Every “yes” must be defended by a thousand “no’s,” I’ve heard it said. Amen.
And for many of us, that battle is fought out on the pages of our planners (Bob Goff quote).
Today, I’m doing a video on how to plan your day—you could do this with ANY digital or analog solution! But specifically, I’m going to be showing you inside the Simplified Planner from Emily Ley and Simplified, which is the analog planner I use.
I have a blog post and video that tells more about how I plan my week as well as a little tour of the planner (click here to watch!), BUT a lot of you have asked for a visual, so here goes nothing.
I fell head-over-heels for Emily’s “grace not perfection” message while I was in eating disorder recovery, and invested in the planner back in 2015 because I was desperate for a little calmer in my life—the noisy internet and its (free!) calendaring tools are fab, but I needed something beautiful to sit on my desk with just enough space for me to write what I could actually get done in a day, and no more.
I’ve never actually showed so many pages of my marked-up planner before.
Nor have I told how I plan a week in so much detail.
Here we go!
Like I said, no matter WHAT paper planner or digital planner you use, this system should work. You’ll learn:
- 4 check-points to hit up before you dive into planning your week
- The 5 steps I do every Sunday night to get ready for the week
- My “Big 3” system of making sure I bird-dog after the biggest tasks I need to tackle each week
I talk over here about how creative entrepreneurs can work from a place of rest—not hustle—by selling more with your words and stewarding your time well, and if that’s something you want more of, let’s dig in. Plus, don’t miss your freebie workbook on how to plan your workload into themed batch days or weeks, ready for ya below!
The Can’t-Miss Pre-Planning Step
Before I put pen to paper in this guy there’s an important step: goal setting.
I use Powersheets for much of my goal setting, which I talk about often. This is the tool I use to track little-by-little progress both on personal goals and business goals.
When it comes to specific business planning to SET those business goals, I use Todd Herman’s 90 Day Year system. It’s a system of planning your year in quarterly batches, which is fabulous if you’re an entrepreneur or creative: it enables you to be much more nimble and agile.
Here’s a peek at how I keep track of the 90 Day Year goals in my business in Trello. So, each month in my Powersheets, I have the overarching goal for this written down on my tending list. The Trello board goes into way, way, way more detail with actual tasks that need to be done to get to that goal.
Just wanted to bring up goal setting first, because if your goals aren’t clearly defined, planning your day-to-day is gonna be hot mess express.
4 Check Points for Planning Your Day
Okay, sorry for one more time-out, but I also want to give you four check points to see planning your day to day through. These are things that once I learned, my time got SO much easier to manage!
1. Tasks and projects are two different things.
First, is that a task is different from a project. A project has lots of steps/tasks, and a task is a single action item. Make sense? When you’re creating your to-do list every day, make sure you’re asking yourself: is this a project, or an actual task … because sometimes, we confuse the two—then wonder why we’re shaming ourselves at the end of a day for not tackling more to-do’s.
You can MAYBE get 3 projects done in a day. They’re broken into tasks. Honestly, our brains aren’t wired to power through much more than that.
And that’s a good thing.
2. Batching your days or weeks works really well.
Second, I batch my days, so if that’s something you don’t do, I’d recommend it! A lot of what you see in this planner is arranged around batched days, so I only focus on one big thing a day.
Click to read (and watch) how I How to Batch Work & Organize with Themed Days.
3. Create an idea parking lot.
I HIGHLY recommend brain dumping all of the projects that are in your brain at any given time on a master list.
Yes, it will be stressful, YES it will look overwhelming.
But, I promise, if you can get every single thing written, from “decorate the dining room” to “plan for maternity leave” to “take Adler to the vet” to “finish up Client X’s project, you’ll feel worlds better. THEN, when you go to figure out what to do each month or quarter, you can see a list of things to choose from instead of pulling them out of thin air.
