Daily planning is critical if you want to change your life and change your habits. If your current routine doesn't include planning, that routine must be broken and reconstructed! The reality is that very few people take the needed 5 to 10 minutes at the beginning of the day or the end of the day that will save them hours, days, weeks, months, and years of waste and inefficiency. Most people just dive in or "show up." We jump right into email and become instantly derailed by fighting little fires instead of creating clear goals or a roadmap for the day. We need to sketch a daily plan, huddle with our team, adjust our daily plan if needed, and then use that daily plan as our roadmap that will keep us focused. When you have no roadmap, it is incredibly easy to allow distractions to control you.
I have observed many people experience success by planning tomorrow's roadmap at the end of the previous day. We tend to know where we left off with tasks and are ambitious. Others have experienced success engaging in daily planning in the morning before the day starts, after we are rested and have a clear mind. If you engage in that morning planning, I recommend coming in early to do so, before all the fires have already started. It is difficult to focus once the chaos begins, especially if you don't have a solid roadmap for the day.
How to Create Your Daily Plan
As a 20-plus-year paperless lawyer and consultant, as much as I love technology, I am a huge fan of using some form of paper for planning. Take, as an example, the simple index card. A pack of 100 index cards will cost you less than $3. Use one card per day, writing three to five tasks that you want to accomplish that day. Another way of articulating this is: "Today is a success if I get these three to five tasks completed." It is okay to rewrite items that are on your calendar, and if you get those three to five things completed, then get another card out and write down three more tasks!
Another great tool is a planning journal. Two of my favorites are Best Self-Journal (https://bestself.co/) and Panda Journal (https://pandaplanner.com/). Many people ask me why you should rewrite this information on paper if it is already on the calendar in Outlook. There are multiple reasons:
1. I want that roadmap for the day prominently in front of me so I can see it at all times. If it is out of sight, it is out of mind. That means for me that this list is near my keyboard. If the list is in Outlook, it is probably minimized most of the day.
2. I don't want to waste a big computer monitor to display my roadmap. I use my monitors for more useful functions like comparing documents, or displaying reference/subject matter relevant to projects that I am working on.
3. It is likely that events on my calendar were created weeks ago, so they are not freshly on my mind. It is helpful to rewrite those events.
4. It is helpful to time-block those events and tasks so you engage in realistic planning about how long it will take you that day.
5. Taking five minutes to write that daily plan serves as a contract with yourself to get those things done that day.
Here are examples of the Best-Self Journal and Panda Journal:
Whatever way you choose - index card or journal or something else - creating your daily plan before you get down to the business of the day will help you accomplish your goals more effectively.