Use These 10 Tips for Using a Planner to Boost Your Productivity
Maybe you’ve told yourself you would start using a planner to stay organized. Maybe you are getting by with your trusty iPhone planner. Either way, if you are interested in keeping track of tasks and getting sh*t done in your business, and enjoy quality time with your loved ones without guilt, you have to have a planner.
Some days I’m a hot mess. I admit it. (Sound familiar fellow mompreneurs?)
Whether it’s the school lunches that have to be prepared, to picking out matching clothes for the first day of 3rd grade, right down to telling the hubby where to be after he gets out of work –
Life can get pretty crazy!
However, I would like to propose something: Use a paper day planner. Paper day planners are an old-fashioned institution, yet they are super effective for you to stay on top of everything you need to do.
Why? Paper planners give you a visual, in your hand, space for writing down notes, creating to-do lists, and noting ideas while you’re on the fly. Writing down things is the age-old way to get things done.
I don’t know how many iPhone “notes” I have in my phone, but I will tell you that the minute they are typed into my phone, they are out of my mind forever….never to be returned to!
By learning how best to use a day planner, you can get on top of your day using time management and best of all, have less stress!
Check out this list below of top tips how to use a day planner effectively:
- Use the Monthly View
Most, if not all planners come with a monthly overview section. The goal is to use one planner, and one only. Here in the monthly section, you can write down things that don’t change like birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, special events like weddings, bills, and recurring meetings.
Tip: I like to use a yellow highlighter to call these out in case a friend calls to make plans. Use the color code to take it even a step farther!
- Use the Weekly Plan Section
Every Sunday evening, I like to sit down with my planner and look over the week ahead. This is a chance to plan for your more general of tasks, or group of tasks. For example, for me it may be “Schedule Facebook posts”, or “write webinar follow up emails”.
You can also use this section for personal items like “weed the garden”, “send out invitations”, “pick up stamps” and other tasks like this.
Tip: Transfer what items or appointments may have been entered into your phone in this section.
- Use the Daily Plan Pages
The daily section is where your plan gets really good. This is where you list out your specific tasks that you want to accomplish. You can plan outfits, workouts, and lunch dates.
I also use this section to break out what I entered in the weekly section into separate one hour or less tasks, so that I can put a “check” next to them when it’s complete. Crossing things off the list feels so good!
Tip: I could go on about the best day planners out there. However, I have used the The Best Self Co. which creates a journal that has awesome daily pages. You start with daily affirmations, by writing down what you are thankful for, fill your day by time, with notes on the side, and end your day with what you are most thankful for. It’s a great alternative to a separate journal!
- Be specific with Your Steps
When you are planning for your day, in your daily page, be sure to be specific in your steps. Instead of “make phone calls”, instead write down “call Susie and schedule lunch”. It’s more likely that you will complete your tasks if you know exactly what you are getting into! It also helps you figure out how much time you need to finish your task.
Tip: On days where I have other plans or commitments, such as serving hot lunch to 2nd graders or freezing my butt off on playground duty, I make sure to plan for light-brained activities. With my mind on other things, making a call or scheduling a social media post is quick and easy to complete.
- Thy Planner is Not Thy Phone
Now, in this article as I talk up the awesome-ness of a day planner, I do realize that we live in 2017. We ALL use our phones to enter notes and appointments. Unfortunately, your planner will not send you reminders that buzz your Apple watch 15 minutes before it’s to begin.
When you have important things that you CAN’T forget, be sure to enter an appointment in your calendar so you can be reminded.
This goes for jotting in notes as mentioned above – be sure to put your important phone notes, into your planner.
Tip: I use Evernote for my notes. There is a desktop and smart phone app that syncs. It’s awesome!
Your day planner should be the what’s what and the who’s who for your life! With that said, you should love your planner. Make a day of it! Get in the car and drive to your local bookstore and pick a cute, fun planner that you love carrying around. Don’t go out shopping? There’s no doubt that Amazon has you covered.
Nothing should go unplanned. Names, dates, dollars, appointments and goals should all be written down in your planner.
Improve Your Life Using a Planner
Regardless of where you stand on your business, or how you are keeping organized right now, the truth is a productive day may look different for me than it does for you. Regardless, in light of that, here are some my personal tips for having a productive and inspiring day, as a busy mom of young children, balancing their care with working hard helping my clients sell more of their products and services online:
- Begin Your Day Tech-Free
I know, I know. Many of you probably end your day in bed surfing your phone before your eyes feel so heavy your phone drops on your face as you roll over. It’s safe to say that your phone is the first thing you reach for when you wake up!
However, hear me out. Our world never stops. With our computers, phones, watches, fitbits all screaming for our attention, no one ever takes the time to just be quite and chill.
Before you jump into your emails, check your Facebook, or answer the texts you received between last night and today, how about take a minute? Grab a cup of coffee, and listen to relaxing music. If music isn’t your thing, take the 5 minutes to take deep breaths with your eyes closed, and say a little prayer or meditation to yourself. Taking this time for yourself will make a difference in your day. Trust me!
- Avoid Distractions
I am HUGELY at fault with this one! After years in the field of IT, I am a recovering multi-tasker. When you’ve spent your career fighting fires, it seems to be that multitasking seems to be the only way to get anything done.
Since I’ve been coaching clients to find more customers online, I have taken intentional steps to focus on one task at a time. To do this, I’ve had to do the painful task of moving my phone into my purse, away from my desk, and not signing into Facebook or email while I work.
I can’t tell you how easily a Facebook notification can send me into 20 minutes of surfing the news feed. So easy it’s embarrassing.
- Designate Distraction Time
As important as avoiding distraction, designating distractions is just as important! Do not check your email every few minutes. (something I was very guilty of in my 9-5 career) It is a HUGE distraction and waste of time spent. Unless you are a brain surgeon or are in any other life-saving career, the emails can wait. Plus, if you get in the habit of answering them immediately, people will begin to expect it. Another lesson learned from my 9-5!
Set aside certain times during your workday to check and answer emails. If it helps, let your customers know that you will respond to their email within 24 hours. This easily can be added to your auto-signature.
- Get Into a Routine and Stick to It
When it comes down to planning your time, it’s best to get into a regular routine and stick to it. Sit down on Sunday evenings (or Monday, Tuesday, whatever works!) and plan out your week. Then, fill in your daily pages.
You can also plan each day the night before so your tasks can stay top of mind.
However you decide to do it, pick a routine and stick to it.
- Make Time For You
This one is last on the list because truly it is probably the most important tip. If you don’t take care of yourself, then you can’t take care of anyone else.
Doesn’t this go for everything? Happy wife, happy life. If mom’s not happy, no one is! Place your own oxygen mask on in the airplane before helping your neighbor.
Make sure you add time to your day to do something you like. For me, I like to hang out on the couch with my kids late afternoon and doze or watch a Seinfeld episode. (that I’ve seen 500 times) As long as I’ve allocated the time in my plan for the day, there is no reason to feel like I should be doing anything else.
Before I started to use a planner, I would come to the end of my day and feel like I didn’t even make a dent in the work I had to do. While I know this is not true, it’s easy to see why it feels that way.
Having a planner to look back on is a great way to see what you had planned out for your day, and what you were able to complete. Those check marks are so exciting to see! Be sure to pat yourself on the back for everything you got done.
Remember that every business owner is different. Their schedules, commitments and demands can be different from yours. Hopefully one or more of these planner tips and tricks will help you go out and be a little more productive!