We all have goals we want to accomplish. But too often, those goals get buried by the day-to-day hustle of life and work. Daily planning is an effective way to stay focused on your goals and the things that matter most to you.
Daily Planning is the process of writing down the things you intend to do or work on during a given day. That's the most practical way to define daily planning. It is a highly effective method for achieving goals because it helps you manage your time by outlining how you want to spend your time each day.
How many times have you thought about goals you want to achieve for the year or for the month, but then have trouble finding time to work on the goals you’ve set? Or, you end each work day feeling like you’ve been super busy but haven’t accomplished anything? Daily Planning can help resolve these time management issues. It has several benefits that will help you achieve more and feel more satisfied at the end of each day.
Why Is Daily Planning Important?
Daily habits of well-known successful people are often studied and imitated. And numerous books have been written about widely-used daily planning methods . Thus, there is a common belief that what we do on a day-to-day basis has a direct effect on our success.
Here’s a few reasons why daily planning is so important and beneficial:
1. Do What Matters
In my daily planning, I always make the task that is most important to me, the first thing on my schedule. This ensures that I get to work on my goals and priorities before juggling the other parts of my day. If I don’t carve out this time, I’ll get sucked into the never-ending tasks that arise each day such as responding to suppliers, product development, inventory management, customer support, and business financials. All of these things are very important to running my business. But I also have a desire to grow my business. And if I’m not intentional about how I spend my time, the day-to-day running of my business will consume all of my time and leave no room for me to do activities that grow my business.
Similarly, in my personal life, it’s my goal to spend more time with my family. I schedule this time at the end of my workday. And it’s also important for me to read and exercise every day. If I don’t carve out time for these activities, I’m more prone to work late or take on other commitments that will deprive me of the time I desire to spend with my family and create good habits. In essence, planning my day allows me to ensure that I accomplish things that matter most to me.
2. Feel Happier
An added benefit of being able to do things that are meaningful, is that we feel more satisfied with our lives. Studies have shown that people tend to have a greater sense of happiness at the end of a work day when they’ve done at least one thing that is important to them, even if they were only able to spend a few minutes doing it. Also, many people plan for positivity activities in their daily routine, such as reading motivational quotes, reciting affirmations, journaling or expressing gratitude. These things only take a few minutes of time, but have a profound impact on happiness.
3. Reduce Stress
When you take time to plan your activities for the day, it gives you a greater sense of control. It puts you in a proactive mode instead of a reactive mode, even if only for a portion of your day. Too often, we wake up and hit the ground running and dedicate the entire day to responding to the needs of our family members, our jobs, or circumstances that arise. Without a plan, we’re “winging it” every day allowing whatever happens and we simply react to it. Daily planning minimizes this and allows us to experience more control in how we spend our days.
And it helps you avoid over-committing yourself because it gives a clearer picture of what you desire for your day, what your day should look like and what you can handle. Your schedule will feel less hectic and you’ll feel less stressed.
In addition, a daily plan can help you designate time for yourself and your goals. You can plan time in your day for de-stressing activities like short breaks, drinking water and stretching. Many people incorporate “me-time” activities in their routine which includes things like journaling, prayer, meditation, exercising, leisure reading and hobbies.
Daily planning gives you a chance to reflect on your life and get clear on what you want to achieve. Our days are often filled with the busy-ness of work and family, or the mindlessness of downtime with social media and watching television. A daily planning routine gives us valuable reflection time. My daily planning process typically only takes about 5-10 minutes each day, but it’s meaningful time that helps keep my goals front and center in my life. It allows me to constantly assess what I want to accomplish, what’s working well for me and what I need to improve to get the most out of my day. This may seem like a small perk of daily planning, but research shows that the more frequently we evaluate the progress on our goals, the more likely we are to achieve them. So, reflection is a big factor for daily planning success.
5. Keep Goals on Track
We’ve all experienced setting goals for ourselves that we never end up working on because life gets in the way, or goals we simply give up on as time passes. One of the greatest benefits of daily planning is that it keeps you focused. It allows you to plan small steps each day that move you closer to your big goals.
