Five Minutes or Less: All You Need to Plan Your Day

By Lissa Cupp, vice president, e-Commerce & Consumer Marketing, ACCO Brands

You wake up. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping—you already know it’s going to be a great day! But it’s not the weather or wildlife outside your window that’s making it so. It’s a mere five minutes of time that’s giving you this assurance.

Those five minutes is all the time you need to complete one important task: planning your day. Only five minutes. It’s a very small investment that gives your day direction and can make a significant difference in what you accomplish.

The simple task of planning the day ahead will help you optimize your time for maximizing the number of things you get done. It also holds you accountable for appointments, to-dos and other important information and events. If you make this single, brief effort to plan, you will find yourself needing less time each day to get organized.

How do you get started? The first step is to settle in each day, either at work or at home, and get comfortable. Before you turn on your computer, dive into your inbox or grab that pile of mail waiting for you, start your planning. During these five minutes, focus only on the day ahead, what you want and need to accomplish, scheduled meetings or events that need to be kept, and so forth.

A few things to keep in mind as you look forward into the day include running the risk of overbooking yourself. With traditionally busy schedules, this is easy to do—avoid overbooking by rescheduling or canceling appointments that prohibit you from accomplishing your high-priority tasks. Also, be sure to allot a sufficient amount of time for each meeting or task, and add some “buffer” time in-between these so that you have the opportunity to regroup and prepare for each one.

To do all of this effectively, you only need two tools—a planner and a notebook.

Your planner will serve as your “master schedule,” a place to keep all information that is required for you to not only excel in the workplace but also maintain your family and personal schedules. Use the type or style of planner that best suits you and your needs—there is no cookie-cutter solution, as everyone and their planning needs are unique. Whether it’s a traditional binder, a pocket planner or a designer organizer, it must work for you if you’re to successfully address your daily tasks and schedule.

Many people prefer a digital organizer using one of the many personal electronic devices available to them and syncing their Outlook, Gmail and other online calendars on these hand-held tools. Again, whatever works for you is the best solution.

No matter what medium you end up using, there’s a kicker—you only need to look or access it once per day, and that’s during your five minute planning time each morning. How can you get away with this? Enter the notebook.

Contrary to the planner and its once-per-day access, the notebook or similar note-taking tool is meant to be on hand and accessible throughout the day. Every morning, as you review your master schedule, transfer that day’s to-do lists and schedule of events to your notebook. Be sure to include any tasks that did not get completed from the previous day. Use “action” words and be concise in your task descriptions, and avoid using abbreviations—it’s not uncommon to forget what they mean!

Finally, you want to prioritize. Always make “day planning” your number one task—that way, you start off every day on the right foot and cross that item off your list. Like your planner, it’s recommended that you use a note-taking tool that best suits you—a spiral notepad, note cards, sticky to-do lists, a business notebook, etc.

Whatever you use, it needs to be portable and go with you at all times to not only keep you on task and schedule every day, but also to track and record new items and events that you can then transfer to your master schedule the following morning.

Every minute of every day is important. Taking just five of those minutes in the morning is a small but crucial step that will help ensure a proficient, productive and fulfilling day ahead. Please share your own tips and tricks—we’d love to hear from you.

[photo by TschiAe]

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