How you structure your day can make or break productivity. Here are some tips on what to prioritize and how to organize your daily schedule.
If y’all know me and my personality type, you know I love to organize things. I also love to rearrange and reorganize things, always hoping for a more efficient or pleasurable outcome.
When I was younger, I spent hours rearranging and organizing my room until it was “just so.” And then I’d do it all over again just to change things up! Professional Organizer was definitely on my “what I want to be when I grow up” list.
These same tendencies apply to my daily schedule as well. I love to tinker with it until I get in a groove, and then, because I am a Rebel, I mix it up again!
Learning to organize your daily schedule can help you become more productive.
Even if you plan to be flexible, your productivity will likely increase as your routine achieves a bit more rhythm and predictability. Sticking to a daily schedule can help you form good habits and break bad ones. It helps you to be more self aware of how you like to work. You can maximize your time and reach your goals faster when you follow a daily routine.
Time management is a skill that anyone can learn, but it doesn’t come naturally to everyone:
How To Organize Your Daily Schedule
1. Know How You Operate Best
Before you can really design an ideal daily schedule for yourself, it’s helpful to learn more about what makes you tick. Do you LIKE a rigid schedule or do you need flexibility?
I heard Ashley Stahl speak on the Purpose Show Podcast and loved her messages around the 10 core skill sets she has defined in the workplace and included in her new book. (Check out the 26:00 minute mark here.)
The people who identify with each skill set have natural talents and strengths in this zone of genius: those who are good with Words (writers, speakers), Analyzers and Numbers (engineers, accountants), those who need Motion in their day to day (postal carrier, nurse on feet all day), Beauty (artists, stylists, designers). Plus Innovation (self-starters), Service (humanitarians), Building (whether construction or websites), Technology and Coordination (production coordinator).
What am I?
I believe I am a combination of an Innovator and an Analyzer.
Entrepreneurs need freedom above all
Ashley also defined entrepreneurs based on your relationship to freedom. “I find that entrepreneurs need all-out freedom,” she says. They need creative freedom, vision freedom, time freedom, work flow freedom. THIS IS ME.
I need a very loose structure
Between knowing I am a Rebel (the Four Tendencies) and hearing Ashley talk about freedom of everything, I feel that I finally have some clarity on how I work best. A very loose structure with total freedom of work flow on the inside.
2. Prioritize Your Values
Family, movement, work, food. What are the building blocks of your day? Do these daily tasks support your values?
These obviously look totally different for everyone based on personal circumstances and your workplace (do you manage a corporate office or a family?). Knowing what values are of utmost importance to you not just in the moment but in the long run can help you in creating a daily routine that supports those values.
If your health is a top priority and you’re never finding time to prioritize it, then you’ll have to brainstorm ways to shift your schedule to make time to organize your day around it. (E.g., skipping The Bachelorette and going to bed early so you can get movement into your morning routine.)
3. Have A Morning Routine That Supports Your Day
The most successful people start their day with a morning routine that matches their values in life.
If you want to really get into analyzing the best routine for you, check out this app! It is paid, but I did a free trial and it was super cool how much of your life it incorporates.
Going back to values, start your day with the tasks that are the most important. Journaling? Faith? Movement? Or getting a kickstart on your day so you can read a book before it’s time for the baby to wake up from his nap. I’ve written before about getting up before my kids to focus on some me time. Teri has a post on the 5 things she does every morning.
Morning routines are personal, but I think it is important that we all start our day with intention rather than the stereotypical rushing out the door with coffee in hand depicted in movies.
4. Front-Load Your Day And Week: Start with The Most Important Tasks
I create my daily plan based on tasks’ importance, time, and flexibility. Using Google Calendar and my favorite planner app, Teuxdeux, I make a plan by listing the tasks that NEED to be done plus the tasks that are “would be nice to be done.” I always stack the NEEDS and the Takes a Long Timers on the front end of my day, week, or month.
Knowing my best working hours are between 9 and noon, that’s when I usually put those Most Important Tasks. I am always aiming for a bar graph that goes down with time, as my energy and remaining hours wane.
Plus, you know there will always be unexpected tasks that pop up, so plan for those too by leaving some space toward the end of the day and week.
5. Complete Important Tasks Early In Your Week
I apply this same stacking principle to my weekly schedule. My goal is to do the hardest task that requires the most focus on Monday. For this task I often close out of my email and minimize distractions. Sometimes I put my phone into airplane mode.
Doing the hardest task first creates a snowball effect on my day and week so that I can ride that wave down from there to stay productive. It ensures I accomplish the time-sensitive things and leaves room for flexibility afterwards.
I never, ever, procrastinate because that’s a surefire way to take away freedom!
I like to put shorter tasks and calls and meetings on Tuesdays or Wednesdays, when I have a choppier schedule that doesn’t require deep focus.
Thursdays and Fridays are for working ahead, and unexpected or long-term tasks. Or catching up on anything I didn’t finish yet.
For tasks that aren’t time-sensitive, I can chip away at them or work on them in small bites as part of a bigger project.
Sometimes I do one task on Mondays (one long blog post, for example) in one big time block and 10 tasks on Fridays (like a social post, edits, or busy work admin tasks). So while I cross more off the list on Friday, Monday is most definitely a harder mental day.
6. Minimize Distractions & Take Breaks
Depending on where tasks are on the importance vs. time graph, I will try to minimize distractions to stay on track. I find that blocking my time with my phone on airplane mode followed by the chance to take a break, check email, and social media are best for me.
Raise your hand if you procrastinate on social media! Who doesn’t? But if you can plan to take breaks at certain times in your day, you can dedicate some time to social media. It’s not saying no – it’s just delaying the pleasure.
Another great way to take a break is to walk 15 minutes around the block. Sunlight, movement, and fresh air do WONDERS for productivity and can make you more focused when you return to your desk.
Pausing for fuel
Anne has a post on Intuitive Eating While Working From Home that might help you make the most of a mindful lunch break.
7. Monthly Productivity Can Be Cyclical
Just like I like to work my down the bar graph hill each day and week, I’ve recently been making a monthly task plan to help me stay organized week over week. My goal is to have the next month’s evergreen blog posts written by the end of the prior month. (Lifestyle or travel posts usually happy the week before or week of.)
Batching posts in the first week helps me do the most important things first (e.g., the blog that never ends) vs. smaller, more flexible tasks like creating a new freebie for you guys or writing an email for my evergreen sequences that can launch whenever they are ready.
Everyone Is different and that is beautiful
Not everyone has the flexibility to plan their own tasks. And some of you probably love it that way! That’s the beauty in the diversity we have in our careers and lifestyles. Going back to Ashley Stahl’s skill sets, the more you can hone in on your own set of skills, the happier you likely will be with your career choice and the satisfaction it brings.