Research has proven that we’re more likely to accomplish the goals we set if we have a plan. There’s a Harvard study that tracked students 10 years after graduation-- it found that students who had written goals with concrete plans earned 10 times more income than students who either had no goals, or goals with no plans. (Yes, 10 times more!!) Frequent planning keeps your goals in the forefront and helps you stay intentional about achieving the success you desire.
How Much Time Should I Spend on Daily Planning?
Daily planning doesn’t require much time at all, especially once you get into a regular routine. And your routine can consist of whatever you want.
Some people choose to only schedule their appointments, meetings and most important tasks, while leaving the rest of their schedule open for whatever else is on their to-do list. Some people schedule activities for every hour of the day using a process called “time blocking.” Some people schedule activities based on themes they’ve dedicated for days of the week, such as Content Planning on Mondays, Financial & Accounting tasks on Tuesdays, etc. There are many techniques and methods for how to plan your day and time.
Here’s an example of my typical daily planning routine. It takes about 5-10 minutes total and I do it at the end of my work day:
- Assess what I accomplished and what didn’t get done.
- Determine what to do with anything on my to-do list that didn’t get done. I’ll either move it to a future day, delete them or try to delegate them.
- Schedule my appointments, meetings and other commitments in my calendar.
- Determine what my most important task will be-- I call this “My Daily One”
- Add 3-5 more tasks on my to-do list depending on the time available in my schedule.
- List any habits I want to track for the day (usually drinking water, stretching and deep breathing).
I prefer to do my daily planning in the evening because I like to reflect on my day promptly when the day is done. Also, I like knowing what needs to be done before I go to sleep. For me, it helps to solidify my plans. Also, I’m not a morning person so the less I have to think about in the morning, the better. It’s most effective for me to have my plans created beforehand so I can wake up the next morning and just do it.
You can use this as an example of how to plan your day. But ultimately, do what works for you. Don’t overthink it. Don’t be afraid to try a few methods and activities in your daily planning process to see what works well for you. Assess your routine as needed and make adjustments promptly to make sure it’s effective for you and that your needs are being met.
It’s most important that your daily plan reflect at least one activity, no matter how small, that’ll help you reach one of your goals. Doing this will help you experience the benefit of feeling that your day was productive and meaningful.
What Do I Need To Start Daily Planning?
You don't need much to get going with your Daily Planning routine. All you essentially need is:
- a pen, or something to write with
- paper, or something to write on, and
- uninterrupted time to plan
To be most effective, you may also want to heed these daily planning tips:
1. Identify your goals and create a plan for achieving them. This will make it easier to break those plans into smaller steps that you can add to your daily schedule.
2. Make daily planning a routine. Try to do it at the same time each day in a place where you won’t be distracted or interrupted. And once you identify your process or method, try to apply it consistently every day.
3. Ensure that reflection and evaluation are part of your process so you can know what’s working and what needs adjustment.
4. Choose paper instead of phone apps. You may be considering phone apps and electronic devices for your daily planning, but there’s compelling reasons to stick to handwriting on paper. Numerous neurological studies have proven that handwriting is more effective for processing information, retaining information and focusing.
And, although phone apps are convenient because we can take them with us everywhere and pull them up instantly, they are prone to distractions from phone notifications, alarms, emails and other apps. Also, phone apps are not always in the forefront which means our plans and goals are less visible. In contrast, with paper we can display our plans on our desk, or hang it up, or keep the open page in our planner as a constant visible reminder of the outcomes we’re trying to achieve for the day.
5. Consider using a planner or organizer. Paper planners, notebooks and journals are a great option for your daily planning routine. Many have helpful features that can assist with your planning such as pre-printed daily timelines, habit trackers and checklists. And they’re available in many different sizes, styles and colors to suit your personality.
Choosing the right planner will depend on factors such as how much space you prefer for writing your plans, page, calendar and daily planning formats you like and any additional features you find essential. My favorite planner is the one I created called the Daily One Planner (formerly entitled the Always Satisfied Planner). It was named by Entrepreneur.com as one of the top "5 goal-setting journals to take you from intention to the finish line."
If you’re wondering whether daily planning can work for you, consider the popular quote, “Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated daily.” Daily Planning takes very little effort and yet it can have significant impact towards your success. It has allowed me to make time for goals that I previously thought I was too busy to do. And it’s helped me prioritize the things that I actually want to do everyday without compromising the things I need to do everyday.