How To Plan Your Day To Become Super Productive

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After an exhausting day at work, you settle on your sofa to binge Game of Thrones, but your roughened throat demands a glass of water. You drag yourself to the kitchen, but a chill runs down your spine as you step in. 

Piles of dirty dishes lay in this sink. With a downcast face, you turn around right away and crawl back onto your sofa. Bzz… Your Phone Beeps with a notification – Project deadline tomorrow. Unable to digest any of this you end up bingeing Netflix until you pass out.

Ever felt choked down by your jobs and responsibilities? Felt craving for more time? You cannot expect the brain to juggle all your tasks. What can we do?

Planning your days could be the solution. Why? 

“To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.”

-Leonard Bernstein

How can you plan your day?

Rules to follow(Do’s and don’ts)

Planning your days is not the mere act of filling your calendar with tons of tasks. It is more nuanced than that. I’ll teach you how and how not to plan your days. 

1. Don’t – Micro-plan weeks ahead.

I learnt this the hard way. For over 7 years of my life(from grade 8 to my third year of college). I wasted a ton of time doing this. This how it usually goes,

I would get super motivated at times and plan for the next 2 months. My calendar would be packed with ambitious goals, habits to build and tasks to complete. Not even once I have passed day one as per my schedule. 

They always end up crumbling like a stack of dominos. Why?

Every day is new and with new days come different challenges. But my schedule eliminated the factor of adaptation, and new hurdles kept piling in on the other end forcing me to quit. From then on, I’ve started planning on a day-to-day basis with a very vague plan for the upcoming weeks and the month. 

My vague plan for a month looks something like – Write 5 posts in October 2020 for multiple platforms. If I wanted to be a bit more specific, I segregate posts depending on the platforms I’m posting them in. That’s it.

Micro-planning weeks ahead is a subtle form of procrastination. Don’t even try. 

2. Do – Plan your day the night before

You kick it, try to pull it up with substantial effort, but the rusted doors of your eyes barely move an inch. But by some miracle, you open your eyes. You’re now given with three options,

a. Spend the first 45 minutes ogling at the perfect lives of people on Instagram.

b. Jump into a productive day ASAP and make the most of that day.

c. Act as if the sun hasn’t come up by 8 in the morning and go back to sleep.

Planning your day gives a headstart and sets you in the right direction.

3. Don’t – Go down the path of fancy productivity apps.

Something I’m not proud to admit. I used to spend hours searching for the best habit tracker, to-do or calendar app. This one of the biggest time-sinks and doesn’t equal optimizing yourself for productivity.

Its procrastination working undercover. Nobody is gonna give you a trophy for using the best calendar. Quit stalling and work as if your ass is on fire. 

4. Do – Be flexible with your time.

This goes hand in hand with micro-planning. Why? Flexible plans allow you to adapt, but strict ones don’t. Though they look great on paper. Instead of making you productive, strict schedules end up making you overwhelmed. Here’s an example of my day with and without strict plans.

Plan your day - Strict plan 1
Strict plan 2
The strict plan

Filling those tiny gaps makes your schedule more cluttered, leaving no room for error.

This is how the same plan looks like without micro-management.

Flexible plan
Flexible plan

The second one is more refined and easier on your brain.

If I find myself distracted during my writing time in the mornings, I can shift it to my evenings with my workouts. Or if I woke up late at 11 am. I can schedule my writing in my afternoons and study in the late evenings. Flexibility is the key to successful planning. 

5. Do – Plan your shut-eye schedules.

Let me spit out some hard truths for you. Unless you start hustling by 4 am, you’re setting yourself for failure. You can do this. The universe wants to succeed. Sacrifice your sleep, work on…(Okay I’m gonna stop) 

What? For a moment, I wanted to pretend to be a motivational speaker who thinks waking at 4 am is life-changing.

Everyone’s life differs. Work shifts, diet, responsibilities etc… I would be a dumbass to tell you to wake early at 4 am. But I’ll give a general overview of being an early riser.

