The 5 Minutes of Planning that Will Save Your Day

You are going to have one of those days … you know, the kind where you are just on a roll?

You’re knocking off tasks, you’re getting things done – on your way to the most productive day you’ve had in a long time! And it’s all because you did one thing.

You spent 5 minutes doing one important task: day planning.

Only five minutes. That’s all it takes to make a dramatic difference in what you get done. It’s a small investment of time that gives your day direction. You can do it.

Day planning will help you optimize your time for getting more things done. It keeps you accountable for important appointments, to-dos and information. If you make this single, brief effort to plan you will find yourself needing less time each day to get organized.

Yes, a successful day can be yours, and it’s all done in a handful of minutes:

  • 0:00 – Plan your daily schedule, first by referencing your monthly “master” calendar, and then by creating any necessary appointments based on yesterday’s activities. You should also block out hour-long segments of dedicated task time when needed. Don’t overbook yourself – reschedule or cancel appointments that interfere with your high priority tasks.
  • 0:30 – Scan yesterday’s notes and spot new tasks and appointment requests. This is particularly important because an important follow-up action may have resulted from a phone conversation or business meeting that must be addressed with urgency.
  • 1:00 – Check yesterday’s Action List in your day planner for any tasks not completed. Evaluate whether these are still priorities or whether they should be put back on your Master Task list – or on your Grass-Catcher list  – for another day.
  • 1:30 – Repeat success. Make a mental note of what went well yesterday and see if you can match this success today. For example, if you made headway in a particular project, find time for it again today. Always build-off the momentum of work you’ve accomplished.
  • 1:45 – Write your daily task list, according to important needs and other urgent commitments that you deem necessary to your business. Be sure to fill your daily Action List with descriptive action words like “complete,” “outline,” “research,” and “contact.” Keep your list short, realistic and doable within the confines of your day.
  • 3:00 – Choose your top priorities: face it, there are things you need to do today at work or at home in order to maintain order and accomplishment in your life. Some high priorities are quite obvious — such as meeting a work deadline — while others are less apparent though no less important such as paying a bill before its due date arrives.
  • 4:00 – Prioritize your a tasks by assigning them an A, B, or C:
    • A tasks absolutely must be done today, and will suffer consequences if not. Only a few proud tasks earn this distinction. Don’t call it an “A” if you don’t fully intend to do it.
    • B tasks need to get done, but won’t be penalized if not. Remember: B tasks if put off too long will become A-level tasks that require urgent attention.
    • C tasks are the things you want to get done, but they can wait another day. These are great fill-ins for your downtime or time you might have left over.
  • 4:30 – Number your tasks in the order you want to complete them. Whenever possible schedule the most important tasks first, and then find an order that suits your daily movements.
  • 4:45 – Stuck? If you are not sure which task should go first, ask yourself the following questions: Which task best fits my role? Which task pursues my goals? Which work completed today will have the most impact tomorrow?
  • 5:00 Cross it off. On your daily task list write the words “Day planning” and check it off. Enjoy the feeling of satisfaction from seeing this first completed task atop your list.

Now, the blueprint to a successful day is all laid out for you. Is 5 minutes of your time worth it? Of course it is. Day planning is a small but crucial step for choosing your daily priorities – at work and at home – and for getting your important work done.

Make 5-minute day planning one of your successful habits today.

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7 thoughts on “The 5 Minutes of Planning that Will Save Your Day

  1. Great post!

    However, I would like to know what is your take on recurring tasks – do you include them on your daily list?

    For example, I have certain tasks that I do every day (meditation, writing a blog post, exercising …)

    Should I include those recurring tasks on the task list too?


    1. Timo, it can become tedious to continually write out your daily recurring tasks. The only time I strongly recommend it is if you have follow-through issues and writing them down will inspire you to get them done and check them off each day. Otherwise, you might want to create a task called “Daily routine” to include all of these activities — which can be listed on a dedicated page elsewhere in your planner. I list my daily blog routine this way, which consists of reading, writing, and commenting. Create your own routine titles such as “Morning Routine,” “Fitness Routine,” or whichever best describes your block of tasks.

      Hope you find this idea helpful.

  2. I do a big week in review on Sunday. I review my emails, notes and appointments for the next day at the end of each work day. That way I do not miss meetings, medical appointments or important papers or presentations I need to have with me for critical meetings and conference calls.

  3. A great post. I like to keep my tasks simple and have just two types: “Urgent” and “Important.” Urgent are on a time based critical path for me and my customers (external or internal customers I mean) and Important are tasks that can be left until they too become Urgent. It works for me. Give it a try :-)

    1. Great comment Howard. That sounds like a great system, assuming you always define Urgent tasks as tasks that are not just time sensitive, but important to the goals of yourself and your customers.

  4. Jeff i really like your site and i can testify the importance of the five minutes to get your day started off right. Thanks for your post

    (when i first maid the comment i put it under ask jefff sorry please delete that comment thanks.)

    1. Thanks for reading Adam. I’m glad you find success in your daily planning. Keep up the great work!

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