Last Updated on July 29, 2020 by Keri
Do you ever look at your schedule and feel super overwhelmed by how busy you are? Do you wish you were more productive so that you could spend more downtime doing homework with your kids or catching up on your favorite television show? In this article, I am going to share 10 planning tips that you can implement right away that will help you be way more productive!
Planning is the key to success, but you need to know how to plan for productivity, not busyness!
The Difference Between Being Busy and Being Productive
Many people use these two sayings interchangeably, but the truth is, they are two very different things. You can be busy, but not be productive.
And you can be productive without being busy.
So, what exactly is the difference?
What does it mean to be busy?
Being busy simply means you are packing a lot of tasks into your schedule to fill your time. A “busy” to do list is a mile long and seems like it is never-ending.
If you had to define busy, it would probably look something like;
- Being helpful to everyone
- Accomplishing all the things
The problem with being busy is you are not focused. You end up running around like a chicken with your head cut off trying to accomplish everything.
What busy actually means is;
The only end result of being busy is burnout.
What does it mean to be productive?
On the flip side, productivity means you are measuring the effectiveness of your time based on the actual results you produced, not how much you got done.
In order to be productive, you need to be much more intentional about your to-do list, and the things you are saying yes to.
Would you rather give four things 25% of yourself, or one thing 100% of yourself? Recognizing this is the key to being productive instead of being busy!
So, how do you stop being busy, and start being productive?
The key to being productive is to intentionally plan your time. It is about learning how to plan in chunks of time and aiming for specific results rather than how many things you can check off of a to-do list.
Of course, you will need some kind of planner! I encourage you to use whatever you are comfortable with! If you find your planning system is not working for you, try something new! You would be amazed at what a difference a planner can make in your productivity.
Unfortunately, there is not one perfect planner out there. What works for me may not work for you!
However, I never hesitate to share my planner preferences as I have gone through many planners over the years!
Personally, I like to use a Bullet Journal. This system allows me to change up my planning routine based on my different needs at different times. It is super customizable, and you don’t need any fancy supplies to get started. Just a pen and a notebook! If you would like to know more about the Bullet Journal, check out the related post linked below!
10 Planning Tips to Make You More Productive!
Now that you understand the difference between being busy and being productive, you can begin to intentionally plan your time. Here, I have 10 planning tips that you can include in your planning routine that will help you be productive rather than busy!
Each tip can be used individually, but they also work well together! Go through each and pick your favorite ones to get started!
Make an Effective To-Do List
You are probably already making to-do lists for yourself, but are they practical to do lists? Meaning, can you feasibly accomplish everything on it in the time you have, and still produce great results?
The key here is to make a to-do list that can be accomplished reasonably in the time frame that you have.
Start by writing your to-do list, and then eliminate, automate or delegate anything that is not a high priority, or can be completed by someone else.
Once your to-do list is trimmed down, calculate how much time you think it will take to complete each task. With everything added up, are you confident you can accomplish these tasks in the time you have? If you said yes, you can add this to your plan. If you said no, you need to go back and take more off your list.
This planning tip is definitely the most difficult tip to get started with. To learn more about creating an effective to do list, check out the related blog post below!
Prioritize Your Tasks
A to-do list is a very useful tool to ensure you are getting everything done that you need to get done. However, it can be overwhelming to look at that list and know exactly where to start.
I highly suggest you prioritize your tasks based on their level of importance before you add the list to your planner. This way, you can list your list in the order of importance. This makes it easy to just work your way down the list throughout the week.
Plan Your Biggest Task of the Day First
Have you ever heard the saying, “Eat That Frog!”?
This famous Mark Twain quote is encouraging you to get your biggest and worst task out of the way first thing in the day. The idea behind it is if you eat a live frog first thing in the morning, nothing worse can happen to you throughout the day. (Of course, this can also apply to your week!)
When you relate this to how you plan your week or day, get your biggest most dreaded task completed first!
Once completed, you can take a breath of relief knowing that the rest of your day/week will be uphill from here!
Admittedly, time blocking is not my favorite way to plan my time. However, I can’t dispute the effectiveness of this method. Especially if like me, you are a fantastic procrastinator!
I want to highlight an important quote that will help you understand the importance of working in chunks of time.
Can you think of a time in your life when you waited until the absolute last minute to do something? Or a time when you weren’t overly busy, so you took five hours to complete a project that would normally only take you three hours. This is referred to as Parkinson’s Law.
If you are a procrastinator, you will end up falling into this trap in all aspects of your life if you aren’t mindful of it! And planning with this knowledge will help you accomplish more in less time!
