How I Plan My Day

Once I’m up in the morning, I have a routine (generally helpful) that includes a few minutes looking over the schedule and tasks for the day. This allows me to plan my approach from the start. While thinking through the plan one day, I thought it might be helpful to document what the process contains for the benefit of all.

*Often I take a look at my planner on my way out the door for a walk, since I find it helpful to think and walk. This doesn’t work for everyone, but it may be a way to multi-task for some. If you need to sit down and focus entirely on the page, please do that. Once I walk back in the door, I write down any adjustments needed.

On this particular day, I had three things scheduled and three priorities for activities. The first appointment was at 2:00, then 4:00, then 6:00, so I had hours to flex before getting where I needed to be…but not a lot of time later in the day. The tasks that needed to be tackled were varied: laundry, desk work, and raking hay.

First I considered priorities. The hay had to be baled by that night, since rain was forecasted for the next day. The desk work needed to be at least partially completed, since the due date was the next day and there wasn’t a lot of time to work on it the next day. The laundry just generally needs to be done, although we can always survive for a day or two without it.

Then I considered logistics. Although the hay was the primary importance, the dew needed to dry before I could tackle it. Desk work and laundry could be done before the raking, while the sun did its work. If I had time after raking, I might be able to fit in some more work, but if not, I had at least completed what was necessary. This also worked well because my mental energy would be better first thing, more than after working outside for a few hours.

* I have found the best time for me to do laundry is while doing work at my desk. The machine alerts prod me up out of the chair at regular intervals, which is healthier than sitting for hours. Since transferring laundry takes about 0.00000001% of mental capacity, I can retain my train of thought and jump back into the project easily when I get back.

One thing I check for appointments is that I have everything prepared. In this case, books were in the truck already and a bag was packed by the door, so I was set. Any other preparation would have had to fit into the morning also.

I also checked the task list for the week to ensure I was aware of possible errands I could run between appointments. Those were scheduled with enough margin that I would probably have some time — though not a lot — in between, and I wanted to be prepared to fit a stop in on the way home.

*Not surprisingly, the day did not go as planned! However, because I was clear on my priorities, the logistics could bend to work around what was absolutely necessary. The hay got baled, the work got done in time, the laundry was clean-but-not-folded, two appointments were attended, and no errands were crossed off the list.

The 3 Step Planner

This is not a paid endorsement. After recommendation from a friend, I simply wanted to check out this planner and share thoughts with you.

The planner is full page sized. You order a new one ($29) for every six months (available here), and the design is sleek and simple. If you like florals and embellishments, this will not fit the bill, but I enjoyed the purposeful absence of visual clutter.

There is plenty of room to write, and the system is week by week — which is my preferred way of dealing with my schedule. Big win on the first page (instructions) where the user is encouraged to put future tasks out on future weeks as soon as they come up, instead of trying to remember them until then.

Before each month you have the opportunity to list your 5 “non-negotiables” or priorities. That is a good opportunity to pause and think for a minute before diving into the details.

There is a full month spread, so you are able to keep track of big schedule stuff at a glance, but then the pages turn to the 3-step process for each week. First, write out everything you need to do for the week. Then categorize it on the next page.

Finally, you turn to the week spread and schedule your tasks and time commitments. I found that two different colors works best for me in this format, to keep appointments with others (a little more inflexible) and my own time allocation (much more flexible) separate. Erasable pens are my choice here also. Things change!

These three steps do require you to write the same things 3 times each week. If that inefficiency is not helpful, you could easily skip the dump page and put everything directly in the categories. Since there are only 3, the sorting will not be overwhelming as you go.

If you need to push anything to the next week, that is easily done. Otherwise, you will complete your planning at the end of each week for the next week. Step-by-step, you march through the year.

Pros:

  • Simple, simple, simple
  • Plenty of space to write
  • Focus on priorities
  • Weekly reset built in
  • Super flexible
  • Did I say beautifully simple?

Cons:

  • $60+/year (although that is a completely reasonable price for a good planner)
  • No clear contrast between time blocks and to-dos (i.e., I don’t need to set aside two solid hours for laundry, but I do need to remember to fit it in during the day)
  • No pockets or folders to collect odd pieces of paper/receipts/invites/etc.
  • Large size
  • Writing the same thing multiple times each week