Everybody can benefit from learning how to create a daily plan. But usually, it is thought to be time-consuming with a lot of decisions to make.
Below I share with you 4 simple steps ( I call it a RAMS system) and 4 tips that I use a lot for planning a day quickly. Try them out.
4 SIMPLE STEPS (A R-A-M-S SYSTEM)
STEP 1: Resource – figure out how much time we have in a day
We all need a good sleep… Energy is critical to get things done right and wisely.
I believe a lot of people forget about this step. For me, that is the top priority. Write the number down.
STEP 2: Allot – identify how many tasks you need to do during the day, and how much time to spend on each task
Take out a paper, perform a brain dump, and write down everything in your mind.
- Don’t forget the tiny tasks. Tasks that take only 10 minutes should also go on the list.
- Feel free to review your journal, weekly plans, or even monthly plans (for example sometimes a critical project needs days of preparation ahead), emails, to try to get everything covered.
- When you write down the tasks, describe the results. Using the words like “finish the email” instead of “work on the email”. See the difference? Describing the results you want directly would help you to focus on the goals and be more productive.
Then write the amount of time needed right beside each of them.
- Keep in mind to have cushions. Add around 20% time to the time allotted. That would provide a buffer so you will feel more relaxed. Don’t ever push yourself to the limit.
After you allot the time, sum them up, and compare the result with the one got from STEP 1.
- Sometimes you need to reconsider the priorities and the time allotted. It is all about focus and choice. I usually identify the priorities when making a weekly or monthly plan. But when I come to the daily plan, I review them again. Typically I focus on no more than 3 critical tasks during a day to keep my productivity.
- Avoid overwhelm. Always ask : Can I delegate it to someone else? Can I do it tomorrow? Do I need to do it? Can I say “no” for that?
STEP 3: Milestone – mark out the necessary time points for each task
The word milestone is used a lot in business planning or project management. I found this concept is also useful for a daily plan.
For routines: like work, meetings, checking emails, and their deadlines are fixed already, so we can easily place them accordingly.
But for the others, for example, if you are playing in the stock market like me, you know how important the trading time is. Mark it out so you will never miss the trading opportunity. Usually, the time points already tell the deadline and the order.
The effective way is when you record the task down, write down the critical time points related as well if there is any. You may need to ask people-related questions about it, say, your boss, your clients, etc. So when you are making the plan, you will never miss that.
Meanwhile, keep in mind that we don’t need quantity but quality. Try to designate time according to whether you feel productive in doing the task in that time slot.
STEP 4: Sequence – sequence all the tasks into a journal, a daily planner or a time management App
It doesn’t matter what you use. A physical one, or an electronic one, or a mixed.
The key point is that the plan should be clear, and do refer to it frequently. If you like, you can use tools like Google Calendar to notify you of the deadlines during the day.
Of course you can go around and try all the tools, but I suggest you stick to the tools for a longer time. Getting used to the tools you choose would save you a lot of time for planning. The plan matters, the planner doesn’t.
So, that is the RAMS system. Not very difficult right?
Let’s move on!
There are also 4 tips to make the whole process more comfortable and more enjoyable.
TIP 1: Take notes and review the plan every day
During the day, when I finish a task, I write down a short note in my journal indicating the difficulties or my feelings about it. That’s why I think a journal may be better than an electronic tool. Writing something in the journal is a short break from typing and typing on the laptop…
There is no perfect schedule for everyone (you can found a lot of examples in books like Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, one of my favorite), and there is also no perfect schedule for every single day for a single person. The productivity curve could change.
Therefore recording is so important for continual improvement.
What the other things I record during the day?
- The actual time spent on that task if there is a big gap between the actual time and the designated one.
- My working style. For example, I love listening to music while doing some slides. So I record down the songs make me feel good that day. Or, a quiet place to do the phone interview, which makes the 2-hour interview comfortable.
- Distractions that disturb my workflow, such as a phone call from a client that you forget to get in touch with for weeks.
At the end of the day, I review the whole day to see whether the plan is reasonable or not, so I can make a change immediately for the rest of the week if necessary.
TIP 2: Create routines
So you don’t have to continually make decisions about what to do and when to do it. Review what you have done and identify which can be routines. You can update your routines over time.
By routines, I mean not only daily routines but also weekly routines. For instance, you can always set Monday as a day for one particular project, and Tuesday for another specific topic.
TIP 3: Try more multitasking
This is what I love to do.
I look for whether there is anything related to each other among the tasks. So I don’t have to shift the focus between tasks and have better productivity.
For instance, if I need to complete a report analyzing a project progress, I will make the storyline of the report early that week. Then in the following days, I use the meetings, discussions, or any other tasks related to this project to help collect useful information. Multitasking saves a lot of time and energy.
Multitasking can also be taken in your walk to work, for instance. Try to use the walking from work place home to exercise your body or figure out the to-do-list for the evening. Now in the lockdown, I have more time to cook for my self, so I usually think about the storylines while I am cooking.
TIP 4: Share your daily plan with stakeholders
If you are a team leader, share it with your team members and your boss. If you are a team member, share it with your boss and your peers. If you live with your families, share it with them.
Some of my friends already found this tip is constructive in the lockdown as they have to stay with their families all day long now.
Sometimes better ideas could come out of the discussions. And from years of experience, I find that sharing my daily plan with people around me helps me get more understanding, support, and convenience.
You’ll never know how much people would change themselves to help you out. Don’t be shy to have a try.
There you have it! My 4 steps（A RAMS system）and 4 tips for creating a daily plan. Hope they are helpful. Pick one or more to have a try!
You may have noticed that I mention a lot about the journal. Want to start the journal yourself? Check it out here: