How I Plan My Day So I Get Everything Done In Just A Few Hours At My Desk
One of the questions that I frequently get is “How do I plan my day so that I can get everything done?” In episode nine, I discuss the importance of being realistic about your schedule. If you’re not, none of this is going to work. It’s critically important that you are realistic about the time that you have and what you can actually get done.
I'm going to be completely honest. I have become an under-scheduler. Every week, I have a weekly planning session. I either do it on Fridays or on Sundays, depending on what my schedule looks like. I like doing it on Sunday because that gives me more time on Friday to actually work. I start with my Friday finished list. I got this from Brendon Burchard.
The Friday finished list
Your Friday finished list is all of the things that you must get done by Friday. It's not the things you want to get done. It's not the things that might be cool if you get done, it's the things that you MUST get done.
I think a lot of times we fill up our schedule with things we hope to do or we’d like to do, things we could probably push off on other people. (For more on that, listen to episode 13, if you haven't done so yet.)
We spend an enormous amount of time on things that are really not moving the needle for our business. When you're thinking about your Friday finished list, you want to think about the things you need to do to move your business forward.
What I found in almost 15 years of being in business, those are two things: sales and marketing, and product delivery. For example, if you're providing a service, like a bookkeeper, then it's doing client work and whatever time you've got leftover, you need to be marketing to fill up your pipeline. That's where you really should be spending the majority of your time.
I understand that that's not always possible, but that's really where you should be spending about 85% of your time every single week. Delivering your product or service or doing marketing for your product or service.
That's how I'm moving to structure my business. Working on clients, helping my bookkeepers and Bookkeeper Training School, developing new content for them. And then a lot of my marketing that I'm working on is actually things like recording this podcast, going live on social, doing things like that. That's the marketing that I'm doing right now because of the other stuff I've actually outsourced to other people.
How to plan your week
Write down your Friday list. I use the Passion Planner. The thing I love about this company is that you can actually print out the pages yourself as you need them, and it's free to do that. You don't actually have to buy a planner. And for every planner that you buy, they actually give one to somebody, which I also think is really cool.
Here's the key to what I do with my planner. Get out a piece of paper and write down your Friday finished list. This is the stuff that must get done by Friday. Take a look at that list and say, do I really need to get all this stuff done by this Friday? Does it fall into providing a service or marketing my business? If it falls outside that category, think to yourself, is this something that has to get done this week? And sometimes they are, sometimes they absolutely are.
For example, when I do sales tax for our business, it's due, it's got a deadline, I have to get it done this week. That's the kind of thing that gets put down your list. Once I have my complete list, and I've crossed off all the things that don't really need to get done, I put it in my planner.
How I use the Passion Planner
I use the Daily Passion Planner, which has an entire space just for notes. On Friday's notes page, I write out my entire Friday finished list. That way I have it in one spot. It's in my planner. I know some people use the sticky note pads with lines, and they write their list on that so they can move it from day to day with them. That works too. Especially if you take a lot of notes in your planner, that might be a better alternative for you to free up space, but either way, however you want to do it.
Then I start with a particular day. Let's say I'm planning Wednesday. The first thing I do with my planner is block off time on my schedule. You can do this with any planner, but I really believe that in your planner, you have to have time slots. I like half-hour time slots in my planner. If I don't schedule something at a particular time, it's not going to happen. If I say, well, in the morning, I'm going to do this, in the afternoon I'm going to do that. The next thing I know the morning is over, I haven't done the morning thing. Then the afternoon comes and I'm fretting that I didn't do the morning thing, so the afternoon thing doesn't get done either. And I just spend all day on Facebook. I know you've been there.
So, I block off time on my schedule. For example, I normally get to my desk at 9 o'clock. I was trying to get to my desk earlier today. Didn't happen. But at 9 o'clock I had an interview with somebody, at 10 o'clock I had an interview with somebody, so I wrote those in and I blocked off that time. Then at 11 o'clock every day, I go downstairs and have lunch with Erik. We do reading and cuddles. I put him down for a nap. Then typically I go for a walk and I have my own lunch. Normally, I get upstairs at about 12:30. Then I say, do I have anything else on my schedule? I actually have a continuing education course today, from 2 to 4, so I will attend that.
