Day Planning

Why is day planning important?

Primarily, you will have more contentment that your life is under control. You will find the time to get more things done, resulting in feeling less stressful. You can expect your relationships to improve with your increased effectiveness. Beware that your relationships can deteriorate if you do not give those relationships the priority they deserve. That should be accomplished by proper prioritization, but I personally think day planning can go too far if people feel slighted by your selfish application of these concepts.

Remember that the Bible commands us to help others. Jesus spent His spare time helping those who were needy, disadvantaged and poor. Even psychologists realize that the secret to happiness is helping others and living in the moment. We dissect this in our Happiness Module.

Overall time management can alter your success in any area where you practice it. Very few people succeed without some variety of time management. Realize that this is not easy. However, the main skill required is to take action. Only you can control your life!

Where do we start?

The key to successful day planning is like successful life management. Time management is the overall application of individual principles into one life management process. All of these areas of our life require the beginning component, focus.

Focus is required to change or improve how we live. We need to start by really focusing on what is important to us, so we can control time toward those areas of our life. We must always focus on what is important to us. Otherwise, time manages us. We think focus is the first element to master, since all other elements of day planning, time management and life management require it.

If you are a veteran of time management, you can get benefit from reviewing and recommitting to it, if necessary. You might also pick up some new ideas. It should be a fairly easy exercise. However, if you are new to time management, you need to understand that this will not be easy.

Separate components of our life management system will be required to know in order to maximize the focus skill. Vision, mission, goals, objectives, SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) must all be incorporated into your actions. Be sure to review those sections of our system.

Remember why we are focusing. We want our actions to have the best results to improve our lives.

Why do we prioritize?

Time management is about your actions exclusively. It is not something external that happens to you, even though you do keep others at the forefront of your actions. It is the act of taking control of the scarce resource of those progressive 24 hour days. Planning is key to your success. Think carefully about what you’re going to do. Don’t just jump in anywhere and cross your fingers that things will work out.

Always put it in writing. If you try to remember it, you won’t. Then, you will have to stumble across it again, later. That wastes time and limits productivity. Every aspect must be written down, whether we are day planning, in time management or life management. Having everything in writing frees you up not to worry. You can’t forget anything if it is written down.

You need to prioritize to bring your plans to life. Priorities exist in order, from most important to least important. You may want to do the most important things first. Notice that I do the most important things when I perform best. For me, that is early morning and late afternoon.

In any case, do not let the urgent tasks push out your important tasks. Always do the tasks in the important/not urgent quadrant over the urgent/not important quadrant. If you can delegate the urgent and not important tasks, that is best. Otherwise, negotiate to try to eliminate urgent and not important tasks. I never put anything in the urgent and not important quadrant anymore. I always seem to find more than enough of that without trying.

Here are ways to prioritize:
• Make To Do lists and follow them. Do the most important things first.
• Follow the 80/20 Rule. 80% of your success comes from 20% of your projects, so focus 80% of your action on your top 20% tasks.
• Don’t plan too tightly. People do not want to be secondary to your day plan.
• Simplify wherever you can.
• Do an initial time study of all your time spent. Repeat that frequently, if you feel you lost control of your time management.
• Defend your calendar. Schedule important things, including your own personal time, and stick to it when it does not hurt someone else.

Plan

If you don’t know where you are going, you are likely to get there. Do begin with the end in mind. Have your goals, objectives, vision and mission determine your action plans and action steps. Focus on actions to take.

I use mind maps personally. Mind maps allow my brain to sort and organize my thoughts best. The important thing about brainstorming is that it becomes an action plan at some point, broken down into action steps or tasks. Thebrain.com is a terrific free tool to do that electronically, and I use that. Sometimes, in an interactive brainstorming, I just write it all down temporarily, but I always save them online.

What day planning tool should you use? That depends on your personal circumstances. I use the itmh.org virtual office. It is far better for me than my old paper system. I am in my home office almost every day to plan there.

Julie uses her phone, and it works great for her. I can vouch for a paper system, as I used that for over 20 years. This is a personal decision for you to make. However, it is important to note that you cannot have several systems. That is just a waste of time. Sure, you can print out your online system when necessary, but don’t keep two sets of books. Auditors hate that.

They all work exactly as well as you apply them. Rather than the popular letter and number system, I wrote my tasks in the proper quadrant, then numbered them. This is a small version of my full page day planning master sheet. Across the top are two columns – important/ not important. Down the side are two rows – urgent/not urgent. That gives you a four quadrant page to list your tasks.

In your day planner, keep your values, vision, goals, projects, appointments, lists, people to contact, etc. I have tabs for each item in mine.

Organize

Everyone who is disorganized wastes time and energy looking for things. Plus, their clutter can tick off other people who live and work with them.
Organization applies to paper and stuff. It is a complete system, not either/or.

Tips for getting your stuff under control include:
• Have a place for everything.
• End the day by putting everything in its place. That gives the start of the next day a good feeling.
• Manage clutter. Regularly toss, sell or give away items you no longer need and use.
• Make a de-cluttering schedule and follow it, even if it’s only 10 minutes a day or 1 hour a week.
• Manage paper by Tossing, Delegating, Doing, Following Up, or Filing. Notice that Piling is not an option. Try (99%) to only handle a piece of paper once. Try to do it as your first option. Files can get out of hand, so don’t file unnecessarily and clean out files periodically. And no scanning does not eliminate the problem. You just end up with a cluttered computer. Filing is so important that we have a separate Filing Component.
• Following up is a critical skill. Never miss deadlines. Put upcoming items in a month/day folder, if that is necessary for you. Then move them to a weekly or daily folder the beginning of each month. I simply put the reminder in my planner and put the paper in the correct file. Neither process is preferable. It is your choice which way to go.
• Keep your desk clean.

Act with purpose and conviction

As that wise man said, “Do or do not. There is no try.”

Most of us over-prepare, afraid to step out and make a mistake. There is no perfect, especially on the Internet, which constantly changes. These concepts will prepare you well, but you’ve got to do things, not just study and read about them.

Think Results

Here are suggestions to keep focused on results and in action:
• Bite off manageable chunks, depending on your own resources, and implement.
• Ask for help from other effective managers if you need it. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Others
have probably faced the same issue and will gladly tell you what they did to solve it.
• Celebrate small wins. Pat yourself on the back along the way. Don’t keep your success on your priorities a moving target you never reach.

Minimize

Success also depends on not doing some things.

Our lives are full of things that sidetrack us and keep us from accomplishing all we intend to do. Some distractions are time wasters and should be reduced or eliminated. Others are important commitments that need to be honored and managed fairly for all parties involved.

Here’s advice from time management experts on what to minimize:
• Overcome chronic procrastination. Break projects into smaller chunks, do the hardest part of your task first, block out 30 minutes of uninterrupted time each day.
• Learn to say no. Being successful isn’t a popularity contest. Don’t agree to put more on your already-full plate just to please someone else. Importantly, learn to say NO to yourself, specially to that insistent little voice that keeps telling you that you aren’t doing enough.
• Reduce information overload by canceling subscriptions, getting off mailing lists, and reducing your reading pile.
• Minimize interruptions by using Caller ID, checking email less, and setting aside a specific time slot for incoming calls. If you work at home and have children, make agreements with them; they don’t interrupt you at specified times in return for you spending focused time with them at other specified times. Then hold everyone accountable for their part of the bargain.

Analyze

You’ll hear it often, “test, test, test.” Results are good. Great results are better. But you’ll never know if you aren’t testing.

Anything that can be measured can be improved. All time management experts say the same thing.

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