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Last Updated on November 23, 2021

How To Create A Daily Schedule To Organize Your Day

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How To Create A Daily Schedule To Organize Your Day

When I was young, I had a pink piggy bank on my dresser—and a very important goal to buy a shiny, red bike. Each time I earned money on chores, I ran to the piggy bank. Over time, thanks to my small, consistent habit, my coin collection wasn’t just spare change any more. I finally came up with enough money to buy the bike.

What my piggy bank was then to me, my daily schedule is today.

We all have a vision for the future, and it can feel overwhelming to stare it down from afar, especially without a plan. The best way to accomplish goals is to break them down into smaller, daily habits. That handful of coins might seem trivial today, but what you do repeatedly ultimately creates the quality of your life.[1]

Everyone’s personal routine will look different based on their individual goals and values. But applying a few general principles to your daily schedule can help maximize your effectiveness and productivity and, over time, help you accomplish your goals.

What Is a Daily Schedule and Why It’s Important

Humans are creatures of habit. We crave daily routine and function best when we have clear guardrails on our time.

A daily schedule puts you in control of your day. It gives you the structure and discipline you need to make the most out of the hours of a given day. When you have a plan to stick to, you get more daily work done and ultimately inch closer to your goals.

As the father of productivity, Paul J. Meyer, put it:

“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning and focused effort.”

What’s more, a daily schedule is predictable, so it reduces decision fatigue. You’re not wasting brain space deciding what task to do next. That means you can keep your mental energy level for the tasks that really matter.

So set your day up for success by planning your day and organizing your daily time.

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7 Practical Tips to Create a Daily Schedule

Here are 7 practices to help get you started in creating a daily schedule.

1. Prioritize Your Values

“Success” is as unique as the person pursuing it. But all successful people have one important thing in common: They strategically design their lives to align with the things they care about the most.[2]

Practically, that means before you can create a daily schedule that helps you accomplish your goals and live the life you want to live, you have to define what you value. An understanding of these things will help you pinpoint priorities that make sense for a work life balance and, ultimately, organize your day accordingly.

As a first step, carve out some time to think about what’s important to you. Make a list, in order. Then, find ways to incorporate those things in your daily and weekly routines in time blocks that honor how important each value is.

For example, if your biggest goal is health and fitness, then you should prioritize working out and healthy eating before other, less important hobbies. If your top priority is family or friends, then you’ll want to make sure you carve out time each day to connect with people you love before you jump into your daily work.

Defining your personal priorities prevents the things you value from slipping off your to-do list and into the margins. It also allows you to delegate and outsource the tasks that aren’t in accordance with your values.[3]

2. Include a Morning Routine

It’s not uncommon for productivity gurus to boast of their 4 AM wake-up calls and elaborate pre-sunset routines. But there’s no perfect time to rise and grind—your morning alarm will depend on your own, individual rhythm. No matter when you start your day, though, there’s something to be said about including a morning ritual in your daily schedule.

Why is morning so important? The first thing you do after getting up ultimately sets the tone for the rest of your day. If you roll out of bed, half-awake, and jump right into your email, you’ll likely struggle to focus and engage, and you’ll run out of steam before too long.

But if you regularly make your bed, meditate, and eat a healthy breakfast each morning, your brain will learn to pivot from “rest mode” to “productivity mode” quickly—and you’ll probably be in a better mood.

It’s up to you what you do in the morning. The goal is to kick off your day by doing the same thing. Ideally, that’s something that both aligns with your personal values and prepares you for the tasks ahead.

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3. Designate a “Most Important Task”

Your day will inevitably include essential tasks that don’t propel you toward your goals—taking phone calls, hopping into meetings, answering emails. To make sure these things don’t derail you, always define what you absolutely need to accomplish every day and incorporate them into your daily schedule.

Every week, when you plan your schedule, consider your goals. What needs to get done to keep you on track? Then, choose an MIT (most important task) for each day.[4] When you know what you need to accomplish to stay on track, you’ll waste less time on non-essential work.

It helps me to schedule my most important tasks during the times I’m most focused and productive and focus on tasks that don’t require as much brain power when my energy level wanes.

There’s plenty of research showing that our ability to function cognitively shifts depending on the time of day.[5] For most people, including me, peak productivity time occurs between 9 and 11 AM, which is why I always reserve that block of time for MITs rather than less-demanding busy work like answering emails.