4. Realize that important things don’t always scream the loudest.
Okay, lastely, there’s something called the Eisenhower Matrix, and if you haven’t heard of it, we just need to go over it real quick. It’s the concept that “the most important things don’t always scream the loudest.”
There are 4 quadrants: Not-urgent + Important, Urgent + Important, Urgent + Non-important, Not Urgent + Non-important. Once you realize that all of your tasks fall somewhere on this, it helps you see what big rocks go in first. If it’s not important and not urgent, you don’t need to do it—eliminate it.
Try to eliminate, automate, or delegate things that aren’t in the Not Urgent + Important quadrant.
5 Steps of My Weekly Planning Process in the Simplified Planner
Okay, so let’s jump to the planner. Now, I use a hybrid system of analog and digital, but I strongly believe in writing things down.
In a study published in Psychological Science, 327 students watched a TED lecture. Some took notes on computers, others on hand—you guessed it, they were tested on facts and concepts. While they both remembered facts, only those who took note by hand had a better understanding of conceptual ideas … and when tested a week later on their recollections of the talk, the hand-note takers performed better.
Digital calendars and tools are my love language, an analog tool allowing me to SIMPLY see my week one day at a time has been amazing.
Enter the Simplified Planner.
In the video, I also show you a quick peek at how I block my time, because that’s NOT in my Simplified Planner, that’s in Google Calendar. With my ideal time blocks written out, so I know when I’m working, and using both a digital and analog solution means I get the benefits of writing as well as a shared solution: My team can see it, my husband can see it, and this day and age, that’s really helpful. I can drop links into it, podcast info, etc., too.
Here’s that video again!
So, first thing I do on Sundays—which again, just happens to be my planning block—is put in those big rocks. The things that fall into that not-urgent + important category I talk about in the video … things like time with people, time in prayer and studying scripture, working out, setting goals, etc.
That includes my PRESENT mornings—my morning ritual, my time with friends & fam, my gym dates, and then goal setting stuff I need to do. Usually week to week that just means my workday windup & wind down, and then planning my weekends on Thursday. I know a LOT of productive people who do a review of goals on Friday, but for some reason Sunday’s just worked better for me. I could get through the Friday rush and get some perspective.
The second thing I do is look at my goals, theme days, and set my big 3.
Now, usually I have these sorta planned in advance: again, back to what I was talking about earlier, I know my quarterly goals, so a quick peek at that Trello board of my 90 Day Year goals (image above!) and projects quickly shows me what I need to do. I put my big 3 on a sticky and just move it day to day. I’m queen of distractions, and if I don’t have it in front of me, I get so distracted by new ideas or shiny projects. I have to LITERALLY sticky note remind myself to stay on task.
The third thing I do now that the big rocks are in, I get into the nitty gritty. I look at the upcoming Google calendar to see what meetings or doctors appointments I have, so I can get those written down. Again, they’re already in the digital calendar, but I would probably miss it slash I’ve done that in the past if I don’t write it.
The fourth thing I do is plan meals for the week and look at our fam’s schedule to see when Wes is working. This is when I put in that Amazon Prime order for any food we need, look at the next week real quick for HelloFresh, etc.
The fifth things is really just look to see when I have whitespace. I am a slow processor, and I definitely need to make sure I have at LEAST one night to myself to decompress and process, and just be creative!
Make sure you watch the video to see what a day looks like: Besides my weekly big 3, I have a daily big 3—further broken into 3 tasks. I write home to-do’s from the bottom up on the side of my planner.
If I don’t get something done, I’ll draw an arrow to the next day, so on and so forth.
And that guys, is a little plan with me session of my Simplified Planner this week, live and in action!
Again, thank you always for tuning in to this YouTube episode, and if figuring out a batch and theme day system sounds like something you need, don’t forget to grab that freebie workbook. I hope these tips help you boost your productivity.
Ready for your action step? We talked a LOT in this video about what’s not important or urgent, and making sure the important stuff gets on the calendar first.
So, comment below: What’s ONE thing that you’re committing to NOT doing this coming week?