Refresh: Planning Your Day

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. There are only 24 hours in any given day. How might we use them best?

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. In a perfect world everything that needs to get done gets done. We all know that doesn’t necessarily happen! Know what is most important, and focus 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!

2021 Goals

Will you make some goals for the coming new year? It may be a way to intentionally grow or strengthen a weakness. Here’s a path you can follow to make the most of your effort.

Examine your responsibilities. As you look through each segment of your life, consider what your priorities are and what could be even better.

Imagine a step forward in each area of your life. You may come up with a list that includes things like this:

  • Spiritual – Need to find concentrated prayer time rather than sporadic and occasional
  • Home – Start meal planning sooner than 15 minutes before each meal
  • Church – Exercise hospitality
  • Education – Take a class at the rec center to learn a new skill
  • Community – Volunteer at a local organization
  • Health – Walk 10,000 steps a day

As you review this list of possible steps forward in each arena, look at them in light of your current life. You know that a major work project is starting mid-January, so extra classes will probably not fit well with the extra effort needed there. You also decide to hold off on the volunteering until you do more research and find a good fit.

Looking at the remaining options, you feel they are equally attainable; so now it is a matter of choosing which one you will do now. Sometimes two work together well, as prayer and hospitality can support each other as you are motivated to pray for those you welcome into your home. Other times, a single focus would be better, allowing you to pinpoint your effort and set yourself up for success.

Remember: Don’t worry about the possibilities you don’t choose. They put you ahead of schedule the next time you sit down to evaluate. Remember that one step forward is better than none. And I assure you, no one can do everything all at once. Steady, gradual improvement over time will add up.

So let’s say you choose prayer and walking as your immediate goals. Great! Now how will you go about reaching those goals?

Start on the action plan. Brainstorm ideas that would support your success.

Is getting up a bit earlier enough to create the time in your day for prayer? Would a prayer journal help keep you on task and visibly show daily time? Do you need to hire a sitter or teach young children quiet time? Write done your ideas so you can choose what will work best for you.

Decide how you might like to get your steps in. Does early morning work best? Do you already have a device or app to track your steps? What habits need to change, such as where you park at a store or church? Can you combine your prayer and walking time, which would let each goal support the other?

Pick the ideas that you think will work best. Set up your reminders and schedule, as needed. Communicate any changes that you may need others to know.

Now you can work the plan you created! You have a goal and know the steps you need to take to reach it.