If your productivity levels heighten later on in the day, you can take the opposite approach. Either way, make an effort to understand your peak work times and schedule your MITs accordingly.[6]

4. Schedule Time for Things That Normally Distract You

If you’re anything like me, you end up in your inbox or on Twitter several times throughout the day (and end up staying there for far too long). There’s nothing wrong with taking breaks to check social media, and we all need to respond to emails to do our work. But these things can also be a significant distraction from the most important tasks.

Instead of allowing yourself to mindlessly scroll, take a proactive approach by building blocks of time to engage with potential distractions. For example, your daily schedule could include time frames where you can “process” your email or social media accounts two or three times a day. The important thing is to treat these items like any other task—just another line item on your daily schedule—rather than allowing them to infiltrate your day.

5. Include Breaks

Every day, I schedule an hour-long lunch break and several 10 to 15-minute breaks to meditate or go for a walk. It might seem useless to plan out time in your day when you’re not working, but remember that nobody has endless capacity to work at full steam, constantly. And if you try, you won’t be as productive as you want to be.

There’s scientific evidence that the occasional pause can actually enhance productivity.[7] For one thing, pausing from time to time can boost your ability to think creatively and strategically. Sometimes, the brain needs a change of scenery (and a break from constantly thinking) to come up with fresh ideas.

Scheduling breaks throughout your day also provides something to look forward to—an end in sight. When you know you’ll have a chance to rest at the end of a work block, you’ll be much more likely to muster more energy—and focus—for the tasks at hand.

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6. Avoid Multitasking at all Costs

Here’s the thing: multitasking doesn’t work. Studies show that your performance suffers when you’re hopping between two tasks.[8] Not only do you take longer, but you end up making more errors.

What does that mean for planning your daily schedule? Plan to do just one task at a time – and don’t try to squeeze in anything else.

One reason why we struggle to switch between tasks is that our brains can’t adapt that quickly to a new type of task. That’s called the ‘switching cost’: we fumble when we transition to a different skill and lose time in the process.

Avoid this by scheduling similar tasks back-to-back. For example, when planning your day, lump all your meetings into one block of the day, or devote an hour or two to responding to emails. Batch working like this means you work more efficiently, wasting less time overall.

The daily time saved is significant. One study showed that you get back around 40% productivity which, over the course of the day, can really add up.[9]

7. Use a Daily Schedule Template

Lastly, make your life easier with a daily schedule template. Try out these free downloadable templates to help you schedule your day and help with time management:

  • Daily To-Do List Template – This is a simple to-do list template for everyday use. Use this daily planner to plan your daily tasks, set priorities, and assign time periods to complete them.
  • Weekly Goals Template – Try out this template for setting effective goals for your weekly schedule. Before Monday rolls around, sit down and identify what you want to achieve by the end of the week.
  • Project Template – Big projects are overwhelming. The key to getting a project done is breaking it down into manageable chunks, just like this template helps you to do. Use it to track your project to its completion.
  • Distraction List – This simple template helps you ward off distractions. If something pops into your head while you’re working, write it down on this sheet. By doing this, you’ll get it out of your head so you can focus on the work in front of you.

How to Stick to Your Schedule

Creating a daily schedule is only half the battle though. You’ve got to stick to it too, which has become increasingly tough in the age of distraction. Here are some tips to do that:

1. Distraction-Proof Your Work Environment

As remote work becomes the norm, the boundary between home and work life has broken down. One way you can prevent that is by designating a single space for work. Declutter that space, and avoid doing anything other than work there to keep your brain from getting distracted.

2. Be Realistic About What You Can Accomplish in a Day

If you’re too over-ambitious and cram too many tasks in, your schedule is doomed to fail right from the start.

3. Add in ‘Cushion Time’ Between Tasks

Instead of scheduling back-to-back tasks, add a buffer of 15 or 20 minutes. That way, if something ends up taking longer than you anticipated, you won’t derail your entire schedule.

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Best Scheduling Apps for You

Leverage technology to help you. With tons of calendar and time scheduling apps available to help optimize your productivity time, scheduling has never been easier.

1. Google Calendar

Google Calendar

is a great organizational tool – and it’s user-friendly. Don’t underestimate this free app: it has a surprisingly wide range of features. Add new events, set reminders, track time, and link up with colleagues. Plus it integrates seamlessly with other Google services.

