The Why and How of Planning Your Day For Productivity
plan your day

Get Productive: The Why and How of Planning Your Day

Imagine for a second that you just woke up.

You literally jump out of bed, turn on some music, gulp down a glass of water, power pose for 2 minutes, grab your running shoes and head out of the door for your 15 minute morning running routine down at the beach.

You come back, take a cold shower, make yourself a powerfood cocktail together with some protein and all of a sudden scream out “I`m fcking AWESOME!”… because let`s face it - you probably are.

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After that you get into the rest of your morning routine. You reflect on your values, journal, meditate etc.

When all is done you feel absolutely amazing, pumped, motivated, inspired, and ready to dominate another day in your life of pure epicness.

Now, does that sound like an awesome start to the day?

Damn right, it does!

Does starting the day in such a manner happen by accident?

Damn right, it does NOT.

Such awesomeness has to be planned beforehand.

Which brings me to the topic of this article.

I’m going to show you what I call the “why” and “how” of planning your day. We’ll start off with 3 reasons why you should plan your days in as much detail as possible. Then we’ll look at the best time to plan your day and in the end I’ll even show you how to actually plan your day.

Let’s begin.

3 Reasons Why Planning Your Day Is a Brilliant Idea

The “why” is an important driver of our behavior.

Therefore it makes sense to start this off with 3 big reasons why planning your days is an absolute MUST.

1. It gives you a shot at a perfect day

Planning your day beforehand means you can literally orchestrate a perfect day.

Yes, certain activities in your day - such as work and other appointments - are usually pre-determined. A large part of your day, however, is NOT pre-determined and can be designed by you completely as you choose.

You can schedule in all kinds of beneficial activities in your plan.

You can plan time to meditate, exercise, eat healthy meals, practice gratitude, read, learn cool stuff, have fun time with your family, etc.

Simultaneously you can plan ZERO time for useless stuff such as watching TV, checking Facebook, reading the news, or whatever.

Just imagine what you could achieve if you planned perfect days with only high value activities and no time wasting whatsoever… if you actually followed through with that your life would take a quantum leap forward over the next weeks, months, and years.

BEST of all, whether you’ll follow through with your plan or not, doesn’t really matter as I’ll argue near the end of this article.

The point is:

When you create a plan, you get a chance at a perfect day.

When you don’t have a plan, there’s no chance in hell you’ll somehow end up with a perfect day.

Think back to the intro. You won’t somehow by sheer luck stumble out of bed, put on your sneakers, and go for a run. It just doesn’t work that way.

If you want to experience a highly productive day, you need to 1) know what such a day would actually look like and 2) plan to make that day a reality.

2. Planning your day creates motivation

This only works if the days you plan are fvcking epic.

If you plan a day on which you are super productive, get a lot of stuff done, exercise, eat healthy, do all the basics right, meditate, have a shitload of fun, and take a huge step towards accomplishing some of your goals, then that will motivate you.

If, on the other hand, you plan a day on which you are lazy, watch TV all afternoon, get nothing done, and just waste all of your time, then that will absolutely NOT motivate you.

Your plan of a day will be motivating if you think to yourself something like this:

“Man, if I can pull that off… that would be amazing. I could achieve so much in my life if I had days like this one. I could have so much fun. Geee, that would be great! Let me try to make this happen!”

That will happen if you’re ambitious enough when planning your days.

3. Planning your day is a great way to prioritize your life

If you create the plan for an epic day, do you have any time for…

  • Checking Facebook 500 times
  • Watching TV for hours
  • Arguing with your friends, spouse, or anyone else
  • Complaining, or bitching about the world
  • Reading some gossip news

Let me answer that for you:

Absolutely. Fcvking. Not.

When planning your days, you will instantly realize what matters and what doesn’t matter in your life.

It’s a great prioritization tool.

And it’s awesome for 2 reasons:

First, when you plan all of your time for activities that matter, you simply won’t have any time left for time sucking activities (yes, I’m talking to you Facebook!).

