You may not lay in bed each night and plan out the next day’s steps while you try to fall asleep, but we all benefit from at least a few minutes of thinking ahead. We all have a limited number of hours any given day. How best to use them?
At the most basic level, you need to know what needs to be done and when. Often a day contains scheduled commitments. Other tasks fit around those.
The most effective way to keep track of what you have to do is to keep a to-do list written down. Some times you can remember the three things for the day, but how often do needs change during the day? Writing it down frees up mental space and ensures you won’t forget as distractions keep coming. Whether you use an app, a planner, a calendar or a Post-It note, having a list will keep you on track.
Once you know what you need to do, you can consider your schedule for the day. Somethings are non-negotiable (i.e., school pick-up). Thinking through how long each item will take and how long your unscheduled blocks of time are will help you fit each task into your day.
Your energy level is also a factor. We tend to have daily cycles. Some are morning people; others are night owls. Sometimes you need to take time to get up to speed in the morning, so late morning is high production time. Know yourself, and then you can plan your more difficult tasks for when you have the most resources to handle them. Chores requiring less brainpower can be completed when you are winding down or warming up.
Prioritizing is valuable. Ideally everything that needs to get done gets done. We all know that doesn’t necessarily happen! You create margin in your day by knowing what is most important and focusing more time and attention on those things. Also, if you are not intentional about identifying and investing in your priorities, they will fall by the wayside.
Multitasking is often dangerous, but it can be used to your advantage. For instance, if a daily walk is a priority for you — great! Can you make that time even more productive and valuable? You can walk and think or talk without having your stride suffer. Perhaps you could use the time to memorize Scripture or keep up with edifying podcasts. Would this be a good time to spend with your children or mentees or friends, focused time on your relationship that also benefits your health?
If you have a sedentary task, you could combine it with laundry, which is not a completely all-consuming process. You can sit and work for an hour, then use the need to get up and switch a load to also satisfy your physical need for a stretch break. Then back at it for another hour. You finished a few hours of desk work AND a few loads of laundry. Now to fold it all…
Personally, I’m a big fan of being able to cross items off the list! It is motivating. Success breeds further success. Crossing off also helps visually more than check marks (unless you have isolated check boxes) because you can see in a split second what is done and what isn’t. A nice wide marker has even more impact. Then at the end of the day, you have the satisfaction of knowing what was accomplished and the help of knowing what may need to move to the next day.
Taking a few minutes prior to tackling each day to write it down, prioritize, map a path and mark your progress will make a difference!