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Diary open on a page with hourly sections and a pen poised over the 9am slot.

If your to-do list is overflowing and work seems chaotic, then it might be time to take a more organised approach. We strongly believe that planning your day (and week!) in advance will help you be more productive. You’ll get more done, with fewer interruptions, if you follow our tips, so what are you waiting for? Let’s get stuck in and help banish overwhelm forever!

 

Why should I plan my day in advance?

If you’re not a planner by nature then it might feel odd to decide in advance what you’re going to do – but it can really be a game changer for productivity. If you wake up every day and wonder ‘what will I do today?’ then you can waste time choosing which tasks to focus on. If your day is already planned out then you can get stuck in straight away!

As well as getting more done in less time, having your day organised means you are less likely to forget important tasks. You’ll also reduce stress, particularly if you plan your week in advance. This is because having a plan means that you won’t worry about not finishing a piece of work because you’ve organised time every day to get it done. You won’t feel swamped on a Monday or Tuesday when you think you’ve got too much to do in too little time.

 

How can I plan when my role is unpredictable?

Even if your role is unpredictable, there will likely be clusters of tasks which you know you have to do. By thinking ahead and planning when to do these, you can introduce structure into your day. What also helps is planning which periods of the day you will allocate to do which tasks. This means you can knuckle down, knowing you won’t forget anything.

 

How do I plan for a huge project that may take weeks or months?

If you have a big project to work on rather than smaller tasks, it can seem daunting. However, in the words of Desmond Tutu, “There is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.”  What this means is that if you break up a big task into smaller ones then it feels less overwhelming. You can plan what you want to achieve in a day, even dividing it into micro tasks so that every hour or two you can tick something off the list. This will give you bursts of dopamine (the feel-good hormone) as you go along, knowing you are getting through the work. There is an enormous sense of accomplishment when you tick items off a list and you can even make it fun, as psychological studies show that this drives motivation as well as productivity.

There are a range of project planning apps you can use to track tasks for large pieces of work. These include Jira, Trello, ClickUp and Asana. The Agile project methodology has the concept of ‘sprints’ which are concentrated periods where a bite-size number of tasks are planned and worked on. Sprints typically last for two weeks, but can be any length, and it is up to the team working on the project how long they should be. This is a great way of planning work for a shorter, specified period of time, whilst maintaining a list of the overall project tasks, or backlog.

 

How do I start planning my days?

If you have control over how you structure your days and weeks then we’d highly recommend analysing the types of tasks you need to achieve and batching them. Mike Vardy is a productivity guru known as the Productivityist and he recommends ‘theming’ your days, weeks and months, as you’ll get more done if you’re in the groove of a particular type of task.

For example, if you have a lot of writing tasks then group them together, or housekeeping tasks such as creating reports and doing your expenses, or social media tasks such as creating content and graphics. Batching tasks like this is much more efficient than picking them up and putting them down multiple times. It’s so much quicker to write five social media posts in one go than to write one per day. Your brain is in the groove for that kind of task so you will probably get five done more quickly than (say) three if done separately.

Mike also recommends ‘horizontal themes’. What he means by this is that if you can’t spend a whole day on writing tasks, then you could maybe spend from 9 – 11am each day writing, and then allocate the rest of the day for other tasks. This means you’ll get that focused time on writing as well as leaving space for emails and project work.

 

What methods can I use to reduce distraction?

If you struggle to concentrate then we can offer some brilliant ways of reducing distractions in your day. For example, put your mobile phone out of reach and stay off social media until you take a planned break. Don’t feel like you need to respond to emails immediately, and maybe turn off the notifications on your desktop computer to stop them from popping up on your screen.

Avoid multitasking, because although it might appear to be a superpower, it’s actually a time suck! Your brain takes time to switch between tasks, and this can add up over a day. It’s more productive to stick to one task, finish it, and then move on to the next one.

Our next tip is to listen to music. This can drown out background noise and you can decide whether you listen to an artist you know so well that you almost don’t hear it when their tracks are playing – which may sound counterproductive, but playing familiar songs means your brain doesn’t have to concentrate on them. If you have an iPhone you can use the ‘background sounds‘ feature to play rain, white noise or ocean sounds. Or download the Calm app for free and use some of its soundscapes which include ‘French Spring Village’ and ‘Ocean Liner Cabin’ as well as soothing music pieces.

We have also written a blog with great productivity hacks including:

  • Using time blocking to spend short bursts of time on tasks to get more done in less time.
  • Setting up email templates for consistent responses to questions you get asked a lot.
  • Using text expanders to save typing, keying an abbreviation which then expands into the full text.
Laptop with blank screen next to an alarm clock showing the time of ten minutes past ten, to represent the concept of time boxing.

