I talk a lot about productivity on my blog now, but I wasn’t always exactly a productive person. In fact, for a while, I was a super unproductive person.
That’s why I started learning everything I could about how to be more productive!
There are a lot of big-picture productivity hacks that might help you. But really, it just comes down to make a plan for every single day and sticking to it.
In this post, I’m going to teach you how to plan a productive day – and how to actually stick to your plan!
How to Plan a Productive Day
Plan Your Day Ahead of Time
I can pretty much guarantee that when I’m waiting until the day-of to plan a certain day, it’s not going to be as productive of a day. There are a few reasons for this.
First of all, I like to be able to sit down at my desk in the morning and dive right into work. But when I haven’t planned my day ahead of time, I instead have to start by figuring out what the heck I’m going to work on first.
The other reason is that when I’m deciding in the moment what I want to work on, I’m going to work on whatever is easiest or most fun.
Think about it this way: Let’s say you’re going out to dinner with some friends.
If you look at the menu ahead of time, you might decide you’re going to order a salad. And since you made a plan ahead of time, you’re more likely to stick with it.
But if you don’t look at the menu ahead of time, you’re more likely to just choose whatever meal sounds really good at that moment. For me, that is always pasta!
Productivity is the same way! When you plan ahead, you’ll plan to be productive. When you decide at the moment, you’ll pick an easy or fun task.
Start With a Productive Morning Routine
I spent years insisting that I could not create a morning routine because I simply wasn’t a morning person.
First of all, by constantly telling myself that I wasn’t a morning person, I wasn’t giving myself much of a choice to be anything different.
But I was also failing to realize that people who aren’t morning people are those who most need a morning routine!
For years I would snooze my alarm and wake up at the absolute last minute. That meant I was frazzled and disorganized in the morning, and often late for work.
I was spending more money on food and coffee since I wasn’t waking up in time to make them in the morning.
I wasn’t getting any productive work done in the morning, because I was still so tired when I got to work.
And because your morning usually sets the tone of the entire day, I found myself feeling behind and unproductive all day.
Once I created a morning routine for myself, I realized that not only would I be more motivated to get out of bed in the morning, but I could also have a productive and peaceful morning without getting up that much earlier.
Once you create a solid routine for yourself, it’s a lot easier to get everything done without feeling disorganized and like you’re definitely forgetting something.
Prioritize Your To-Do List
When you sit down in the morning and look at your to-do list, which task are you most likely to choose? I’m guessing it’s going to be whichever one you can get crossed off the fastest. That’s how most of us are.
That’s why it’s so important to prioritize your to-do list. Otherwise, the really important but challenging tasks will never get done!
My favorite way to prioritize tasks is by using the Eisenhower Matrix. This matrix helps me to decide which tasks to do immediately, which to schedule for later, which to delegate or automate, and which to get rid of altogether.
Prioritizing your to-do list ahead of time is a game-changer and helps to make sure you aren’t filling your day with unimportant tasks.
Put Everything on the Calendar
One of my favorite writers and podcasters Gretchen Rubin often says that “things that can be done at any time are often done at no time” and I relate to that statement so much.
For years, I had a huge running to-do list of things I wanted to do for my businesses. And I’m not kidding when I say that some of those tasks were on the list for years. Yes, years.
I figured I could do them any time, so instead, I did them at no time. And the one thing that really changed that?
Now, instead of keeping a running to-do list in a notebook or in Asana and working from that every day, I put tasks directly onto my Google Calendar.
Not only does putting it on the calendar ensure that it actually gets done, but it also ensures I don’t take longer than I need to do it.
For example, if I’ve given myself five hours to write a blog post, then it will take my five hours to write the blog post. But if I put it on my calendar for just two hours and then have another task scheduled right after it, then I’ll finish it in two hours.
Sort of like how in college no matter how long your professor gave you to write a paper, you would always finish it right before it was due!
