Planning your day seems so simple, until you attempt to do it.
Even harder is planning your day EVERY DAY.
I personally have always been a “go with the flow” kind of person until I realized “the flow” was actually a riptide ruining my life.
Through a lot of pain, research, discipline, and the right tools, I’ve learned how to plan out my individual days (almost) every single day, and with the guide written here and a bit of persistence, you can too.
Let’s jump right in.
1: Have A Plan For Your Life
Okay, easier said than done.
I know planning for your day, much less your LIFE, seems daunting but it is possible and not too hard.
One great recommendation to plan your future is Jordan Peterson’s Future Authoring program.
It methodically guides you through a series of questions to help you build a vision of what your ideal future would look like.
On top of that, it has you write out what your life would look like in the future if you just continued living as you do now (usually no where great).
If you don’t want to spend the money on the program, you can easily take some time and answer these few questions yourself:
- In 3-5 years from now, if you were living an ideal life, what would your typical days look like? What’s your health look like? Your career or financial situation? Relationships?
- In 3-5 years from now, if you maintained the same kind of days you have now, what would a typical day in your life look like? Where would you be living? What kind of work would you be doing? How would your health be?
With your future scenarios written…
You can now map a plan to reach your freshly minted ideal, using the “less than ideal future” answers to always keep the Fire of Motivation lit under your butt.
How do we do map it all out?
Plan everything. Plan the year, down to the months, down to the weeks, down to the days, down to the hour.
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When you have a clear picture in your mind of your future years, months, and weeks, writing your goals for your days becomes much easier.
Use your broader future goals to make precise daily goals.
2: Care About Yourself
I know, a guide to planning your day is telling you to plan out your entire life and care about yourself.
But these first two steps are crucial to keeping the habit going.
If you don’t particularly care about yourself, or even deep down dislike certain aspects of yourself, it leaves you at great risk to self-sabotage your efforts of creating a better life, even subconsciously.
One technique to avoid this subconscious pitfall is to plan your day as if it were someone else’s day. Someone you care about, someone you are responsible for, or someone you are advising on how they should live their life if they wanted to improve their situation.
This detachment will really help you create the most objectively productive days possible.
To not go into too much detail (as it is out of the scope of this guide), to care about yourself and like yourself you need to find meaning within your life.
Meaning is found through finding goals for yourself you want to achieve, and taking on the responsibility it takes to achieve them.
Step #1 on having a plan for your life can be a great start in identifying your goals.
3: Always Write & Avoid Planning In Your Head
Everyone looks for any excuse they can to not write anything down.
“Writing is pointless, I can just remember”
You ever try to start planning in your head?
Probably looked something like this:
You genuinely want to be more responsible, but the issue is you’re relying on a temporary motivation boost from your brain.
Just as fast as you thought up these great accomplishments you’re going to chase, later your brain will just as quickly “forget” and say “Hey, Cheese Balls!”
“An app is more convenient than a physical planner”
Apps are invisible and are one of 50+ apps you have sitting in your phone.
Just like the plans in your head are easy to “forget” or abandon, plans living in your phone will suffer the same fate more often than not.
It’s easy to unconsciously de-prioritize your responsibilities and forget to do them, especially when they’re new.
You need to keep your plans present in your mind all day long, keeping a physical planner you write in serves as a physical reminder of the responsibilities you laid out for yourself.
“Writing is pointless, I can type faster”
We’ve identified that always remembering your plans and keeping them at the front of your mind is vital to daily planning.
The Wall Street Journal found that students who wrote notes by hand had better memory retention, and remembered more vital information than those who typed their notes.
If the goal is to remember what we need to do and have no excuse to “forget” them, then writing is essential to effective planning.
4: Lay Out The 4 Types of “Do”
Our day is just the different things we do until it’s time to sleep.
To more easily plan out our day, we can separate our days into 4 types of “To Do” lists:
- Like to do (Fun)
- Have to do (Responsibilities)
- Want to do (Goals)
- Don’t want to do (Distractions)
The way our brains prioritize our days is 4 > 1 > 2 > 3, when we should be aiming for 2 > 3 > 1 > 4.
Distractions currently dominate our days, being aware of them helps us stop automatically wasting entire days on them.
When planning your day, list out everything for your upcoming day in these 4 categories to your daily tasks, and then slot the tasks into the specific hour of the day if you can.
Our Daily Planner separates each day into these categories for you, and even has a dedicated section for the MOST important thing to do today, and the most important thing to NOT DO today. Check it out to go into more detail on the 4 types of to-do lists.
5: Go Easy On Yourself, Especially At First
Change is hard, especially for your brain.
You’ve survived this long doing what you’ve always done, and your brain is validated when a day happens exactly as it expects it to. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that changing every aspect of your days going forward is met with subconscious resistance.
You can’t brute force your brain to change its nature in a single day, you have to ease yourself into the new way to do things.
You can’t demand too much of your brain suddenly. Your planner is not a tyrant and your schedule is not a prison sentence.
They’re here to help you and elevate you out of your current lifestyle.
To not burn out too fast and simply quit, when you start planning, do this:
- Don’t demand too much of yourself
- Consider the day a win if you complete even ONE important task
- Realize it’s about improvement, not perfection
- Don’t be discouraged if you miss a day or a week
- Don’t judge yourself harshly if you’re not improving as fast as you want
The most important thing to keep in mind here is to NEVER GIVE UP.
To summarize how to plan your day:
- Plan your life out – Plan your years, months, and weeks so you can more easily plan your days
- Care about yourself – Practice detachment and plan your day like it was for someone else you were advising
- Write your plans – Writing is superior to planning in your head or on an app
- Know the 4 To-Do’s – Break your days into things you like to do, things you have to do, things you want to do, and things you don’t want to do, then slot them into the hours of your day
- Go easy on yourself at first – If you get even ONE thing done in a day, that’s one more thing than you usually would and should be considered a win
You can make an entire planner right at home! We even have a guide to make your own planner.
This should be enough help to get you started.
The more you plan, write, and execute those plans, the more clear and attainable your ideal future will be.