If you didn’t already know, the planning your day is one of the key factors for anyone seeking success.
Much has been written about the importance of having a daily routine, in fact I have written quite a lot myself, about morning rituals and daily disciplines.
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Without doubt, these planned daily activities are tried and tested ways to support your success – as evidenced by almost every high-profile person who sits in the top percentage of wealthy and successful people.
Some of the activities described by successful people as part of their daily plan or routine are simple lifestyle changes like; rising at dawn, exercise in the morning or eating a healthy breakfast.
Others are time-management tips like setting aside specific times, just once or twice a day to read or respond to emails.
Instead of being constantly interrupted from the work you should be focused on.
They may seem insignificant as isolated tasks – but put together in a plan, they are action points that help you reach the milestones on your road to success.
As I’ve said, many successful people have a specific, regular morning routine – a ‘power hour’ in which they focus on their physical and mental wellbeing – often simultaneously.
So, they will, for example, engage in 20 minutes of high intensity training while listening to a motivational podcast; they will mindfully prepare a nutritious breakfast smoothie and drink it while reading informative books and articles; or commute to work while tuning into something inspirational.
I want to focus on the importance of the planning process itself.
Planning your day is an important issue, as a proven practice that millionaires and other successful people have incorporated into their lives.
In fact, many of them attest to it being a vital part of the reason for their success.
And if it works for them, then it will work for us.
But only if we commit to making it part of our daily life for the long term.
And only when we take the required action and keep at it.
Why is it important to stick to a plan?
It makes the best use of your time and energy and cuts our unnecessary thinking or dithering.
It requires no thought
Following a routine, when practised regularly, becomes as natural as breathing.
You can do it unconsciously; it takes no head-space.
Following the same physical routine of exercising in the morning becomes part of your muscle memory.
Like cleaning your teeth, you don’t have to think about whether or not you should do it, how to do it, or if you’re doing it properly.
It becomes instinctive or intuitive.
It cuts out decision-making
You don’t have to wake up and wonder what you’re going to do that day, question your next steps or make any decisions, you can switch into auto-drive and just get on with the tasks at hand.
It’s common for many successful people to wear the same style or colour of clothes every day, or eat the same food for breakfast or other meals, because they decide to cut out the time-consuming tasks of deciding between options.
They save their decision-making for more important things.
How do you plan?
Focusing on the things you’re going to do in the day helps to direct you to a single purpose, whether that’s to help you to live a happier life, or to support you in developing a thriving business.
One day might be a small period of time in relation to your whole lifespan, but you can make every hour count by using it well, in a consciously planned way.
Depending on your preferences, you can make a list, record reminders in your calendar or online planner, set alarms, or simply block out whole days, hours or minutes to focus on specific tasks, undisturbed.
Whether it’s concentrating solely on marketing every Tuesday; or only reading emails for 15 minutes at a time – at 10am and 3pm; or spending the hour before children’s bedtime on bath-time and reading – you can schedule chunks of time to get certain things done.
But how do you decide what goes into your plan?
Here are some ways to help you to focus your attention where it counts and decide what to build into your daily schedule.
When you plan your day, focus on what is important to you.
What do you value in life?
These are – literally – your values.
If health is something you value, prioritise exercise and nutrition in your daily routine.
If productivity is important to you, deal with significant work tasks first-thing.
If it’s family, make sure you set aside regular family time in your day – whether it’s eating breakfast or reading with the kids, calling your mother, or spending quality time with your partner.
If you value creativity, incorporate that into your day – whether it’s through visualisation, poetry, painting, cooking or brainstorming new ideas.
By focusing on tasks that are aligned with your values, you will feel more purposeful, inspired and motivated. If you’re impassioned about something, all the better.
You probably have a vision of how you want your life or your business to be – in a year’s time, or ten years’ time.
You can probably break that down into yearly or even monthly goals.
How about making a daily goal?
Decide on a goal – or a few small goals – for the day.
What do you want to achieve each day?
As well as the routine things you do every day, at certain times – like, clean your teeth, exercise, eat – what specific thing, task, action, product, achievement – do you want to complete today?
Decide how you’re going to take a significant step towards your goal – in the next hour, half-day, or whole working day.
So, you have a lot to fit into your day, and probably a few things you ‘have to,’ ‘need to’ or ‘want to’ do.
Make a list of things that you have to/need to/want to achieve, perhaps over the next week.
Then, prioritise them and determine what needs to happen day by day.
What can you do to be most productive, or to work more efficiently?
Prioritise the tasks by concentrating on what is important to you – according to your values, vision and goals.
What single actions will get you closer to where you want to be?
Which tasks – when completed – will give you most return on your investment (of time and energy)?
Decide to do them, as a priority.
What is the most important thing you can do today?
Decide on a Most Important Task (MIT) for the day – and do it first thing, as a priority.
Even if it seems too hard – eat that frog, because everything thereafter will be easy.
Don’t fritter away time checking emails or catching up on news.
Do your Most Important Task first thing in your working day, when you’re fresh and at your most productive.
In a Redditt Ask Me Anything, behavioural psychologist Dan Ariely said:
“One of the saddest mistakes in time management is the propensity of people to spend the two most productive hours of their day on things that don’t require high cognitive capacity (like social media).
If we could salvage those precious hours, most of us would be much more successful in accomplishing what we truly want.”
Schedule some down-time within your day.
Decide that you’re going to take an hour’s break for lunch, and some dedicated coffee breaks – and make sure you take them.
Build in some play and leisure time.
These are not lesser tasks – indeed, they are important for your mental and emotional health and wellbeing, and for maintaining relationships – as well as for giving your mind and body some rest and relaxation.
In fact, it’s often during down-time that our most creative ideas and solutions come up, unexpectedly.
And make sure you have a distinct end-time to your working day, so it doesn’t bleed into your family or leisure-time.
It’s important to create a good work-life balance.
Plan for the unexpected
The best-laid plans don’t always run to plan.
While you might have a whole day planned down to the minute, don’t be so rigid that any deviation drives you to despair or frustration.
Remember to allow for some flexibility and spontaneity.
Build it in, if need be – give yourself generous timeslots to finish a task and take decent breaks between tasks – so that, if you are interrupted in your concentration, your timescale isn’t so tight that it throws you off completely.
Whatever you do, having a plan is key to success.
It’s important to do these activities with regularity and repetition as a daily routine or ritual.
It’s no good trying something once and expecting it to accelerate your success and help you to achieve greatness.
It needs to be embedded in your lifestyle – as part of you.