5 Simple Steps to Planning a Productive Day (Hint: You Don't Need an Expensive Planner)

5 steps to planning a productive day

5 steps to planning a productive day

How do you get sh*t done as a busy lady?

You have to plan.

Now y'all have probably seen super fancy planners.  Cute little books with perfect hand lettering, stickers, oh and one or two tiny to do's.  I totally love the look of fancy, scrapbook-style planners. But guess what?

I don't use one for daily planning.

I need to get shit done. And I don't want to break out the colored markers, washi tape, and stickers every morning just to remember to clean the bathroom.

I know the benefits of planning but wanted to strip it back and make the process SUPER SIMPLE.  And you know what?  Super simple works for me.

Wanna get more done?

Here is my step-by-step system to daily planning. Best of all? No expensive supplies or artistic abilities required.

5 steps to planning a productive day:

Before you begin...

Gather your supplies.

This is easy!  All you need is a pen and paper. Really, that's it.

I made the printable daily planning sheet in the photo below (and you can pick it up here) because it shows the exact things I track each day.  But a plain ol' notebook or scrap paper works just fine.  If you have a planner sitting around the house, that totally works too.

planning a productive day

planning a productive day

Then set up your daily sheet.

When you think about your day, and getting things done, there are a few things that remain the same:

  • You may need to go places.

  • You need to eat dinner. (Maybe even cook for a family.)

  • You need to get stuff done. Some days more, some days less.

  • You need to take care of yourself. Because, as the saying goes, "if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." Same thought for mama being healthy and happy.

So the very first thing to do is make sure  you address these areas on either your planner or in your notebook.  It's super simple.

If you have my printables, those areas are already included.

If you are working with a notebook or scrap paper, just write these headings on your  paper with some space in between, just like the photo below:

  • Day and date

  • Schedule

  • Dinner

  • Top 3 Priorities

  • Other Tasks

  • Self Care

  • Notes

planning a productive day

planning a productive day

Don't stress out and grab rulers or fancy pens. Keep it simple.  Now it's time to begin planning.

STEP 1 - Begin  your day with a positive thought.

Your attitude is super important, so start the day with a happy thought or motivational quote. Use the space at the top of your page to jot down an inspirational quote or personal focus for the day. (Or write it in the Inspiration section if you're using the printables.)

You can find inspirational quotes everywhere.  Pinterest has tons of motivational sayings. Often I'll just Google "inspirational quotes" or "fitness motivation" or whatever topic speaks to me that day.

STEP 2 - Map out your daily Schedule.

The schedule is where you write appointments and events that must take place at a certain time, like a dentist appointment at 10:30, pick up the kids from school at 3pm, and dinner at 6pm.

If doing this on paper, just list the appointments or things that must happen at a certain time.  You don't need to write out the hours of the day.

If  you are a minimalist, just fill in any appointments or time sensitive events and you're done.

Extra credit - time block your day.

Time blocking is scheduling exactly WHEN you will do items on your to do list.  For example, your Top 3 Priorities. If you need a little extra discipline in scheduling your day, you can set a specific time in your Schedule for those tasks.

Same goes for activities like workouts, meal prep, walking the dog, etc.

And don’t forget personal time.

No matter how hectic life gets, be sure to schedule some “me” time. Whether it’s watching a favorite show, playing on Twitter, meeting a friend for coffee, listening to music…. schedule down time for yourself.

Remember, time blocking is optional.  If you prefer spontaneity, just add appointments to your Schedule. If  you want a little more structure, add time blocks.

STEP 3 - What's for dinner?

Jot down the dinner plan so there is no chaos at 5pm when you have hungry kids and an empty refrigerator.

(If you need a little help getting yourself organized in the kitchen, see this complete printable meal planning system. It's a life saver.)

STEP 4 - What tasks do you want to complete today?

Top 3 Priorities

If life is crazy and you can only get three tasks done today, what are the three most important? These vital tasks go in the Top Priorities section. Once you are ready to get to work, these are the tasks you should do first.

Other tasks

Then jot down other tasks you would like to accomplish under the Other Tasks section. (Or Daily Tasks if using the printables.)

Will they all get done? Maybe or maybe not. Remember, focus on your priorities. If your Top Priorities are complete each day, you will make progress toward your goals.

Plan a Healthy Life Tip:Always ask yourself “could someone else do this?” or “does this really need to be done?” or “does this need to be done now?” before adding an item to your list. Focus on tasks which give you the most bang for your buck.

STEP 5 - Make self-care a priority.

Make sure to take care of yourself. If you are creating your own planner page, track items most important to you.  I use this section to track water, daily workout, vitamins, prescriptions and “me time.”

You can also rate your day on a scale of 1-5 (5 being “awesome,” and 1 being “tomorrow will be better”) for attitude, sleep and your overall day.

The printable daily plan has space for a gratitude list, and you can easily add that to your own planning sheet.  Studies have shown that having an attitude of gratitude makes people happier, healthier and more optimistic. Take a minute to jot down one or two things you are grateful for.

Leave space for a Notes section, i.e, "don't forget..."

You know how you are going about your day and suddenly realize you need to buy a birthday present for the party this weekend? Or make a doctor's appointment for your daughter?

Use the notes section to record any thoughts or ideas that pop in your head, or tasks you  need to do in the future.

Keep your Daily Plan in plain sight.

You have your action plan laid out, but out-of-sight equals out-of-mind. You need to keep your notebook or planning sheet where you will see it multiple times each day. I leave my planning worksheet in a clipboard on top of my desk. It’s a habit for me to glance at periodically to see if I’m on track.

planning a productive day

planning a productive day

You can make your daily plan colorful and pretty if you want, but it's totally optional!

Sometimes I color in the headings for fun, or color the headers with colored pencil, but usually I don't. I'd rather spend my spare time playing on Twitter or watching HGTV.  I do like to write my plan with colorful pens though.

Grab your supplies and get start planning a productive day!

These are the supplies I use:

So there you have it.  Five simple steps to planning an organized, productive day and a happy and healthy life.  Hopefully this system will relieve some of the stress over your daily to do list, and help you get more shi---, er, stuff, done!