 

Time-boxing helps increase productivity

Setting a specific time frame for a task can be a game-changer if you want to increase productivity. Without a deadline, tasks can expand to fit the time you allocate to them. If you’re more focused and work in short bursts then you’re more likely to tick items off your list.

Other advantages of timeboxing are that they make the amount of time you have available more visible. If you plan your day in advance then you’ll know when you’ll be in meetings, on a lunch break or at other fixed appointments. This leaves chunks of time when you can plan the tasks you want to complete.

 

When should I plan my day?

If you have a rough plan for your week then you can refine it each day to plan out what you will do, and when. This allows for last-minute changes if you need to do an urgent task for someone on Wednesday which wasn’t on your list on Monday.

If you start each day with a blank piece of paper and mark out the fixed meetings or other appointments then you can take your task list and plan what time you will allocate to each item. Be realistic, because much as we love the dopamine hit when we tick something off, we also hate the anxiety when we don’t get as much done as we’d hoped.

If you get to the end of the day and you haven’t completed everything then don’t fret as you can simply review the list and either roll something over to tomorrow, or if it isn’t super-urgent you can add it to next week’s list.

 

Eat the frog!

We all have tasks we love and jobs we hate. The concept of eating the frog is to get the worst tasks done first so that you can surf through the rest of the day. Be honest, if you HAD to eat a frog then you’d get it over with quickly wouldn’t you, so that you can then relax and enjoy yourself!

However, sometimes the opposite is true. If you have a project where you have lots of tasks, then sometimes doing the easy ones first means that the harder ones aren’t actually so difficult after all. You’ve gained experience and confidence from the simple stuff so can sail through the tough ones after all.

 

Are you ready to plan your day?

Hopefully, our tips have convinced you that planning your day in advance will help you be more productive. Some of the articles we’ve linked to are worth reading to get even more suggestions for productivity.

You can also use tech to help plan your day, for example:

  • Use Email By Zapier to create tasks in apps such as Asana, to reduce distraction whilst ensuring they’re not forgotten.
  • Create a recurring task each week to plan what you want to achieve.
  • Use the timer on your phone or computer to help set timeboxing alarms.

 

Other ways to be more productive

As automation experts, we recommend taking productivity to the next level using no-code automation tools like Zapier.  We have a really useful article about how to get started with automation and our free Introduction To Zapier e-book explains the benefits of business process automation.

We also have a free cheat sheet with a checklist of Zapier’s inbuilt function which can supercharge your automation.  

Reduce your overwhelm with our automation training programme

And finally, if you’re really keen to reduce your overwhelmand  transform your business using automation, then visit the Solvaa Automation Academy. Our signature training programme, ‘Simple Automation Blueprint: Zero to Hero’ is aimed at anyone who wants to learn the fundamentals of business process automation from the experts – a sure-fire way to recession-proof your business.

It’s an 8-week blended learning course with on-demand videos, templates, resources and weekly group coaching sessions. And it’s more than just a Zapier course (although we do show you how to use Zapier like a pro) as you’ll learn about Process Mapping, Business Process Improvement and Business Process Management too – principles that can be applied to other areas of business too! 

Whether you are a complete novice or have been using Zapier for a while, our programme is for you. It’s perfect for individuals and teams in micro, small and medium-sized businesses, including solopreneurs, consultants and freelancers. You’ll have access to our experts and can participate in live calls where you can ask all your burning questions, as well as hands-on workshops to keep you on track with implementing your new skills. We run regular cohorts so there will be an opportunity for everyone to participate.

Our head trainer, Kelly Goss, is a specialist in business systems, process improvement and automation, and one of less than 100 Zapier Certified Experts in the world. Kelly has many years’ experience in optimising systems and processes, and implementing automations for clients and is now passing on her knowledge to students through our trademarked ‘4-Step Solvaa Automation Methodology®‘. 

Find out more via our dedicated Solvaa Automation Academy website.

Read more about how our certified experts use Zapier workflow automations to simplify processes and increase efficiency.

Solvaa is a process and automation consultancy specialising in improving sales, operations and financial administration workflows. We help you to simplify and streamline existing processes, integrate your business tools to make data transfer more efficient and automate manual tasks to increase productivity. We are Zapier Certified Experts, Pipedrive Certified Experts and Xero Certified Advisors. 

Contact us today to discuss how Solvaa can help you simplify, improve and automate all aspects of your business with Zapier to save you time, reduce costs and keep you agile as you grow.

 

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