Do you find that your days tend to slip away with little accomplished, and you find yourself looking up at the clock at the end of each day thinking, “where the heck did the time go, and what did I get done today?” If so, the key to success in getting more out of your time and increasing your productivity is to take some of that scarce, precious time and spend it on planning. Spending just five minutes planning out tomorrow at the end of today and a slightly bigger chunk of time, about fifteen minutes, at the beginning of each week looking at the week ahead is critical to establishing the highest and best use of your time each day.
Often, I hear busy people lament, “I don’t have time to plan!” And my response is always, “you don’t have time not to plan!” Just taking a few minutes at the end of the day to look at the next day can help you close down all the tabs in your mind and help you to begin the next day with a solid plan. Don’t wait until the morning to do it. By then, your day has already begun and things can start to spin out of control before you’ve barely started! Look at tomorrow, and take a peek at the next two days, as well. Time management guru Julie Morgenstern calls this “Plan Tomorrow +2.” It’s also important to establish some longer planning time before the next week begins. Many people find Sunday afternoon or evening to be a great time to do this. Anticipating a busy weekend of non-work activities? Some folks love to clear their minds for the weekend ahead by doing their next week’s planning at the end of the day on Friday. Looking ahead at the week to come, checking your calendar for scheduled commitments, pulling tasks from your to-do list, and scheduling a specific time each day for them to be accomplished is crucial to efficient time management. If those tasks from your list aren’t written into your calendar, the odds are that they will never get done. It also relieves that “Monday morning is coming” anxiety that often keeps us from sleeping well on Sunday night!
During your daily planning time, you need to consider the fact that unexpected things can crop up during your day which may interfere with what you had planned to do. It’s important to reschedule those uncompleted tasks into a specific time on another day. That’s why looking ahead just a couple of days can help manage those unexpected issues and give them another place to live in your schedule.
At the beginning of each month, take some extra planning time to establish broader-based goals that can then be broken down into weekly and monthly tasks. Once you establish the habit of regular planning time and writing down your goals and how you plan to accomplish them each day, you will be amazed at how much more productive you will be!