If we’ve learned anything about the routines of productive people, it’s all in the planning. The right plan can take an unproductive week and turn it into a super successful one. There’s nothing I like more than sitting down for twenty minutes a day and planning my days out, even during the weekend. I’m a bit obsessive like that. I think my obsession with planning started with the Getting Things Done planner, which I use every day.
Finding a work/life balance is also all about how productive you are during the day. The more tasks you get ticked off, the more time you have to dedicate to yourself. Productivity is important, but it’s being zapped by modern technology, distractions, and complicated strategies for getting things done.
This time, get ahead of everything you need to do by understanding why you’re procrastinating and use the right tools to help you get ahead. Are you ready to plan the most productive day of your life?
Realize the importance of your time
You can write a to-do list as long as your arm, but are you realistically going to tick those to-dos off? Your time is valuable, which is why it’s so important to edit your to-do list first. I always do this by writing down time slots for the things I need to do, which is a great way to stay on track. On the left-hand page of your Getting Things Done planner, block off your day hour by hour and write down what you can realistically get done within an hour.
Some successful people plan their day in much more detail, relying on minute-by-minute updates of what they’ll be achieving. If you need this, create it. There are 1,440 minutes in the day, and how you use them is up to you. You can use a crude version of the bullet journalling system, putting a dot by every task you need to do, then migrate them with a ‘greater than’ sign (>). Every task you complete turn that small dot into a cross. Write everything you didn’t complete in tomorrow’s daily pages with a dot, and make better use of your time.
Beat your future self
I once read that our future selves are prone to sabotage. It’s true, think about how many times you leave workouts and healthy food up to your future self, and then when it comes to it, you never do it. In order to create your most productive day ever think ahead. How are you going to worm your way out of the productive tasks you’ve set for yourself?
If your productive day ends with a killer workout, make sure you do it. The best thing I ever did was write down my expectations in my fitness planner. Beyond that, actually taking progress photos and sticking them in the planner made a huge difference. Nobody wants to see the same photo, again and again, so you will make the changes you need to see. Be tough on yourself; it’s the only way you’re going to get things done.
Harness the Zeigarnik effect
When you have a lot of tasks on your mind, you are more likely to experience the Zeigarnik effect. This psychological phenomenon means that you are more likely to remember interrupted or incomplete tasks or events easier than those you have completed.
You can harness this effect to make yourself more productive. The uncomfortable feeling of an unfinished task can make you go back and complete it sooner. While if you have issues with multitasking, you should start to see each new task as an interruption of your main goal for the day, meaning you will suddenly find yourself working smarter to make sure you finish your one main goal. I always start the day by writing this one goal out on the top of my to-dos, and I have to finish it by the end of the day, which amps the pressure up slightly.
Never go anywhere without a brain dump
Start your day with a brain dump and thank me later. Bill Gates, Sheryl Sandberg and Richard Branson carry notebooks with them wherever they go. This helps them to build a productive day because they’re always writing down notes, strategies, ideas, and memos.
I swear by my notebook every single morning to dump everything out of my brain and onto paper. It stops me from getting distracted and lost in thought and helps me build my to-do list better. I will grab my notebook and write everything. From the to-dos I need to tick off, huge goals that are weighing on my mind, personal reminders, and even things that are floating around there about a book I want to read, or a movie I watched last night.
Then I will take my Getting Things Done planner and smooth this dump out, writing a structured, timely to-do list of all the important things and leaving the distractions shut away in my notebook. Every time something else pops in my head (like a reminder to shop for vacation clothes), I take my pen, write it in my Make It Happen notebook and remind myself that I will be making it happen at some point, just not now.
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Photo by Emily Weiss