Simple Daily Planning

In my last post, I discussed how living a simple life can get complicated and that planning was essential to keep it all organized.

So today I want to give you a peek into my daily planning process!

I’ve tried planners, phone calendars, white boards, you name it. My favorite planning tool so far? A notebook and colorful pens (colors are optional – it just makes it more fun for me).

Tools aren’t for everyone

Before I dive in, it’s important to note that tools are definitely good for some people, and they are definitely bad for others. For example, I can’t get into tools that are online or on mobile devices because there are infinite ways to get distracted.

I’ve also been working on getting into daily planners (my current one breaks each day down hour by hour and has space to prioritize goals). I start the day neatly, but I end up just writing all over them without actually putting anything where it’s supposed to be.

So don’t feel compelled to use a certain tool if you’re just not into it – work with yourself, not against yourself.

Make it a pleasant habit

Don’t force planning if you’re not feeling it. Allow yourself time to get into a good headspace before you start breaking down your day, or else you’ll over- or under-whelm yourself with to-dos.

I like to wait until I’ve had some breakfast and have a fresh cup of coffee poured before I even consider planning.

I broke down and bought an unnecessary package of colorful pens for that same reason – I wanted to make this a fun process, not a frustrating one. I take my time and practice my cursive (am I the only one who still loves handwriting?)

PlanningNotebook

Keep it organized and don’t overdo it

I start by listing the date (mostly just for fun), then I break my to-do list down into sections. I’m focusing on creating a balance for myself this year, so I break it down into home, work, and personal categories.

Planning

As much as possible, I keep it to about three items per section. Work, of course, is my work goals for the day. Personal is where I put blogging, self-care, exercise, etc. Home is for housework – usually something to do with cleaning the rabbit’s cage, cooking meals, or soaking beans.

The goal for your goals is to be able to complete them all in a days time. So don’t set a full day’s worth of goals for home while also setting a full day’s worth of goals for work.

I’m starting to get into the practice of trimming the list down after I’ve made it, just so that I can be sure to complete everything. There’s nothing worse than seeing a list with only one thing crossed off of it at the end of the day.

First things first

Once you’re done with your planning, check if there’s anything you can do in a few minutes. Clearing clutter or tossing dishes into the dishwasher is usually an easy first step.

If I’ve made “read twenty pages” a goal for the day and I haven’t yet finished my coffee, I’ll pull my book out and get to work. Basically, if there’s anything easy or that fits your current situation on your list, do that first.

I’ve also started to shift the order of my planning & processing of the day’s to-dos. Instead of getting work and home stuff out of the way first, I focus on the personal category. Why?

Because that’s always the category that doesn’t get crossed off. So be kind to yourself and try to do what you can for yourself before everything else, and you’ll feel a lot more positive energy to do the rest of it.

So there’s a look at how I plan my day! Do you have a planning habit?

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A Daily Routine

As I was reading about daily rituals of history’s most creative minds, I started to reflect on what I’ve been doing to improve my routine. It began with my daily walk at lunchtime last year around this time, and now I’ve been eating nearly the same breakfast every day. Most recently, I’ve added in flossing my teeth before I go to bed at night. No more lying to the dentist.

I’m realizing how important these habits are becoming for me.

Since no two workdays are the same for me, and since there is little else to rely consistently on (even my fiancé’s schedule varies), these things are vital to keeping myself grounded.

But routines are boring.

17-year-old me would scoff at this routine, roll her eyes and tell me that this is boring, and that I might as well buy a minivan and have three kids in a white-picket-fenced house in the suburbs. And that I might as well wear mom jeans. It’s not, and I won’t. Each daily process is strategically placed to structure and bookend my days. No matter how much work I have to do, or how much time I’ll get to spend with my fiancé each day, I still know how the day will begin and end.

Routines sap creativity.

Again, not true. There are ruts, and then there are routines. Routines have been known to help people create their best work, and they are rhythmic, almost hypnotic.

All of the above habits that I’ve incorporated into my day are intended to help me work towards a more solid, efficient routine where I can frequently produce my best work.

goodhabitsStart with habits, then move into a routine.

Right now, there’s very little in my life that’s conducive to a full fledged routine. However, I’m taking baby steps by developing good habits now so that I don’t have to think about them later. Here are a few tips that have helped me form habits:

  1. If you can, make it pleasant. I make my already pleasant daily walks even better by taking the opportunity for some positive social interaction. I typically call a friend or family member and get a status update – typically it’s my mom and I bouncing wedding ideas off each other.
  2. Start small. This one is difficult. With the new year coming up quickly, I realize that many of us are going to resolve ourselves to working out every single day, and every single one of us will likely fail. Not because we’re lazy – but because we put too much pressure on ourselves from the beginning. How about running 2 miles once a week? Start small so that your accomplishments seem bigger.
  3. Reward yourself. I’m not saying that flossing your teeth each night warrants a Starbucks reward in the morning. Learn to reward yourself by allowing yourself some sunshine, or simply by amplifying your positive thoughts. When I started flossing, my reward was knowing that my dentist no longer has the upper hand when they ask if I’ve been flossing. Strange, but also strangely affective.
  4. Practice makes perfect. Continuous practice. Don’t let yourself slip, especially during the first month of practicing your new habit – this is a vital time, and when it comes down to it, it makes or breaks your habit. I ran nearly every morning before work during the summer, but soon I started letting myself sleep in (as a reward for what? who knows), and I began putting my run off until the evening or the next day and then boom my habit (still in its infancy) dissolved out of my sleepy mornings.

What kinds of habits do you have, or which ones are you working on? I’d love to know how starting small and moving forward has worked for others.