things.

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5. Maintain Balance

One day is no more than 24 hours. Don’t overburden yourself by wanting to achieve more than possible.

A balanced plan contains no more than 1 or 2 big tasks. The rest of the day is divided into 4 to 5 smaller tasks. Some of these tasks are more time-consuming than others. Similarly, some are harder and more challenging, whereas the others are a piece of cake.

Also, maintain a balance between fun and boring tasks so that one day isn’t all mundane and the other is full of excitement.

Add in a few optional jobs that you can do if you find the time. However, even if these optional tasks are left undone, it won’t harm you.

To keep the balance intact, make sure to add something to each category that was previously talked about. Once again, don’t forget to include some time to relax. If you wear yourself out one day, you won’t be able to perform well for the rest of the days in the week.

Conclusion

By now, you’re most likely convinced that planning your day is worth it. Now, it’s time for you to make it a habit to plan your day the night before so that you wake up with a clear perspective of what you need to do.

It hardly takes half an hour each day to make a thorough plan. But, in the longer run, it saves you way more time. This is the best way for you to reach your goals quickly and efficiently.

If you seek growth and development in your life, you shouldn’t skip planning your day from now on!

More Tips on Planning Your Day

Featured photo credit: STIL via unsplash.com

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Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on October 4, 2021

How to Stay on Task And Avoid Distractions

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How to Stay on Task And Avoid Distractions

It has become more challenging to stay on task and avoid distractions. Unfortunately, the great benefits of today’s technologies have also become the biggest enemies of focused action. The pandemic has, of course, made its own corrections in the way we manage our time, business, family, and life. Did you know that the time-tracking market will increase worldwide by roughly 21 percent by 2025?[1]

With more and more distractions appearing in our daily lives, it’s understandable that people keep pushing themselves to squeeze every minute out of the day. But only a few realize that outside distractions are fairly easy to avoid compared to our inner triggers.

Mistakenly, we blame only outside distractions, thinking that they mess with our ability to stay on task and make it almost impossible to avoid them. However, our inner triggers are what play the biggest role in focused and productive action. While external triggers are cues from our environment that tell us what to do next, inner triggers are cues from within us. For example, when we’re hungry, we are cued to get something to eat and so on. Understanding what kind of trigger is pursuing you to take certain actions will help you determine the best solution to stay on task.

While distractions are everywhere, it’s not impossible to minimize them. Distractions itself is a topic long, wide, and deep enough for a book at least. On Amazon alone, there are more than 9000 books with a “distraction” on the cover. This once again proves our need for solid tools, systems, and new approaches to help us stay on task and avoid distractions.

Here is my formula for you to stay on task. It is not your typical “turn off your phone” and “close your emails” type of list. This formula has been crafted over years of experience, research, and knowledge. It looks deeper than external pings, rings, and dings.

I aim to give you a different perspective on how you are managing your time, attention, and decision-making. If used with one mind and willingness to truly build a skill to stay on task, this formula might be just the right read for you.

1. Manage Your Attention Before Trying to Manage Your Time

We can manage our time better if we can manage our attention. Time management depends a lot on attention, focus, and flow management, rather than planning and scheduling. Although technical support is a big part of focused action, if we lack prioritizing and attentiveness, we will eventually waste time one way or the other and make it difficult for us to stay on task. Therefore, getting clear on our intention behind the task is crucial for staying on it and not getting distracted.

Do you want to be more productive and feel good about what you accomplish at the end of the day? Do you want to have time to learn a new skill, building a better service so you can create more impact? Do you want to protect yourself from distraction, unwanted information, and more wasted time? Whatever your reasoning, if you can focus, you can get more important things done in less time. In that way, the focus is the ultimate “productivity hack.”

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We all have the same 24 hours. But what matters more than the length of time you put into a task is the intensity of focus because if you have an intensity of focus, you can reduce the amount of time spent doing it to get the same or better results. Even if you’re not in a state of flow, focus helps you get more out of the day.

A study from the University of California at Irvine found that, on average, participants (who worked in the tech field) could only work on a project for 11 minutes before being distracted. What’s worse is that it took them more than 25 minutes to regain their focus.[2]

Focus keeps you productive. It’s what determines whether you do what you want to or spend the day distracted. But it goes much deeper than this.