    2. Calendar

    If you’re looking for something with more features, Calendar is another great bet. Just like Google Calendar, the app lets you create and edit meetings on an hourly schedule, and view what’s on your plate. But it also offers a useful analytic tool: Calendar Analytics. This shows you how you’ve been spending time, so you can assess and optimize your time management to be more efficient.

    Final Thoughts

    As author Mason Currey writes in her book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, a routine “fosters a well-worn groove for one’s mental energies and helps stave off the tyranny of moods.”[10]

    Even the most successful people can fall prey to getting off track. Designing your ideal daily schedule ahead of time is an essential practice for preventing distraction and prioritizing what’s most important to you. Think of your schedule as an investment in your future. It may take some time to “save up” for the life you want, but little by little, you’ll see your goals come to life.

    More Tips on Organizing Your Daily Schedule

    Featured photo credit: Eric Rothermel via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Aytekin Tank

    Founder and CEO of JotForm, sharing entrepreneurship and productivity tips at Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on November 29, 2021

    How to Become Indistractable: 4 Powerful Tactics to Help You Focus

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    How to Become Indistractable: 4 Powerful Tactics to Help You Focus

    From modern technology to interactions with our friends, family, and coworkers, distractions are practically unavoidable. This makes it very hard to focus, especially for a sustained period of time on a specific task. Becoming indistractable, then, is an important skill to learn if we want to be truly productive.

    Distractions aren’t going to decrease any time soon with advances in technology. Therefore, there is no better time than now to learn the best strategies to help you defeat distractions head on. Remember, many distractions may be out of your control, but you can learn to take charge of whether or not they take control of you.

    In this article, you’ll learn not only why distractions are so destructive, but also why they exist in the first place, and a powerful technique that can help you get rid of them for good.

    What Is a Distraction?

    A distraction is anything that draws attention away from what you’re doing at a given moment. Examples include looking at your phone each time a notification pops up, chatting with people who stop by your office space while you’re working, or checking social media or emails while trying to finish a big project.

    Distractions can cause problems for more than just a few seconds. When you switch your attention, you create attention residue, which can linger for an extended amount of time, getting in the way of your focus.

    If you really want to become indistractable, you’ll need to overcome each distraction that steps in your path.

    Traction: The Opposite of Distraction

    We’ve come to the conclusion that distractions are bad, and we don’t want them interfering with what we need to get done. What we want to achieve is the opposite: traction. Now, there aren’t any official antonym for distraction. However, I propose it so as by definition traction is any action that moves us towards what we really want.

    Traction is an action that you fully engage in with intent—following through with what you say you will do.

      How To Tell If You’re Distracted

      Most people find it quite common to be distracted. The bustle of everyday life, heightened by social media and other means of escapism into a reality that’s not ours, has offered everyone things to pass their time with.

      Today, being distracted leads to wasting a significant amount of time during the day. Yet, it is not addressed as seriously as it should be. If you can spot the signs of distraction, then you can tackle the issue in time and live the life you want to.

      “Most people don’t want to acknowledge the uncomfortable truth that distraction is always an unhealthy escape from reality.”
      [1]

      We have become so used to being distracted that we hardly see it as a bad thing anymore. Distraction can look different in various kinds of people. However, if you’re looking to become indistractable then here are signs to look out for to check if you’re becoming distracted so you can address the issue in time.

      • You find yourself wanting to check your phone frequently: Checking your phone often or feeling the need to constantly be active on social media during work hours or when you’re doing a task is one of the biggest signs of distraction.
      • You look at an object for a long time unable to figure out what to do with it: Although you have something to do, and the materials to do it with, you find it hard to figure out how to go about the task
      • The thing you’re working on feels so boring you want to do something fun: This stems from dissatisfaction with the work you’re doing. This dissatisfaction leads to you feeling bored with your task and seeking external comfort in something ‘fun’.
      • When you’re doing something mundane, you’re thinking about doing the things you like: Constantly thinking about things you like is what most people do when they cannot keep traction with the work in front of them. This usually happens when they are thinking about activities they look forward to once the task is over.
      • Audio-visual stimuli around you make it hard to focus on the task at hand: Although you’re working on the task, every voice or passing visual catches your attention. This may cause you to forget about work and listen in on a nearby conversation instead.

      The Reasons for Distraction

      When we talk about distractions, we’re talking about human behavior and reactions to the distractions themselves. And, all human behavior is marked by external or internal triggers.

