A 20-Minute Plan For Managing Your Day

Ionce read that you should stop managing your time and start owning it. For a long time, I felt as if I was managing hour to hour, second to second. I felt as though the months flew by and I didn’t know where they’d gone. At work, I could go hours in my zone thinking it was 10 AM, only to realize it was time to leave and I hadn’t accomplished anything.

There is nothing worse than losing control of the seconds and minutes around you. As you know if you’ve read my previous articles, I have got so much better at handling my time in recent years. You girls seemed to like my plan for the morning and how I stay disciplined and wanted a bit more information on how I use my planner so I thought I’d share how I take just 20-minutes to own my time. Don’t forget to drop me a comment in the box below; I will answer all of your questions.

 0-5 Minutes

Grab a piece of paper and control the chaos

To own your time, you should take five minutes and write down absolutely everything you need to do. I concentrate on everything, no matter how minor. From renewing my insurance to meetings. Write it on a blank piece of paper or in a document that you can quickly discard. The main purpose of this is to stop that niggling feeling that you’re forgetting something and to be in control of your day.

Once you get it out of your head, your mind is clearer to focus on one thing at a time. You have a written record of what you need to do, instead of trusting your brain to store all that information by itself. Doing this at the beginning of every week will definitely help if you are feeling overwhelmed.

5-10 Minutes

Create structure for your biggest goals

Ok, for this part I rely on my Getting Things Done planner like no other. I go through my brain dump and I find the most important to-dos of my day. The things I can’t afford to forget, that need to happen to make it a successful workday.

You can do a lot in twenty minutes, for sure, but if you don’t start the day off with structure, you will not be owning your time and will quickly lose control of your day. Find out how I use psychological tricks to start my day off on the right foot here.

So what I do is write these key to-dos down on the left-hand side of my planner. But I leave a few lines underneath these big to-dos for the tasks that branch off from them. One key thing to remember when trying to manage your day is that you should plan for distractions, and realize that your big tasks can be made up of 15 small tasks.

I lay each task out with a small bullet point next to them, as I have a system to make sure I’m on top of everything. A bullet point becomes a cross when a task is completed. This simple trick helps me quickly see what I’ve done every day and what I need to carry over to the next day. In order to fully own every hour of the day, I will put a suggested time fame next to every task. If I don’t hit that time frame, I know I need to move on or speed up.

10-15 Minutes

Make sure your life is running smoothly

Now for my favorite part, on the right-hand side of The Getting Things Done planner it’s all about my life. I fill in my meals for the day which helps remind me what to pick up for lunch and stop me from reaching for unhealthy foods. I work down the planner, filling in anything from my brain dump that’s essential for my personal life. Having all those little reminders in one place is life-changing.

Something I’ve started doing for the future is working out every workday. I’m not going to lie to you and pretend I’m always motivated to do it, but writing it in my planner makes it real. I always tell myself that if someone sees my planner spread, I’ll feel guilty for not sticking to my exercise and daily water intake.

This part, though not essential to my working day, definitely keeps me on track. When both halves of your life are aligned, and the work/life balance is perfect, you will be so much more productive. And don’t forget all of the time you could own that’s outside of work. The morning commute to and from work is just as important as the rest of your day. The hours you spend in the evening can go by in the blink of an eye if you don’t own them. Motivate yourself to have everything on track and time will start to unfurl and slow down around you. You don’t want to race and rush through life but lose yourself in the beauty of those small moments.

15-20 Minutes

Don’t lose track of the small things

I take a few minutes to go back to the right-hand side of the page and write out the other little tasks that aren’t as much of a priority as the big ones but need to get done. If they take five minutes or half an hour I will log that, too. If they need to be pushed forward slightly to make room for something more important, I just write them in the next day’s page to keep me on top of every single day.

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Beth Macdonald

Managing Editor

I'm the Managing Editor of CGD. I'm a graduate of the Penguin Writer's Academy and have published a short story. I specialize in copywriting, digital marketing, and research.

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