Plan Your Results
Do you ever have those days where you feel like you’re being really productive and getting a lot done? But then at the end of the day, you really aren’t sure what you actually accomplished? Yeah, me too.
That’s what happens when we plan activity on our to-do list instead of planning our results.
For example, let’s say you have a two-hour block of time on Sunday mornings for your blog. If you write “work on blog” on your to-do list, then there’s a good chance you’ll spend that two hours with busy work and trying to figure out what to work on.
Instead, try putting “write one blog post” on your calendar. That way you know exactly what you should be doing when you sit down to work, and you won’t distract yourself with busy work and convince yourself that you’re working on your blog.
I’ve noticed a huge difference since I started doing this in my business. Before, I could have spent an entire evening thinking I was working on my blog, but not getting anything done.
Now, I always have specific tasks planned, and when I finish working, I have something to show for it.
Focus on One Thing at a Time
Remember when everything thought that multitasking was a thing? And that multitasking a lot would make you more productive?
Yeah, it turns out that’s not true at all.
You can only give your full attention to one thing at a time. Meaning when you’re “multitasking” you’re just jumping from task to task without giving anything your full attention.
Here’s a good example for you. I love listening to podcasts when I’m running, cleaning, or getting ready for work – basically things I don’t need my full attention for. For me, those are the best times to listen to podcasts.
Every once in a while though, I’ll try to listen to a podcast while I’m working. And you know what usually happens? I get to the end of the podcast and realize that I didn’t really hear most of what they said. My attention had been on my work, and you can’t give your full attention to two things at once!
The truth is that you aren’t saving time by multitasking. You’ll take longer to do everything, and it won’t be done as well. It’s way quicker to just give your full attention to one task, and then move onto the next when you’re done.
Keep Your Workspace Organized
Believe it or not, your environment has a huge effect on your productivity. And having a cluttered or messy workspace can actually make you a lot less productive.
I always find myself less productive when my workspace isn’t neat because clutter tends to stress me out. So instead of focusing on my work, I’m stressing out about the clutter.
Clutter also slows you down. For instance, let’s say you’re looking for one specific piece of paper, but you’ve got piles and piles of paper on your desk.
It’s probably going to take you a while to find what you’re looking for!
I always make time in my calendar, usually at the very end of the day or week, to clean and organize my workspace. That way when I start working the next day, I can dive right in and have a clutter-free environment to work in.
Every so often I’ll get really ambitious with my schedule and plan work for myself literally from the time I sit down at my desk in the morning until the time I’m getting ready for bed in the evening.
And sure, sometimes this works out and I get it all done. But this really isn’t sustainable.
First of all, if you plan to work like this every day, you’re going to get burnt out. And once you hit burnout, you’ll find it really difficult to accomplish anything at all.
Another reason this doesn’t work is that things don’t always go as planned. And when you have a task that takes longer than expected, it’s going to throw off the rest of your day or week.
End With a Productive Evening Routine
Just as a productive day starts with a productive morning routine, it also ends with a productive evening routine. And just like a productive morning routine, a productive evening routine looks different for everyone!
I really like to use my evening routine to get ready for the next day. This means making my lunch, getting the coffee maker ready, and picking out what I’m going to wear the next day.
A productive evening routine also helps to get you ready for a good night’s sleep. This might mean taking a shower, doing your nightly skincare routine, and turning off electronics an hour or two before bed so you’re actually ready to sleep when you lay down.
Having a productive evening routine is a big part of what allows me to have a productive morning routine! It prevents me from feeling rushed and disorganized, and it allows me to feel well-rested because I’ve gotten enough sleep.
When it comes to increasing your productivity, every day is important!
I spent the past years learning everything I could about increasing productivity. And in the end, I’ve learned that it mostly comes down to how you treat each day.
In the grand scheme of things, one day doesn’t really seem like much. When you have one unproductive day, you don’t feel like it will make a difference.
But a chain of single unproductive days adds up to an unproductive life. And a chain of super productive days adds up to consistently getting things done and reaching all of your biggest goals!