To avoid this, set up your entire day in blocks of time. There is no hard and fast rule of how long your blocks should be, so do whatever works best for your schedule. Personally, I like to schedule everything in two-hour blocks.
As you are planning, you are going to write down the result you expect to accomplish in each block of time, not the various task you are working on.
A bad example would be: Work on the blog for 6 hours.
A better example would be: Finish and schedule two blog posts in 6 hours. This is defining an expected result and is very measurable compared to the first example which was very vague.
Practice Task Batching
Task batching is a great way to complete large portions of your to-do list in one go, and will make you insanely productive!
Not to be confused with multi-tasking (which is doing five projects at the same time), task batching will help you produce more in less time by completing tasks that share a similar location, or require similar supplies, back to back. This will reduce the amount of time you need to transition from one thing to another.
Think about this, would you ever pull out your vacuum, and vacuum one room, and then put the vacuum away without carrying on to the next room? I highly doubt it! I know whenever I pull out the vacuum, the entire floor, if not the entire house, is being vacuumed! This task shares a similar supply needed.
Leaving the house to get groceries? Can you run your other errands while you are out? This task shares a similar location.
Try to think of new and creative ways that you can batch your tasks together to accomplish more!
Plan for Roadblocks
There is nothing worse than trying to stick to a schedule and running into a roadblock. This interruption to your plan can be big or small, but either way, it is incredibly annoying.
To avoid stress when I run into a roadblock, I always leave myself some unplanned time in the day to deal with these potential roadblocks. That way, I don’t have to rush to complete the project, and I can take the necessary time to overcome that roadblock without ruining the rest of the planned day!
This won’t always be perfect, but it can help alleviate some of the stress!
Plus, if you have an awesome day where you don’t run into any roadblocks, you can use this unplanned time to get some much-needed downtime, practice self-care, or check another task off of your to-do list in advance!
Schedule Yourself Some Downtime
Burnout is a real thing and is not something to joke about! It is very important to your productivity that you schedule yourself some downtime.
Whether that time means you are reading a book, practicing self-care, or just binge-watching your favorite show, do it!
You are not doing anybody any good by running yourself ragged. Trust me! Make the time and enjoy it!
Eliminate Time Wasters from Your Schedule/Routine
Is there something you see week after week in your schedule that you feel is just a huge waste of time? Most of the time, it is decision making moments that waste most of your time, and there are creative ways that you can automate, eliminate or delegate these things right off your weekly to-do list!
One of my favorite examples to use in my own planning routine is meal planning. While meal planning is the first big step you can take to eliminating the decision-making process of what you are going to eat for dinner each night, there is a way to take it a step further!
Recently, I started using a meal plan rotation. Basically, I created an entire meal plan for a full month followed by weekly shopping lists. Once we finish the rotation, we simply start back at the beginning. While this was a huge time investment up front to get set up, it has saved me so much time now that I don’t have to do any meal planning or shopping lists each week!
Think about an area where you see yourself wasting a lot of time and think of how you can either eliminate it altogether or at the very least, take some control over it!
Make a 10 Minute List
There are many moments in the day where you will find you have small pockets of time, but no idea how to fill them. Maybe you have ten minutes before you must leave for work. Or fifteen minutes until you have to leave to pick the kids up from school.
Often time, you probably have no idea what you can accomplish in these small pockets of time, so you end up sitting down and checking your social media or watching a funny video on YouTube. But there is a way you can use this time to be productive instead!
Sit down and make yourself a list of everything you can accomplish in ten minutes or less! And be sure to categorize each item you come up with so you can match your small task with the big task you were just working on.
Be Mindful of Your Schedule Always
How often do you say yes to something only to look at your calendar later and realize you have no time to do the thing you said yes to?
It is in our nature to want to help others! The only problem is by helping them, you sometimes end up hurting yourself in the long run. You are trying to do too much, and this is killing your productivity!
My favorite solution to help minimize this problem is by bringing my Bullet Journal with me everywhere! There is something about having my plan with me that keeps me more mindful of my schedule. Now, whenever someone asks me to help them with something, I think about my plan. Whether I grab it or not, I usually know if I can fit that task into my schedule. Just having the plan with me keeps it at the front of my mind always, and then I can refer to it if I am unsure!
I really hope you try implementing at least one of these strategies into your planning routine. They have each helped my productivity so much, and I am confident that they can help you too!
Do you have any other productivity planning tips to share? Be sure to leave a comment below!