Early rising gives you more time for yourself. Your brain is energized ready to tackle anything thrown at it, and lesser people demand your attention. But as the day passes on things change. 

You’ve less time for yourself, people require you and your brain gets fatigued. But if you can pull off being a night owl and find yourself productive between 11 pm – 2 am hats off pal! 

And by rising early, I don’t mean 4 am or even 6 am. If you wish to work out in the morning waking at 6.45 am is sufficient to get you ready for your 9 am job. Whatever you do, make sure you get 6-8 hours of deep sleep every day. 

zzz…zzz…

Once you’ve decided your sleep time schedule your bedtime. This helps you get a perspective of how much time you have and helps you stick with a consistent plan. 

6. Do – Buffer time

Did you ever allocate an hour to a project only by the end of it finding yourself not even finishing half of it? We’re poor estimators in predicting the time required to complete a task. 

To avoid this always add 50% (or at least 30%) of extra time to your prioritized time. If you wish to work on a project for 2 hours, allocate 3. This has two benefits,

  1. You find the extra time useful to finish your task
  2. You complete your work before the buffer and have the free buffer time in your hands which you can use to relax or for other obligations.

How to plan your day?

Here are the tools we’re gonna use to plan our days. 2 to-do list apps, 1 personal diary/ journaling app and 8 calendars. (Just kiddin’)

 A paper, a pen and a Google calendar are sufficient. Even the last one is optional, but I find Google Calendar more flexible.

To plan your days, you’re gonna split your 24 hours into parts. I usually divide my days into the following,

  1. Time for entertainment
  2. Time for work
  3. Time for habits 

Why? Your schedule should address various facets of your life. I’ll guide you step by step.

STEP 1: Fix your entertainment time. It’s here you’re free to do anything except work(unless it’s an emergency). I usually keep it between 6 pm – 9 pm. 

My current schedule looks like this

6 am = Waketime

6 pm – 9 pm = Entertainment

11 pm = Sleep time

STEP 2: Now decide your working hours. My working hours are between 6 am – 4.30 pm. Not that I am going to work all this time, but I complete my major tasks here. This is where a to-do list comes in handy. 

Take a sheet of paper and write in 5 tasks. And I classify them into three types,

1.The Family meal – These are tasks that are hard and urgent, choose one. Ex: Writing a 1000-word essay

2. The Burger – These are tasks that are less demanding, not urgent, but should be attended to. Choose one. Ex: Study the laws of motion.

3. The French Fries – The menial tasks that aren’t urgent and least demanding come here. Choose 1 – 3 of them. Ex: Taking your dog for a walk, send an email, water your plants.

Plan the Family meal and Burger tasks into your calendar. Now my schedule looks like this,

5.45 am = Waketime

6 am – 7.30 am = Write a 1000-word essay

10.30 am – 12.30 pm = Study the laws of motion

6 pm – 9 pm = Entertainment

11. 30 pm = Sleep time

I recommend you to schedule 1 of your french fries task at most(Not any more than that).

STEP 3: Plan your habits time. As Habit guru James Clear puts it “you’re more likely to follow through a habit if you fix a separate time for it”. I am working on exercising and reading. Note: I recommend scheduling not more than two habits at once. This is how my schedule becomes

5.45 am = Waketime

6 am – 7.30 am = Write a 1000-word essay

10.30 am – 12.30 am = Study the laws of motion

5.00 pm – 5.30 pm = Exercising

6 pm – 9 pm = Entertainment

9 pm – 10.30 pm = Reading

10.30 pm = Sleep time

That’s it. All it takes is 10 minutes if you’re aware of the caveats.

A note on productivity

See productivity is a personal thing. Just because somebody works at 4 in the morning doesn’t mean it has to work for you. You have to find your own time. Keep experimenting. This is where planning comes in handy. Design your work environments to avoid distractions at all costs. By no means I claim this is a fail-proof strategy, but I promise this is a great start for getting things done.

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