      External Triggers

      External triggers

      are cues that we take from our environment that tell us what to do, such as pings from our phone or computer that prompt us to look at whatever the alert is announcing: an Instagram update, an email, a text from an old friend. These external triggers compete for our attention with whatever task we’re ultimately trying to focus on. Sometimes, the mere presence of an object itself, such as having your phone nearby, can prompt you to give it attention.

      Internal Triggers

      There are also internal triggers, which are simply cues that come from within, such as hunger, anxiety about an upcoming event, or feeling cold.

      All human behavior is prompted by external or internal triggers; therefore, traction and distraction both originate from the same source.

      How to Overcome Distraction and Become Indistractable

      Distractions can easily take over your life, but below I outline 4 simple tactics to take back your control and become indistractable. This concept I am sharing with you now draws from my book Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life.

      1. Master Internal Triggers

      To overcome distractions and slip into deep work, you first need to understand your root cause of distraction. Humans have a natural tendency to want to escape discomfort. Even at times where we are going after pleasure and positive events, our drive often revolves around freeing ourselves from the discomfort of wanting.

      In truth, we will turn to social media, emails, video games, and Netflix not necessarily for the pleasure that they provide, but because of how they free us from psychological discomfort within. While it provides temporary relief, it is an unhealthy way to deal with your life. Even though you can’t control all outside situations and occurrences, you can control how you react to those circumstances.

      Various studies show that when humans don’t give into an urge, craving or impulse, it can trigger rumination and make the desire grow even stronger. So, when you eventually give in, your reward is increased, which can turn quickly into an undesired habit.

      Identify the Feeling or Thought Behind Your Urge

      When you find yourself wanting to give into your distraction, stop and become familiar with the internal trigger. Are you feeling anxious, overtired, or maybe you’re underprepared for the task at hand?

      Write Your Feelings Down

      Using a log and writing down the time of day and what you were doing, along with the feeling that accompanies it. Doing so will help you link your own behaviors with your internal triggers, which will help you better notice the thoughts and feelings that precede certain behaviors and better manage them.

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      Get Curious and Explore Your Feelings and Sensations

      Have a sense of curiosity towards your feelings. Notice if you have butterflies in your stomach, or a tightening in your muscles.

      2. Make Time for Traction

      Planning is critical to beating distractions, because if you don’t plan your day, surely someone else will! When you’re not clear on how you want to deal with your time and attention, anything and everything becomes a potential distraction.

      First, you need to turn your values into time. Of course, many of us want to spend more time with things that matter most to us: our family, friends and hobbies. But, we often fail to do so because we don’t make time for them in our day.

      So, you must acquire the attributes and values of the person you want to become.

      Examples might include becoming a contributing member of a team, spending quality time with your children, jumping into continuing education, becoming physically fit, or giving back to your community. Many of us wish to subscribe to these values, but without making the time to take actions to live them out, they’re simply empty aspirations.

      Timebox Your Schedule

      Timeboxing is, in my opinion, the most effective way to ensure time for your values. Timeboxing is the process of deciding what you’re going to do and exactly when you’re going to do it, helping you become indistractable.

      You simply create a daily calendar template for how to spend your time, so that you have no white space in your day. It isn’t important what you have planned to do, as long as you stick to it. If you feel a need to scroll through social media, just make sure you have planned appropriately for it.

      Be sure to include 15 minutes per week to reflect and refine your calendar, improving it week by week. You can ask yourself: When did I do what I said I would do, and when did I get distracted?

      At times where you became distracted, note what triggered it and come up with a strategy to use the next time the distraction or urge arises. Also ask: Are there changes I can make to my calendar that will give me the time I need to better express my values?

      Synch Your Schedule With Others

      Once your ideal week has been planned, be sure to notify others of importance in your life. Make a clear intention to stick with your plans and involve those who matter most. This could be related to sharing household responsibilities, alerting your boss to your timeline intentions at work, or even scheduling a date with your partner.

      3. Combat External Technical Triggers

      Tech companies are adept at using external triggers to hack into our attention. There are countless ways they do so, but our smartphone use is fueled by many of these triggers.

      Research shows that ignoring a call or message can be just as distracting as responding to one! If used properly, though, you can take control and rely on these external triggers to remind you to follow through with what you planned.

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      To do so, simply ask whether the external trigger is serving you, or if you are serving it. If the trigger leads you to traction, keep it; if it leads you to distraction, get rid of it. A few things to consider:

      1. Remove any and all apps you no longer need.
      2. Remove any apps that you enjoy, but you can use on your computer instead.
      3. Reduce the clutter on your home screen by rearranging the apps on your phone.
      4. Remove notification settings for each app that you don’t need updates on (social media, etc.).