Being focused allows us to choose the life we want to live, not just react to what’s happening around us. So, let me give you some ideas on how to increase your attentiveness. If you want to improve your focus, you have to do more than just make yourself pay attention. Focus is as much about what you’re paying attention to as what you’re blocking out because unfortunately, the world around us is incredibly distracting and it makes challenging for our brain to focus on a task.

Learn How to Take Control of Your Technologies

There is no escaping from technology, but we need to understand that it is here to serve us, not the other way around. Many of the default settings on our devices are set to take our attention away, and it’s up to you to change them.

Create a Focus-Friendly Work Environment

This plays a massive role in your ability to focus., yet most of us don’t think much of it. Getting rid of clutter, organizing your stuff so you don’t waste time trying to find things, avoiding outside noise and unnecessary interruptions are what will help you stay on task.

Stop Multitasking

If you haven’t heard it enough times already, multitasking is a myth. When we try to do more than one thing at a time, we’re just quickly switching back and forth between the tasks. This isn’t very efficient, and it makes us more stressed. Even worse, the more you multitask, the more your brain looks for more things to do at once. It’s like your training your brain to be unproductive. However, focusing on one task at a time rebuilds your focus, lowers stress, and can even make you more creative.

2. Declutter Your Mind as Well as Your Desk

Clear space creates a clear head. It increases productivity and saves us from distractions. But clearing your desk is very technical. It’s fairly easy doable and repeatable. If you have a system in place that you love, you would only have to declutter once, and then you would just follow your path where clutter gets thrown away regularly. This allows for constant rotation of creative energy giving you space to evolve.

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However, a tidy space actually can keep you on the task only for that long. It can give you only that much of a clear head and distraction-less space. While it immensely helps to shift the energy, it will not keep you distraction-less forever, and this is where your mindset comes in. The “clear space creates clear head” is only partly true.

Clear space gives us more clear mind for that moment, but this is not your long-term solution. If you would have managed to keep your workspace clean, clutter-free, you would still have thoughts. According to research, an average person has 6000 thoughts every day![3]

Will a decluttered space be able to help you with all of them? No! But this is where the mindset work comes in. No tool, tip, trick, or hack will be able to solve your timing or focus issues. Only you can do that because you are the one in charge of your time, your commitments, your schedule, your plan, and also your mind.

If you ever tried to meditate, you know that it takes time to clear your head from thoughts, calm the mind, and thrive in presence. And it is definitely one practice that can help you understand how your mind works. If you are having difficulty staying on task, then it’s time to look for the cause.

If you think that another great new productivity app will solve your problems and you will finally be able to stay on task, it will not support your long-term vision. Yes, it might help for a month or two, but then what? Are you willing to go back and search for other solutions while your to-do list keeps growing and your time freedom is non-existent?

It is great to start by decluttering the mind. Support it with decluttered space on your way to great focus and productive work. Ask yourself: What is blocking you from undivided attention? Have you ever thought that you could be keeping yourself busy to feel worthy of your income? It’s a clue to your limiting beliefs! Imagine if you could replace that with a success mindset, how would your focus increase? It’s taking one mindset block at a time and working through it.

3. Work on Your Pain

What does pain have to do with focus? We waste our time when we get distracted, and we get distracted all the time. Imagine how much you would be able to achieve if you would stay focused on the task for that scheduled time, commit to that task and get it done. Who knows? You might even finish it in half the time you planned.

But let me explain to you something about pain. We allow ourselves to get distracted because it’s our decision to check that ping, ring, and ding. We decide to focus somewhere else when that ring comes knocking. We make that choice because of the pain. We feel discomfort, and we all love comfort, right? Our natural way of avoiding pain and discomfort is what makes us lean towards distractions rather than stay on task. It’s worth looking deeper and understand what are the underlying issues that you’re trying to avoid when distracted.

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Working on that pain will help you stay focused and committed to even the hardest of tasks. If you’re committed to your growth in all areas, it’s up to you to stay on task even when you don’t feel like it.

I challenge you to look where that pain is coming from that causes you to get distracted. Find it, and let it go so you can be attentive, present, and focused.

4. Rewrite Your Habits

We are in charge of building our success habits, so what are you working on today to allow yourself to stay on task with as little effort as possible? Below are the most common distracting habits that probably have been creeping into your daily routine as well.

Stop Adding Things to Your To-Do List

To-do lists give you too much flexibility, too much freedom of choice, and too much space for procrastination to creep in. Everything you’re planning to do, schedule it in your calendar instead. Plan your tasks, and put timing next to every task. Like that, you will create space for important tasks, prioritize wiser, and won’t be able to overbook your time.

If you think about it, putting your tasks into your calendar creates well-deserved peace of mind, gives you much more freedom, and keeps you productive. You’re no longer overshadowed by your never-ending to-do list that keeps growing by minutes and never gets completed. Staying committed to your calendar is a part that can’t be avoided if you want to stay on task. If it’s on your calendar, you have already committed to doing it. You have already decided that something is important enough to get on our calendar, so it’s worth your focus.

Stop Notifying Yourself and Scrolling Your Screen

Checking notifications, emails, messages as they come in. That “beep” sound distracts you in a fraction of a second, but unfortunately, it takes much longer to get back into your creative flow after an innocent “I will just quickly check-it might be urgent.”

For better productivity, you should set certain times when you allow yourself to check emails and it should not be more than twice a day. Seriously, it is enough times (I’m talking from experience). Scrolling through social media is nothing new, yet it still is the biggest time-waster. You get sucked into random posts only to realize that another 20 minutes have passed without creating results for your future. Mind your own business (literally), and create before you consume.

Stop Acting Like You’re Superhuman

Multitasking is not an admirable ability, it’s destructive behavior. You have probably heard about it, but let me remind you again: trying to do more than one thing at a time diminishes your productivity. The human brain simply isn’t designed to multitask. Your brain slows down as it switches between tasks, which takes more time and makes you less efficient.

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Focusing on one thing at a time will make you more effective. If you’re taking too many breaks, you end up lingering and not getting your focus back. Schedule your break to keep yourself in check and focused. Too many breaks lead to more wasted time. Oftentimes, it means working when exhausted. All it does is create more exhaustion and more mistakes. You may also end up facing burnout.

Do yourself a favor and make sleep a priority. The time you spend resting will pay off when you’re awake and ready to take on the world. Once you are clear on what wasted your time, create a to-don’t list to get clear on things you know you should not be doing.

5. Find Traction

We are used to thinking that the opposite of distraction is focus—where we are fully present, attentive, and focused on what it is that we are doing. But the opposite of distraction is actually “traction,” and traction from Latin is an action that pulls you towards what you want to do. So, distractions are actions that pull you away from what you want to do, and tractions are actions that move you towards what you want to do. This means that any action can be either a distraction or traction depending on what you intend to do with your time.

There’s nothing wrong with scrolling through your Facebook feed, watching YouTube videos, or playing a video game, as long as that’s what you intend to do. It’s when you do things unintentionally that you get into trouble. When you get pulled away from what you need to do to avoid discomfort, to avoid that hard work or that pressure dealing with a specific task, that’s when you allow yourself to get distracted.

So, if you’re asking if it’s possible to avoid distractions, the answer is yes. But you don’t want to do it! You want to notice these moments of discomfort and understand what causes you to get distracted. What are you trying to avoid? Why are you letting yourself get pulled away from things that you need to do?

If we dig deeper, we can see things for what they are, including ourselves, our believes, our thoughts, and anything that sabotages our focus without us realizing it.

Final Thoughts

Distractions are a very wide range of things. They are everywhere, looking for you to bring your attention to them. The good news is that you can stay on task if only you choose to. You are in charge, and now that you have a better insight into your triggers, it will hopefully allow you to get less distracted and more focused.

No matter what your distractions are, you are in control of your time, what you do with it, and where you spend it. Be sure to keep that control in your hands.

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More Tips on Improving Your Attention

Featured photo credit: Surface via unsplash.com

Reference

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