I’ll tell you right from the start – having a planner by my side really helps me to be way more productive.
I’ve learned it the hard way.
Believe it or not, at one point in time, I stopped using a planner for a few months. 😮
(and I even don’t know why! honestly, there wasn’t a single good reason for such a silly decision!)
And what was the lesson learned?
I gotta tell you, in terms of productivity, staying on top of my goals, being focused, and getting the tasks done – those days were as dark as the Middle Ages.
As soon as that wisdom hit me, I got back to planning, and I believe I will continue to use some form of a planner for the rest of my life.
(if nothing else, it’s a great way to have your days noted and tracked, kind of like a diary)
It’s now gone to another extreme – I’m using several at once.
Sounds too complex?
Well… it is, so I’m currently brainstorming about how to merge at least some of them into one and make an ultimate planner that will work for me.
But, let’s get back to the point of this post.
Since using so many different planners, I’m sure I can give you a piece of advice (or few 😉 ) how to use any planner to be productive, and so – here they are!
Set a goal
First of all, do set goals.
A big one if you’re planning in quarters or on a monthly basis, or a smaller one when planning out your week or a day.
Make your goal be visible to you every single time you look in your planner.
Every. Single. Time.
Write it down on a special sticker, color it, do whatever you like to make it pop into your eyes as soon as you open a specific page of a planner.
The answer is simple.
It will remind you of what is important to you at the moment, so you’ll instantly know what to focus on and what tasks are those which should be your priority.
No need to spend the time on something that is not as important as your goal.
You can (and will) deal with it later, but first things first!
State your priorities
Your goal is obviously your biggest priority, but by priorities in this context, I mean on those tasks which you should do in order to achieve that goal.
(not sure how to prioritize your tasks? read the post Key to productivity)
Know the “Top 3” section?
That’s what I’m talking about here.
You even don’t need to have a “top 3”, a top two or only one item can be quite enough to make you be zoomed in on what you should be working on.
Again, make it stand out in your planner so you don’t get sidetracked by other events or tasks which might show up during the day.
(or whatever time period we are referring to)
Name the tasks
The inevitable part of planning is making a to-do list.
However, if you want to use your planner to be productive (and that’s the point of this post!), don’t add just any task on your to-do list.
Even though responding to emails, finishing errands, doing laundry, or preparing meals, for example, can all technically be the tasks you should do in a day, in the vast majority of cases they are not the type of tasks where your primary focus should be.
Remember to focus only on those tasks that are related to accomplishing your priorities and consequently your goals.
Therefore, write down those important tasks, and I suggest you chop them into really small segments.
(you should have a decent amount of space in your planner for this)
Now, you may wonder why.
You know how only a single look at some big, important task can make you feel intimidated or overwhelmed?
You can easily pick up an I’d-like-to-procrastinate-about-it-right-now vibe.
And as you very well know, procrastination is one major productivity killer!
(pssst… I’ve also got a post about how to deal with procrastination if it’s bugging you and would like to finally put an end to it)
That’s the reason why I suggest you make a bunch of really small tasks out of one bigger.
By doing this, it will make the initial task seem easier, and definitely more manageable and doable.
Plus, you’ll be more motivated to continue to work on it because you clearly see the progress you’ve made along the way.
You can even combine the Pomodoro method with these tasks for an extra touch of productivity.
(if you decide to use this technique, it’s useful to have a small Pomodoro section in a planner. alternatively, if your planner doesn’t have one, consider adding this section as a sticker to your planner pages)
Now I’m (mostly) done with organizing the important tasks in your planner.
But what about the other tasks you have?
(remember emails, errands, laundry… I’ve mentioned before?)
It’s a fact of life.
Although there are important tasks you most certainly should be working on, you also have other not-as-significant tasks that you need to get done, as well.
How to (properly) deal with them?
I suggest you mark those tasks in your planner differently, so they will be still noted down, but will not get you sidetracked along the way.
You can place them in a “notes” compartment, a “memo” section of your planner, or any other place you find appropriate for this matter.
This way you’ll keep them physically separated so they won’t take away your focus from the important tasks which should, of course, come first.
At the same time, these tasks will still be written down in your planner to remind you of what to do next after you complete your most impactful work.
Alternatively, if you have a planner that has a daily schedule section, you can write your “smaller” tasks down on some appropriate empty time slot using a different type of handwriting.