Second, even just being aware of which activities matter and which are a waste of time, will help you allocate more time on the right activities. You’ll catch yourself wasting time on loser activities and remember that it’s just not worth it.

And that sums up why I believe planning your day is a very, very smart idea.

When Should You Plan Your Day?

Ideally, you want to plan your day the night before. Here's why:

  • You don’t waste any willpower in the morning.
  • In the evening you usually know exactly what needs to get done the next day. You are very clear whereas in the morning you may have to think fairly hard to figure out what to do.
  • You may lack the motivation to create a detailed plan in the morning (for me that’s surely the case).
  • Mornings are powerful. I can get so much done in the morning that I don’t want to use time on something I could’ve easily done the night before.
  • You start your day running and create momentum. With a clear plan you can just knock off item after item on your list and create early momentum. Once you have momentum and you’re in motion, you tend to stay in motion (see Newton’s First Law).

All in all, I believe that’s a convincing list of reasons.

I dare you to argue with that 😉

How to Plan Your Day

Let’s get to the nitty-gritty of how to actually do the planning of your day.

This is actually fairly simple.

First of all, you want to create a list of all the activities you want to incorporate in tomorrow’s day. This list includes fixed appointments and high value activities.

High value activities are simply activities that either offer high lifetime value or high dollar value to you. You’ll see what I mean in the list below.

Fixed appointments:

  • Work
  • Doctor’s appointments
  • Meetings
  • Any pre-determined activities

High value activities:

  • Meditation
  • Exercise
  • Practicing gratitude
  • Journaling
  • Eating healthy
  • Working on your business
  • Spending time with your family
  • Reading books
  • Listening to audiobooks
  • Play time (fun activities)

Once you have your list of tomorrow’s activities, you simply drag and drop them into your calendar.

First, you add the fixed appointments. They are given anyway, so you might as well put them there first and then build your high value activities around them.

Second, you add all of your high value activities.

Simple enough.

Here's what my morning plan looked like today:

(This is what it generally looks like when I work from home. If I had had an appointment, I would've mentioned the exact time here and planned around it.​ If I use too much space for my morning (as in this case), then I'll just plan the afternoon/evening on a seperate piece of paper. Simple, yet highly effective.)

plan your day the night before

You now have a plan for your next day which includes only high value activities or activities that are pre-determined anyway.

If you follow that plan, you will be highly productive and you will waste very little time.

If you don’t follow through with your plan…

… that isn’t really a problem either.

Why It Doesn’t Matter If You Stick to Your Plan or Not

First of all, there are a lot of things happening during a typical day that you just cannot control.

The doctor’s appointment may take 2 hours instead of 1 hour. Your train may be late. Your train may not come at all. Your car might break down. Your kid might need more time and attention than usual.

Because of such uncontrollable outside circumstances the chances of actually completely making your plan a reality are very slim.

Since you can’t influence circumstances which are outside of your control, it makes little sense to get angry or upset.

Now:

Outside circumstances are only the first of two reasons why you might not turn your perfect plan into reality.

Frankly, depending on the epicness of your plan, you may not have the necessary self-discipline to follow through with it.

Why else do you think so many people struggle to lose weight? Or gain muscle mass? Or stick to their new year’s resolutions?

Most of us lack in self-discipline.

(To be fair… most of us don’t even have a plan in the first place.)

And I’ll tell you what to do in that case in just a minute, but first let’s see why it doesn’t matter if you stick to your plan or not.

If you create a plan, there are really only 3 scenarios:

1) You follow through with the plan. Great! You just experienced a nearly perfect and certainly highly productive day. That’s awesome!

2) Outside circumstances prevent you from perfectly following your plan. That’s not your fault and nothing to be upset about. Your day was probably still pretty good.

3) You don’t have the necessary discipline to follow through with your plan. No problem. That’s still a victory!

Let me explain.

What to Do If You Lack the Self-Discipline to Stick to Your Plan

So you had this plan for a perfect day, but you couldn’t get yourself to actually follow through with all of it.

