Plan Your Tasks

Knowing how to plan your day makes a massive difference to what you achieve and how you feel about it.

It’s the difference between time invested developing your roles or goals, and time wasted reacting to the distractions, disruptions and deceptions that bombard you.

A simple, visual way to organize teamwork. Sign In Get Planner for iOS. Tasks surface in Teams. The Planner app is already available inside the Teams client, but previously it showed a board view of all your Planner tasks, plus new tasks assigned to you in the main.

If you want to make the most of your day, planning it properly is essential.

But how do you do that?

Here are some ideas on how to plan your day at work, at home or when you’re out and about, so that you get to spend more of it doing what matters most..

Task Plan Template

Know what time you've got

Before you can plan it, you need to know what time you have available.

When planning each day, you need to work around any regular or scheduled activities you have on (events, appointments, meetings etc.)

For example, let’s say you’re at work for eight hours. If you know that five of those hours are accounted for, that leaves you with three hours, right?

Not quite..

Some scheduled events will overrun (more on that below). You also have to factor in food and bathroom breaks (perhaps not at the same time though. One of the best time management strategies is to batch tasks, but that may be taking it too far.

Accomplish

Anyway, these account for, say, another 30 minutes. Now you only have two and a half hours to work on unscheduled tasks and projects.

How do you know what to do?

This is the point at which you really benefit from knowing how to plan your day..

Plan your day before the day itself

This is invariably worth far more than the effort it takes to do -- it’s the ultimate bang for your buck. Your productivity will skyrocket when you do this, and I’m talking about being productive with regards to what matters most, not just to be busy.

Many time management experts advise planning the night before, but I’ve found this way of operating to be partially flawed. You’re relying on your ability to sit down and remember everything that you want to do at a point in the day when you’re probably most tired.

Instead, try this system:

Whenever you get given something to do that doesn’t genuinely merit a same day response, put it on your list for the next day that you think you’ll have some time.

For example;

  • Monday - task or project appears in your life. Write it down in your daily planner under ‘Tuesday’
  • Tuesday - start and/or complete task or project (depending on urgency).

What you’ll end up with is a finite list of things to work on.

But what happens when you know Tuesday will be no good because you’ll have no unscheduled time?

Simple.. shunt it to Wednesday, or the next available day you’ll have some time.

Not every day is the same.

Many scheduled tasks and events tend to be organized on a seven day basis, so use a weekly planner to help you decide what to do when.

By the way, any planning is better than none. If there are occasions when you don’t plan until the day itself, it’s still well worth doing. Even scribbling a few things down on some scrap paper provides a sense of purpose that your memory can’t match.

Organize your tasks into your available time

Earlier, I said ‘partially’ because planning the night before does have its uses. Once you know what you have to do, taking a few minutes to organize what to do, when to do it, and for how long, is an essential exercise for knowing how to plan your day.

Using the example above, let’s say you have a list of 11 things to do in your 2.5 hours.

Try time boxing each one of those things. Give each one a chunk of time according to the urgency it warrants (everything matters, otherwise you wouldn’t have written it down). The point is to do something about everything on your list, because it’s all important.

This takes practice and a degree of self-discipline, particularly when you start a task and get into the flow with it.

If you want to keep going with it, you have to decide whether or not it’s worth the cost of the knock-on effect of not doing the other things that have to be done. Sure, they can be shunted over to the next available day; but you’ll end up with less time and more pressure.

Schedule time for your roles, goals and projects

Most days, you get things to do. Organizing when to do something is fairly simple: Do it tomorrow, or on the next available day you can.

But what about those things in your life that won’t get done this week?

It makes sense to schedule your roles, goals and projects in the same way.

Do something about them each day you have some unscheduled time. If you’ve consistently got too many, you won’t give them the attention they deserve; this probably means you need to cut some less important commitments.

If you’re not prepared to do that, you’ll have to schedule them (probably on a weekly basis) if you want to actually do them.

So, going back to the 2.5 hours -- you’ve now got tasks to do, roles to perform, projects to complete and goals to work on.

What you’ve done now is identify everything on your radar. You now know what needs to be done.

And the same principle applies -- do something about everything.

Build in some buffer time

If you want to know how to plan your day, this is one the most important time management strategies you can learn.

Whatever time you have available to get things done, plan to leave a percentage of it as ‘open’ time for the inevitable disruptions that will interrupt your day.

It takes time, trial and error before you get to the point at which you allow the optimum amount of buffer time. Too much means wasted time; too little creates stress and pressure.

Plan Your Tasks Using

When scheduled events overrun

What happens when a meeting or appointment goes on longer than anticipated?

This sort of thing happens all the time. When it does, you have two options:

  1. Cut it short - if you’re willing and able, be the one who draws things to a close. This may mean learning how to be assertive, but it is one of the best ways to do if you want to know how to plan your day effectively.
  2. Re-think your plans for the day. If events eat up your buffer time and beyond, you’ll have to use whatever time is left to work on whatever needs doing first. Everything else will have to either be done later, or left until a later date.

How to plan your day: Summary

  • Any planning is better than none.
  • Prepare future lists as you go through each day.
  • Decide how much time to give to each item on your task list based on the time available and urgency of each task.

  • Allow for some buffer time.
  • Make time each week for longer term roles, goals and projects

    › ›
  1. How to Plan Your Day

Effectively use your calendar to save time and free yourself from stress.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Something Lou Gerstner, former CEO of , once said has stuck in my head: 'Never let anyone own your schedule.' It's simple and obvious, yet genius.