For example, you can use smaller letter size, or different way of writing, or place those tasks in a brackets, or decide on some other method of your own.
This way you’ll make a visual difference between your important and not-as-important tasks even though they share the same place in a planner.
As with anything in life, if you want to achieve something, then having a motivation for it will surely heat up your productivity.
Therefore – stay motivated!
There are a number of ways how planner can help boost your motivation, and inspire you to take action.
The most obvious way is to have an inspirational quote or some powerful slogan written in your planner which will kick you in the pants to get the work going.
Another way of keeping yourself motivated to do the work is to have your “why” written down.
By that, I mean a greater purpose, the point of why you’re doing something in the first place.
You know – why your tasks matter in the grand scheme of life, and what you’ll eventually get out of it.
It’s a powerful way to help you be productive since it will fire up your desire to achieve your end goal.
You can also use a habit tracker as a way to inspire you and note how well you’re performing each day – just add a “been productive” item to the list.
This approach can help you be more motivated to continue being productive because first of all – it clearly shows you that you can do it (and that you do it frequently).
Also, keeping a “be productive” note in your habit tracker can serve you as a reminder to just snap out of whatever else caused you to lose your focus and get back on the right track.
And maybe most importantly, by using a habit tracker this way, you’re making productivity become a routine for you.
(which is quite a useful thing to have, I’d say…)
However, I do have to add that if you tend to be easily discouraged if/when you skip a day or two, you’ll probably lose your motivation instead to be excited about it, so this might not be the best option for you to choose.
Another way to be motivated to be productive is by using a good, old bribing technique! 😀
No, I don’t mean you should bribe someone to do the work for you.
(although it can be viewed as delegating tasks… 😀 )
What I mean by it is – bribe yourself.
If I’m still not clear, you’ll instantly understand when I say it differently – treat yourself if you get a job well done.
(now you get the picture, right? 😉 )
Write down in your planner what’s coming for you if you’ll be productive and use that as a motivation to get things done.
Whichever way you choose to motivate yourself to be productive, the key to success is making it visible and already accessible to you.
Because let’s face it, if you constantly have to flip the pages of a planner and search for your inspiration so you could be remembered about it, there are slim chances that this tip will truly serve its purpose.
I mean, when the rush of the day kicks in, will you really spend the time to look for a place where you’ve put that inspirational quote (for example), or will it be more likely that you’ll remain on a planner page which holds your focus for the day in one place?
(and this is not a trick question!)
Therefore, if you already don’t have a place for this, make a special spot on your planner page which will serve this purpose.
All these pieces of advice were mostly focusing on structural characteristics of a planner – whether there’s a certain designated space/box for a certain item on a page, and the like.
However, the advice I’m sharing now is applicable to any planner you might have.
It’s simple to pull off and very effective.
It’s color-coding your tasks.
Although this subject can easily be a separate post, here are the basics.
It’s basically highlighting the tasks which share some common feature (in this case, the highest level of importance) with the same color and using a different color for tasks that share some other common feature (lower level of importance).
The point of color coding is making the tasks pop into your eyes the moment you open your planner so you could start working on them asap.
Here are a couple of ways how you can do this.
- First scenario.
This is absolutely the simplest one, and you only need a single color to make it work.
It’s super simple.
What are your important tasks?
- Option number two.
Pick a color for important and not-as-important tasks and mark them in your planner accordingly.
This way uses two colors to distinguish between the tasks.
- Approach number three
Use different colors for different levels of importance/urgency, and don’t color code the trivial ones at all.
Depending on how many levels you create, this approach can use a number of different colors.
However, I like to stick to a maximum of three and choose a “standard” color scheme.
Red for the most important ones, orange for important but not as important as red, and yellow for “do them after red and orange are finished”.
(it’s quite enough, and realistically, most of the time it will anyhow be the end of the day by the time they are all done 😀 )
There are many other ways how you can organize and color-code your tasks to be more productive.
It’s all up to you, your creativity, and your needs.
And there you go!
These are only some (but most significant) ideas on how you can use your planner to be more productive.
And since being productive equals more time for other things in life (yaaaay!), you can now take a look at some self-care ideas to pamper yourself (hey, you deserved it!), as well as awesome things to do by yourself, or with friends and family.
Do you have some tips on how a planner can become your best productivity buddy?
Feel free to share them!