Let’s face it. To plan a great day in 2 minutes you can’t just go through the motions and expect the day to turn out great.† It takes repetition and refinement to turn those 2 minutes into gold.
It’s not the method;
it’s the practice.
Here are some lessons my students have taught me over the years that have helped them refine the practice of the Day’s Plan method.
- More is less. The more things you put on your day’s plan, the less you will get done. You may get more things done, but it’s likely you will make less headway on what’s most important to you.
- Less is more. Imagine a day in which you have only one important thing that you really need to do, like write or prepare or pack or plan. For a day, try setting everything else aside in order to do that one thing.
- Planning the next day makes for a great night’s sleep. One student keeps her 3×5 Day Plan cards by the bed. That’s a great trigger.
- Email, only after 2 hours of work. This goes right with 4 ways to smack down email.
- Put away the calendar. This is brilliant. If you only see your Day’s Plan, then the calendar comes out only when you need to schedule something else. Reduce clutter from the future.
- Plan for nothing after 9:00. I don’t do this very often. I can be very productive in the evenings, and I often leave #1 tasks for after dinner, especially if I’m cooking and eating with my daughter, and I know she’ll soon be holed up in her room with the door closed in a rejecting fashion that emphasizes the relegation of my Father role to House Servant. Ehem… The subtlety of this small lesson is that we don’t want important stuff lingering late in the day so sprinkle important things throughout the week instead jamming them all at the beginning. (See item 2 above.) Then, if you have some good energy late in the day, pluck a #1 from later in the week.
- Set a time period as your task. I love this one. It reminds me of a recent email conversation with Cal Newport in which he suggested that list-driven productivity is often at odds with time-based productivity. He’s a math guy so the SMA of a goal isn’t always obvious or helpful. The idea with this one is simply to block out a chunk of time to work on something. As a goal, he might write, “Spend 3 hours cranking on algorithms for blah blah.” That’s still a goal, something you can call complete.
- Eat. Some of us forget meals. Bad. Plan them.
- Breathe. Schedule breathing? Of course! Are you even breathing now? No. Well, now you are.
- Show up early. This one is obvious to some, but it is one of the best practices for making a great day. Running late sucks, and showing up late is just rude. In contrast, the more idle moments we have where the pressure is off, for example, when we are early to a meeting, the more our brains and bodies can synch up. See items 8 and 9 above.
- Show up in the nick of time. Ha! This one came from a super achiever student for a specific case. In nerve racking situations, like an intense test or a date (his examples), he likes to show up just barely on time so he doesn’t burn out waiting and worrying.
† I’ll also argue that if you’ve never made a Great Day’s Plan before, or it’s been a while, just going through the motions gives you a much better chance of having a great day.