This article was based on episode 217 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Members of the Modern Manager community get an exclusive extended 30-day free trial of Sunsama. Become a member at www.themodernmanager.com/join. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.
For years, I’ve been searching for the perfect daily planning system. Between my calendar and digital task manager, email and random sticky notes, I was constantly worried something would slip through the cracks. A few years ago, I settled on a morning routine of filling out a template I’d created on my Remarkable tablet. It served me well until recently when I discovered Sunsama, a daily planning assistant that helps knowledge workers stay focused and productive throughout their workdays.
I spoke to Ashutosh Priyadarshy, the Co-founder and CEO of Sunsama, about the importance of a solid daily planning system and how we can build better planning habits, not just for ourselves but also our team.
TIPS FOR EFFECTIVE DAILY PLANNING
It is easy to get lost in the number of things that are going on around us daily. Even at work we are constantly receiving a variety of new tasks, new emails every day, and sometimes end up feeling like we did not really accomplish what we set out to achieve. From my discussion with Ashutosh, here are the main reasons why we struggle:
Be Intentional About Your Time
Are you one of those people that start your work day by checking email or Slack, or just diving right into the work? If we don't pause to plan how we’ll spend our time, we often end the day wondering what we accomplished. Before you get into work, you need to know your priorities for the day. By identifying what you want or need to get done, you’ll make progress toward your most important goals. And in the long run, you’ll have a greater and more meaningful impact.
Integrate Your Tasks and Your Calendar
In addition to our projects and tasks, we also need to contend with the calendar. I’ve had those days when I’ve selected three critical tasks only to realize my day is already full with meetings. Ashutosh explains that we need to review our calendar so we have an accurate estimate of how much time is available for other work.
Don’t Forget the Work Chores
Few of us schedule time or create to-dos for checking email or Slack every day, yet it’s an essential part of how we function. Ashutosh refers to these types of activities as “work chores.” These could include following up on a conversation, scheduling meetings, or ordering lunch for your team’s in-person gathering next week. It helps to have a singular place to keep track of everything that will take up your time, including meetings, larger project work, and smaller tasks. Having visibility like this creates clarity and sets a realistic expectation of what can be done in a single day.
Create a Daily Planning Habit
Like most people, creating a daily routine and sticking to it can be challenging. The key is to find a consistent time that works with your existing schedule. I like to plan my day while enjoying a cup of coffee as the first thing I do when I sit down to work. For someone else, it may be planning for tomorrow after putting your kids to bed. Find that consistent time in your day and commit to 5 minutes of daily planning. Try setting a calendar notification or putting a note somewhere visible as a reminder.
End Your Day with Reflection
Just as starting your day with intention is powerful, Ashutosh encourages us to end our day with intention. By reviewing what I got done, even if all I did was go to ten meetings, I feel a sense of accomplishment and closure instead of frustration or ambiguity. No matter how tired you feel or rushed you may be to leave work, spend five minutes at the end of your day reviewing what you accomplished and how you spent your time.
This daily reflection and insight will give you the motivation you need to push forward for the next day. It helps you appreciate all your hard work and effort. Ashutosh mentioned that this can also be an opportunity for you to step away from work and transition to other activities like spending time with your family or self care. This can be especially powerful for those of us who work from home and lack the traditional separation of “work” and “life”.
Share Your Daily Plan with Your Team
Some people find it helpful to share their daily plan with their team members. This has multiple benefits including keeping people informed of your priorities for the day. Plus you’ll be more accurate in selecting what you want to get done instead of being overly ambitious. It also creates a sense of external accountability which helps keep you on track when you’re struggling to focus or battling procrastination.
These are just a few steps you can start incorporating to boost your productivity and sense of accomplishment. When you lack a daily plan, it can be easy to get lost in your work and end up overworking yourself or staying busy without making progress. Make daily planning part of your daily habits and experience the power yourself.
KEEP UP WITH ASHUTOSH
Get an extended free trial of Sunsama when you become a member of the Modern Manager community at themodernmanager.com/join.
This article was based on episode 217 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.