Over the years, whenever I didn't follow this advice, I was stressed and unproductive. Gradually I learned that and following a routine makes a huge difference in how I feel and what I get done. Here are some of the things that help me manage my schedule that you may find helpful:

1. Create a routine

No matter what you are working on, create a routine. Block times for specific activities, and stick with the plan. Turn your into a bunch of blocks, and put activities into those blocks. Whatever is not planned, you don't do. If you want free , plan it.

Your routine may change through the year, but at any given time it's better to have a plan. For example, if you are working on launching a company, and need to do customer discovery, coding and hiring, then prioritize and block specific times for each activity. A calendar app is a very useful tool

Here is a sample calendar I made that illustrates some of the concepts and ideas from this post.

Related: 101 Time Management Tips to Boost Productivity Every Day

2. Group meetings and calls into blocks

For example, if you need to have outside meetings, block two and a half days a week for those meetings, and go to the outside meetings only during those times. Do the same thing for in-office meetings. This way you are not only creating a chunk of time for meetings, you are also creating other blocks of time that you will be able to important work. Do the same thing with calls, and book them all back to back.

3. Optimize time for different meeting types

Personally, I am now a big fan of 30-minute meetings and 10-minute calls. I think 10-minute calls are a great way to initially connect with someone or give someone quick advice. You can do a Google Hangout or if you prefer to see the person instead of just hearing them. The reason 10-minute calls work is because people skip BS and get to the point. Try it. Ten minutes is actually a lot of time, if you focus. I prefer to do these calls on Fridays, when I am usually working from home.

I am not a big fan of introductory coffee meetings, lunches and dinners. I am a huge fan of coffee and meals with people I already know. Those meetings are typically productive and fun, but the first time you are meeting someone, it's more productive to do a call or an actual 30-minute meeting in the office.

Here are the types of meetings you might want to book:

  • 30-minute meeting in the office to get to know someone or catch up
  • 45-minute meeting outside of the office. Allow 15 minutes for travel.
  • 10-minute call to help someone who needs advice
  • 15-minute daily standup -- great for startups and engineering teams
  • 30-minute weekly staff meeting

Whatever meetings you hold, group them into blocks depending on your particular schedule. If you feel like a particular type of meeting needs more or less time, then adjust the block accordingly.

4. Use appointment slots

There is a great feature in Google Calendar called Appointment Slots. It allows you to book a chunk of time, and then split it into pieces. For example, I can book three hours of outside meetings and then split it into three meetings -- one hour each. Or I can book one hour of calls and split it into six calls at 10 minutes each. There is also a bunch of specific tools, such as doodle, that do that too.

Pastel colors. The next step is to create bit.ly links for different blocks of time.You can have a link for your outside meetings, another link for 30-minute inside meetings and yet another one for 10-minute calls. You then share these links, and they can book the time with you. I've done this with Techstars candidate companies and it was amazingly effective. It minimized the back and forth on email and saved a ton of time for me and the companies.

Related: How to Use Technology to Increase Productivity, Not Distract You

This won't work with everyone, because some people may find this rude. In any case, if you are not comfortable sending the link to a someone, then you can use your own appointment slots, suggest a few meeting times, and then book the specific slot yourself.

If you are asking someone to meet, always propose several specific alternative times such as Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. or 5 p.m. on Wednesday. David Tisch gave a great talk that covers scheduling meetings and many more basics of communication.

5. Block time for email

This is the most important tip in the whole post. Email will own you unless you own it. To own your email you must avoid doing it all the time. To do that you need to schedule the time to do your email. It is absolutely a must. In fact it is so important that I wrote a whole entire post about managing email.

6. Plan your exercise and family time

Unless you put it on the calendar, it won't get done. Well, that applies to your exercise and time with your family. Whether you go in the morning, afternoon or evening, do it three times a week or every day, put exercise time on the calendar. My friend and mentor Nicole Glaros makes it very clear that her mornings, until 10 a.m., belong to her. She hits the pavement or the gym, depending on the weather, and rarely deviates from her routine.

Plan

The same applies to planning time with your family and significant others. If you are a workaholic like me, you will end up stealing time from your family unless you book it in advance and train yourself to promptly unplug. Many people in the industry have talked about planning family time. My favorite is Brad Feld, who talks about it a lot.

7. Actually manage your time

I think about my time a lot. I think about where it goes. I think about where can I get more of it, and how to optimize it. When I was running GetGlue, I had an assistant who was managing my time. She was awesome. But when I joined Techstars, I decided that I will manage my calendar myself. I have to confess that I am happy about this decision.

I find myself thinking about what I am doing, who am I meeting with and why a lot more. I meet with a lot of people every week. My schedule is particularly insane during the selection process. Yet, because I manage my calendar, follow a routine, plan meetings in blocks and use appointment slots, I find myself less overwhelmed and less stressed.

Taking ownership of my calendar and planning my days and weeks made me a happier and more productive human. I hope this post helps you get there too.

Pre Task Planning Worksheet

I would love to hear your productivity tips. How do you manage your time? How do you handle your calendar? What tools do you use? Please share in the comments section below.

Pre Task Plan Template

This article was written by a member of the AlleyNYC contributor network. AlleyNYC is one of the world’s largest hubs, helping foster the growth of startups in its flagship location in New York City. Entrepreneur Media is a partner and investor in AlleyNYC. If you would like to learn more about AlleyNYC and how to apply for membership visit here.

Weekly Tasks Plan

Related: Make Your Waking Hours Work for You