What now?

First of all, pat yourself on the back for creating a plan in the first place.

Second, pat yourself on the back for trying to follow through with your plan.

Third, you start to diligently work on improving your self-discipline day by day.

Oh, and yes. You read that numero 2 right:

You pat yourself on the back for trying.

Why?

Because trying is all you can really do.

In fact, trying itself is already the victory.

"Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment, full effort is full victory."
- Mahatma Gandhi

Your self-discipline at this moment is a given. It’s like an outside circumstance. You can’t change it right now. It’s like the weather. It’s like the train that doesn’t arrive on time. You can’t change it.

It makes no sense whatsoever to put yourself down and make yourself feel bad because you couldn’t get yourself to follow through with your plan.

That would be like blaming yourself for not being able to get drunk when all you had was one beer.

You can’t consistently stick to your perfect plan if you don’t have built up the necessary self-discipline yet. Just like you can’t get drunk with one beer. (If that beer analogy makes any sense to you at all…)

Anyway, the point is that you simply realize you lack self-discipline, you then acknowledge that you’ve done your best, and then commit to improving your discipline day by day.

Sooner rather than later you’ll have an iron discipline and you’ll create one highly productive day after the other.

Conclusion

We discussed the why and how of planning your day in this article.

First, we looked at three reasons why I believe you absolutely MUST plan your days: 1) It gives you a shot at a nearly perfect day 2) it motivates the crap out of you 3) it’s a great prioritization tool.

We also discussed why the night before is probably the best time to do your planning. The main reason is because it lets your preserve precious time, willpower, and energy in the morning.

The “how” of planning your day is fairly simple. You just write down all pre-determined and all high value activities that you want included in your next day. Then it’s as easy as dragging and dropping them into your daily planner.

Last but not least we’ve discussed what you should do if you can’t follow through with your plan due to a lack of self-discipline:

  1. Pat yourself on the back for creating a plan in the first place
  2. Pat yourself on the back for trying to follow through with your plan (full effort is full victory)
  3. Diligently work on your self-discipline

And that’s it!

Now that you know exactly why and how to plan your days, why not put this stuff into practice and see how well it works?


Want More?

Planning your day the night before is just one of my top 7 productivity hacks. You can download the additional 6 strategies for FREE by clicking the orange link below.

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Nils Salzgeber

Nils Salzgeber is an Amazon #1 bestselling author and co-founder of NJlifehacks. He is a productivity and personal transformation specialist who combines personal experience with modern science. He quit university at the age of 21 after successfully making the leap to entrepreneurship. Since then, he has been traveling the world, built several successful online businesses, and published two books.

  • Leonard says:

    Awesome stuff! I’ve been planning my day for a few months now and it definitely helps my productivity. I’ve recently seen a video from Jack Canfield where he claims that the subconscious mind is working on that plan during the night? Do you think that’s true or just total bullshit?

    • There is actually some scientific evidence that shows this is true. I can’t find the study right now, but this does seem to work.

      Also, I didn’t mention in the post that planning alone makes it more likely to do a certain behavior. I’ve mentioned it in the post on implementation intentions here:
      http://www.njlifehacks.com/implementation-intentions/

      There’s a nice study with drug addicts that shows how powerful making plans is. Definitely worth a read!

  • Nina says:

    This just works! I did it a couple of times last week and my days were much more productive. I had a perfect list of what needed to get done and just started doing one thing after another. Today I didn’t have a plan and I find myself constantly wondering what I should do next. Then I distract myself with emails, Facebook, etc… From my short experience it’s totally worth it!

    • Hey Nina! Yup, that’s exactly my experience. Without a plan I seem to get lost in distractions. I feel like 10 minutes of planning give me back at least one hour of productivity.

  • Nana yaa says:

    Very helpful

  • Soufyan says:

    This is very helpful.. thank you Mr Salzgeber.

  • Skendy says:

    I really love this article article. It’s really helpful
    Thank you very much Nils

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