It’s been a busy old year. It’s certainly been one that’s taught me many lessons, as I’m sure it has for all of us. Top of the list, besides the things a global pandemic has brought to my attention, starting out as self-employed has taught me the most lessons. There’s the self-belief, the self-motivation, working alone, and learning so many technical and business skills. Still, it’s the things I’ve had to relearn that have been the most surprising. Without the usual schedule of a 9-5, the company and support of a team, and the constant stream of instruction and tasking from a manager, I’ve has to relearn how to concentrate, how to focus, how to get motivated, and, as we’re going to discuss today, how to plan your day.
“All you need is the plan, the roadmap, and the courage to press on to your destination” – Earl Nightingale
Know yourself and work your way
Before we jump into any real tips and tricks, let’s talk about you. As with anything, routines, habits, daily agendas, it’s important to make it personalised to you and work with each of your strengths, weaknesses, and quirks. Ask yourself, which activities excite you? What do you always procrastinate? If you had more time in the day, what would you do? What motivates you? What times do you work best?
There’s no one template that will fit everybody. You needn’t idealise and squash yourself into a 5 am productive morning routine if you know you’re a night owl. Sure, you can encourage yourself to become a morning person but, you don’t need to. There isn’t one right way to do it, so choose what’s right for you. Playing off of your strengths will help you feel more aligned, more awake and more driven, as well as making you more productive.
Plan the night before
Make it part of your night routine, or at least your end-of-the-work-day-routine to plan out the following day. This will clear your mind before you sit down to relax and will help you better enjoy your evening. I also find it makes me excited for the following day. I’ll go more into adding happy habits to your day next, but I like to include all my fun things (by fun things I mean, what I’m having for dinner, people I’m seeing, things I fancy doing) for the day in there too. I love to appreciate the little things and when I know I have those things to look forward to, they make me excited for the day ahead.
When you plan your day, make a note of not just what you need to do, but anything that you need to prepare or take with you. I like to make lunches and sort out my bag and outfits the night before. Having this done means I don’t need to rush in the morning and I can relax better, knowing I’ve definitely got everything.
It also means you can wake up with a daily intention already set in your mind. I love this habit and I think it really does make a difference to our mental attitude. Whether it’s a personal goal or a work goal, when you wake up with the goal fresh in your mind and weave it throughout everything you do that day, you’ll feel content and accomplished, no matter what happens.
Plan fun as well as your to-dos
My number one tip for how to plan your day is to plan a day you actually want to have.
Don’t just fill your day with must-dos and responsibilities. Adding little habits you love into your day makes every day so much more enjoyable. Taking breaks and doing things you love will make you more productive, more content and more creative ~ trust me.
Make sure you do something nice with your off-work time. If you exist in that constant stream of working tons, skipping breaks, and spending your evenings exhausted, you’ll end up tired, demotivated and might end up burning out. Essentially, treat yourself like Sims and you keep that fun bar up (unfortunately, cupcakes don’t fix everything in real life).
Build your habits into routines
Now we’ve talked about habits, let’s talk about routines. If habits are the building blocks, routines are big colourful Lego towers. Having a morning routine and a night routine (and however many other routines you like for that matter) can really set the tone for your day.
I know some people shy away from routines, they seem constrictive and over the top to some people, but really I just use routines as a way of remembering and fitting in the things I like to do into every day. When I used to work my 9-5, my morning routine was a saviour, I had the timing perfected, so I could always be calm and leisurely, and I included habits like listening to music, reading and watching a quick YouTube video with breakfast. They weren’t necessary to help me get out the door, but they made me feel motivated, accomplished and happy before I set off to work.
Take a damn break
If you’re anything like me, you could probably get the entire way through the day without drinking, eating and without even nipping to the loo. Sometimes I get so absorbed in what I’m doing that a bomb wouldn’t disturb me. If that’s you (or even if it’s not), here’s your reminder to schedule your breaks!
Taking breaks is so important – don’t scroll away and assume they’re not! Breaks can replenish the psychological costs associated with working hard, improve work performance, and boost energy. But they need to be the right kind of breaks. Sitting on your phone or complaining to a colleague isn’t going to refresh you, because you’re still being bombarded with information. Take a brisk walk, stretch, meditate, have an un-work-related conversation, try an alternative meditation or do something simple like tidying. This will send you back to your work refreshed and with a new set of eyes.
See what timings you prefer
I don’t like working to a strict schedule, I don’t find that creative work really adheres to that. But I do give myself rough guidelines, I have set tasks for the morning and tasks for the afternoon, and give myself a lunch break in between.
If you’re trying to fit other things into your day like workouts, walks, social events, etc. see what time of day you enjoy doing them the most. I like working out either late morning or early evening, whereas some people like working out first thing or late at night. See what time works best for you and your other commitments and block that slot out in your agenda. One tip on how to plan your day effectively is to try and schedule activities at the same time helps to make it part of your routine, which makes it easier to do every day.
Know what you want (what you really really want)
Aim to set three priorities a day and make these your ‘must be done’ activities. Then, have less urgent tasks as extras for if you get to them. Working this way wards off the dread that can come from a huge to-do list, but makes sure you don’t do a 180 and procrastinate the day away.
This way, you can also make intentional decisions about how you handle your day. If you finish your priorities and find yourself exhausted, you can finish up your day and relax so you have more energy the following day, when you might smash out your priorities and your extras. This is all part of learning to listen to your body and to live accordingly.
Have a break the glass activity
I really like this concept. It’s not a ticket to run away from your problems, but having a go-to activity for when you’re really stuck, frustrated or tired. Maybe a walk around the block, a quick video from your favourite YouTube personality, a chapter of a book, five minutes of just listening to music, a call to a friend. Whatever it is (mine’s stretching and practising my handstands), make that your go-to action to step away from the thing that’s causing you stress, to refresh yourself and then come back, with fresh eyes and a clean slate.
It might seem counterintuitive to walk away from the thing you need to get done, but do it knowing you’re not abandoning it. You’re not running away, you’re just stepping back, caring for yourself and coming back able to do it better, quicker, and in a healthier way.
Suggested: How To Have a Good Day 9 Simple Tricks
Block out relaxation time
Do this! Treat your relaxation time just the same as you would your work shift, a.k.a block it out. Set aside time every day to just relax. Making this a priority on your to-do list will make sure you really commit to that time.
We need relaxation time. Not only is it good for our productivity, our sleep and our health, but it’s a big part of what life’s worth living for! See your friends, spend time with your family, concentrate on your hobbies and interests, and hold it to the same importance as you do your work.
I’m sure you’ve heard the entire internet go on and on about writing gratitude lists or meditating on your day, but I’m going to recommend it again anyway (and open it up to say it doesn’t have to be those specific actions). It’s such a helpful, mindful practice to add to your day. I think it’s important for us all to be consciously grateful and aware of what we have and how we’re feeling every day.
Think of it like checking in with a friend. Spend five minutes of your day just openly asking yourself to think about how you feel and how your day has been. You might drift off into thinking about your emotions, the stresses you faced, the moments that made you smile, the thoughts you had, the things you experienced. What went well, what are you proud of, what could be improved?
Giving yourself this time to just reflect will allow you to pick up on all sorts of thoughts and feelings that otherwise might have gone unnoticed or bottled up. I recommend taking the time to ask yourself about the negatives and then about the positives, they both need your energy and focus.
Be constructive and grateful with whatever comes your way, we’re aiming for a better tomorrow, remember, not wishing for a better today.
And there you have it, my complete guide to how to plan your day! What does your perfect day look like? Let me know in the comments!
Live every day like it was your last! Love, Ella xx