Be more productive & reduce stress tip 2: Plan your day

One of the most important things you can do to increase your productivity and reduce your stress is to plan each day.

Planning starts with your previous day. Review your previous day either at the end of the day, or the very first thing you do to start the next day. Start building today’s to-do from yesterday’s activities: (Read TIP 1 – LOG YOUR DAY)

  • Are there items you need to follow up on? If you can close the task by sending an email or making a quick phone call, stop and do those items now.
  • Did you complete all of the days tasks? Add tasks you need to complete to your todo list.
Next, review your calendar. ALL of your appointments should be on a calendar, even if they are informal meetings. For example, if you told a customer or client you would meet them Tuesday around 10 am, even if that means they could drop by to see you anytime from 9:30 to noon, that event should have been placed on your calendar the moment you finished talking to the client. This way you won’t forget and schedule another meeting or even at the same time.
  • Add todays calendar items to your todo list

Planning your day will reduce stress, over scheduling, and stop projects and tasks from “falling through the cracks”. Experiment with tools until you find what works for you. For some, this will be a simple pocket notebook where they jot down everything they do all day (see “keep a work diary”) and to-do lists, for others it will be integrating their Blackberry to-do lists with Outlook and calendars. There is no wrong answer, as long the system you choose works for you and you USE it.

As an example, my personal planning routine goes something like this:

  • First thing each morning, read through my previous days journal.
  • Update my journal with more details if needed to make the record more complete for future reference.
  • Update my calendar and to-do list from items in the journal.
  • Send emails and make phone calls for items I have to follow up on.
  • Take care of all items on my to-do list I can do in less than 5 minutes.
  • Start scheduling what tasks I will tackle at what part of the day

Now, if your work schedule is anything like mine, then its IMPOSSIBLE to say ‘at 10 am I am going to call So-n-So and get this item resolved and then at 1 pm I am going to finish building the SQL report for the accounting department’. But, I can get that report onto my to-do list and make sure my managers know I have to have time to work on it. Since I work in customer support, the specifics of each day are up in the air, but I still have projects to be completed. By planning, I am not as stressed about them, and everyone in my department knows I have a schedule and tasks that I stick to (not only making management happier with my performance, but giving me a much better relationship with my clients as well, since they know I ALWAYS follow up.

Did you miss the first in this series? Catch up now by going back and reading “Tip 1 – Log Your Day