A lot of times, when I do those, I'll be one ear in, and working on other things at the same time. I'll do admin stuff, or something not on my Friday finished list, but it's the stuff that I can possibly get done. Sometimes, some of those things you've crossed off your list, you might be able to put in there, or maybe there's an administrative thing on your Friday list that you could pop into that space while you're listening.
If I look at my day today, the only time that I have to work on stuff is 12:30 to 2. I had an interview at 9, an interview at 10, a lunch cuddle and walk from 11 to 12:30, and then a course at 2.
What I might end up doing today because, at 4 o'clock, I will go downstairs, interact with Erik, we'll play, I'll start making some dinner. Typically when I do my planning, I also think about what we're going to do for dinner. I might actually go upstairs after Erik goes to bed at 8 and do a little bit more work, but we'll see. It depends on where I am with my Friday list.
If I did not do this first, and realize that I really only have an hour and a half to actually get some work done today, I would fill up my planner. In it, there are five spots for work. So I'd fill up those five spots because there are five spots, and then be really upset with myself because I didn't get them all done. It's critically important when you put your schedule together to actually be cognizant of how much time you have.
As women, and I'm saying this about myself too, we suck at this because we think that we can bend the space-time continuum to fit the amount of crap that we write down on a piece of paper. That's not how this works. It's just not.
The key to successful planning
If you want to know my number one tip for how I plan my day so I get everything done… it's looking at what I have scheduled first and then figuring out the work I'm going to do that day. That is really the key. Look at your day first and then make the to-do list.
For years and years, I would do the to-do list first and then look at my day and go, Oh crap. I've got six hours of work here and I've got 45 minutes free and I would get upset with myself. Then the next day I'd have a really hard time being motivated. I’d think, I'm not going to get anything done anyway, because I didn't get anything done yesterday. I didn't give myself credit for all the crap that was on my schedule. The only thing that I was looking at were the checkboxes that weren't checked off.
Earlier in the year, I was scheduling myself for a walk, for piano practice, for doing some sort of education, for reading, for doing all these things every single night, when I only had an hour to do these things. How could that possibly work?! Am I going to practice the piano for five minutes, then read for five minutes, and stretch for five minutes…. No. So I started to ask myself… What are the things that really fill me up? What are the things that really relax me? I stopped making it about the checklist and I started making it about what charges me up so I can do the other things in my life.
The daily walk became non-negotiable. It’s the thing that gets me through the rest of my day. That has become a non-negotiable part of my life. From 11 to 12:30, it says on my schedule, lunch, cuddles, and walk because that is non-negotiable for me. Having lunch with my son, doing cuddles and reading to put him down for a nap, and going for a walk is non-negotiable for me.
I hope that this really helps create your Friday finish list. Put together your schedule every day. And I always do it the day before, maybe a couple of days before, put together your schedule, write down all your appointments and block off what you actually have for working time. What are you going to do in that block?
Find a system that works for you
This is like a very condensed version of what I do, but I think that it is really helpful to find a practice that works for you. This is the practice that works for me. It may work for you. I've seen lots of other people that found a different practice that works for them. I've also seen people that have gotten involved with a planner or a system and they're trying to squeeze it into their lives, and it just doesn't fit.
I would encourage you to try this. One of the things I love about the Passion Planner is you can try it out for free. You can print out pages, you can see if it works for you. I actually did that before I ordered mine. I thought that the weekly one was what I wanted, and it was really the daily one that works so much better for me, with how things work around here.
You can print out different pages and play with them and try them out and it's completely free. And you know, right now if you're struggling, but you need a tool, that that's a great thing to be able to do. Print out the page that you need, use it for the day, and print as you go. I hope that this was helpful for you. Let me know how you use planning in your life. I'd love to hear that because I always love getting new ideas and tweaking the system that I use.