Planning your day helps provide structure to it. Psychologically, we tend to perform better with boundaries such as schedules. Research in The Journal of Organizational Behavior found that we are even more creative with structured conditions. Here are some tips to plan your day.
- Know your goals. Limit the number of tasks you tackle and make them items that will move you closer to your goals.
- Look ahead. Your day is just one part of your week and month. Keep future deadlines and needs in mind.
- Be specific and schedule everything. Don’t hide work by oversimplifying time-consuming tasks. Schedule your personal needs so they don’t get lost in your day.
- Be realistic with your time. You only have 24 hours in a day. Plan for a couple of “big” or time-consuming tasks and a few smaller tasks for your day. When you are asked to do something in the future, remember that even if your calendar looks clear, you will be as busy then as you are today. Ask yourself if you’d be willing to meet that commitment tomorrow, knowing how busy you are today.
- Tackle the unpleasant first. As the day progresses, we have less energy or motivation to complete tasks and, with each decision we make during the day, our energy and willpower diminish, so tackle the least pleasant or most important task first thing in the morning.
- Be flexible. Mark things that can’t be moved to another day so you know what must be done, no matter what. Knowing where there are gaps in your day will make it easier to make room for the unexpected.
- Review and revise. At the end of the day, review your entire day, asking what worked, where did you get distracted and what could help you be more productive tomorrow.
Using a Calendar
Using a calendar makes it easy to see your day or week so you know where your time goes. It helps you budget time so you can manage your day wisely and helps to limit indecision throughout the day.
- Time blocking: Write down all you need to do, create groups of like or similar tasks and add blocks of time for each grouping.
- Theme days: When you have a lot of areas of responsibility that all require attention, dedicate a day each week to one responsibility. This helps you create a pattern of work and lessens the cognitive load of switching from task to task throughout the day.
Lists focus on tasks, not the time they take in your day. They are rarely done, and if you have a long, unfinished list, it may contribute to stress. Still, lists can be a good way to track multiple tracks of work.
- Ivy Lee Method: This is a 100-year-old time management method where you write down up to six of the most important tasks you want to accomplish each day. Prioritize them and then work on them one at a time. Anything that is incomplete is moved to the next day.
- “Do one thing”: Using your main to-do list, select one thing and write it on a note where you can see it. Focus on completing that task before you move on to anything else.
Learn more about the value of planning your day in this Blue Cross® Virtual Well-Being webinar. You can also sign up for future employer-focused and general interest webinars here, where you’ll find past sessions and resources. Related:
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- How to Promote a Healthy Work Environment During the Pandemic
- Creating Micro Habits to Achieve Big Goals
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