      4. Make a Pact to Prevent Distractions

      Forethought is the antidote to impulsivity and key to becoming indistractable. Therefore, it’s useful to pre-commit to something in order to overcome distraction.

      We cement these decisions far in advance of any temptations and distractions that may come our way. This should only be undertaken after you have followed the other three steps and learned to manage internal triggers, make time for traction, and reduce external triggers.

      Here are the three types of pacts:

      Effort Pact

      This is a kind of pre-commitment that requires you to increase the amount of effort towards something you would rather not do. Increasing your effort forces you make the decision as to whether the distraction is really worth it or not. Some great apps that can help you with this include SelfControl, Forest, and Freedom.

      Price Pact

      This pact puts money on the line, where you get to keep your money if you follow through with your intended behavior, and if you get distracted, you lose your funds.

      I committed to a price pact when finishing the first draft of my book, promising an accountability partner $10,000 if I failed to finish my draft by the set deadline. This was an incentive for me to finish writing my book and keep my money.

      Identity Pact

      This is the method of using your self-image to impact your behavior and become indistractable. By deciding on and undertaking a new identity, you will empower yourself to make decisions based on who you believe you are. Think about vegetarians—they do not have to expend much willpower to avoid eating meat because they have committed to that as part of their identity.

      To become a person who is indistractable, stop telling yourself you are a person with a “short attention span” or an “addictive personality.” Rather, tell yourself, “I am indistractable.” If you say to yourself that you are easily distracted, it instantly becomes a truth. Yet, if you commit to believing that you are indistractable, you will immediately begin to implement these strategies, which will empower you to conquer any distraction that comes your way.

      Easy to Use Tools That Help You Stay Focused

      Technology doesn’t have to be the enemy if you’re looking to become more focused and avoid distractions. Some anti-distraction tools and apps help keep you focused by blocking out possible causes for distraction.

      You might be the sort of person who faces distraction at work, or you just can’t make yourself sit down at your desk and get to work, but there’s always hope. Here are some of the best tools that remove distractions and bring out your best potential.

      1. Dewo

      This apps blocks all distracting social media apps automatically, keeping you free from notifications and the constant light-up of your screen. The best part of Dewo is that it gets accustomed to your focus patterns and can even go on ‘automatic’ mode for you.

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      You can ask the app to schedule meetings and appointments for people in your contacts, and it simply picks the most convenient time for you that won’t interfere with your focus schedule.

      2. Freedom

      The Freedom app, much contrary to its name, restricts websites and locks up the internet during focus hours. Once you’ve made up your mind to lock up apps then it won’t let you access them regardless of how you feel later.

      For those who find themselves distracted even on their laptop, this app will work on the computer as well. Most people may consider these methods ruthless, but they are incredibly effective.

      3. Focusme

      Readers who are looking for an app that helps them create healthy work patterns, minimize distraction, block attractive sites, and much more – FocusMe is the perfect app for you. This app helps block out certain apps and sites for selected periods.

      It also gets used to the owner’s work ethic and gives helpful tips and suggestions on what apps to block and when to take breaks. This increases productivity and reduces the chances of dissatisfaction and boredom.

      The Bottom Line

      To become indistractable, you don’t need to have superpowers. It’s truly as easy as following the few steps mentioned above. When you master internal triggers, make time for traction, dissolve any extraneous external triggers, and prevent distractions by creating pacts, you will reshape your entire life.

      However, the important part is to understand that to make a difference, you need to act now. There is no better time to regain control over your life than the present. Taking things step-by-step helps you sustainably achieve your goals. You want to be indistractable for the rest of your life, not just for the week.

      Once you have the ability to see tasks to the end after having committed to them, nothing in life can derail you from your path. This is why indistractability is important, it disciplines you to deal with the harsh realities of life.

      Here are some tips on how to work on your traction just as you finish reading this article.

      • Go through your apps and remove ones that are absolutely unnecessary to your life and goal. You may keep only two that you use for games or recreation.
      • Practice mindfulness through keeping a diary, making observations about your day, having a to-do list, and much more.
      • Whenever you find yourself distracted, re-evaluate the place of that distraction in your life and how it implicates your life’s goals.

      More to Help You Stay Focused

      Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Nir Eyal, Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life

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