You know what I don’t enjoy? That feeling of overwhelm you get when you have too much on your plate. The good news though is that there’s a way to manage that stress and help you move forward in a positive direction each day. What you need is a productivity plan.
What’s a productivity plan? Simply put, it’s a plan for your time.
A map that you can use to navigate through the hecticness of your days.
Because let’s face it, you’re driven. And because you’re so driven, what are the chances that you are going to stop trying so hard?
So if you can’t stop yourself from being such an overachiever, what you can do is help to mitigate some of that stress so that you can actually make progress forward each day.
That’s where a productivity plan comes in.
It’s pretty close
Growing up I played a lot of sports – baseball, soccer, basketball, football, lacrosse. I also dabbled with volleyball, tennis, golf, water polo, and mini-golf (it counts).
A lot of sports.
And because of my busy athletic schedule, that didn’t leave a whole lot of time for me to get my schoolwork done.
Between waking up early for class and playing sports in the afternoons and on the weekends, my time was sliced pretty thin.
But… I still had homework and tests to prepare for.
So what did I do?
Well I don’t remember exactly when or how this started – maybe I was in middle or high school – but I have a distinct memory of sitting down at my cluttered desk and, using Post-It Notes, would write out my schedule for each day.
Monday I would:
- Wake up at 7
- Get dressed and have breakfast from 730-8
- Go to school from 8-3
- Be at practice from 4-6
- Have dinner from 6-730
- And do homework from 730-11
That’s not an exact replica of the schedule I would create for myself because I have no idea what my exact timings looked like all those years ago.
But it’s pretty close.
And I would sit down and do a Post-It for each day of the week just like that. Monday through Sunday.
Little did I know that sitting there, without realizing it, I was creating the first versions of a productivity plan.
The whole pie
What caused me to create those early productivity plans for myself? Well, the truth of the matter is that I didn’t want to give anything up.
I knew my plate was full, I knew I had a lot going on, but I didn’t want to stop doing any of it.
I wanted the whole pie. Not just a slice. The whole damn thing.
And I’m sure you feel that exact same way.
You want more and more and more. And you’re certainly not willing to give anything up in the pursuit of that better life you’re after.
So what do you do?
Well, you take a page from my younger self and create a plan for your time that allows you to get everything done and then some.
Because instinctually, even at that young age, I knew that if I was going to survive those years with my grades, friends, and athletics intact, I needed a plan for my time.
So that’s what I created for myself.
And year after year, my method for creating productivity plans has grown, changed, evolved, and adapted into what it is today. Into what I will now share with you.
How To Create An Effective Productivity Plan – Optimize Time
To start, let’s discuss what a productivity plan is. A productivity plan is a plan that you create for your time. It is a combination of:
- Looking at what you need to do
- Recognizing when you need to do it
- And then creating a schedule that organizes your day into a manageable structure
In other words, it’s a way to map out your time so that you can get everything done that you need to each day AND make real progress forward.
That may sound easy, but there’s a good amount to it. Because you can’t just throw some tasks on a list and call it a day.
It requires more thought, more deliberation. You need to understand your big picture, where you’re going, and why you want to go there in the first place. Things like goal setting, time management, and productivity are all factors that you’ll need to keep in mind when creating your plan each day.
Now, I don’t say that to scare or overwhelm you. After all, this post will walk you through what you need to do.
So don’t panic.
I only mention it so that you can be aware of what’s required to create an effective plan for your time each day. A productivity plan that helps you do more with your time.
Make more progress
Having a productivity plan is essential. Why? Because of what it allows you to do: better optimize your time and get more high-level tasks done.
I touch on this a little bit in my post on daily planning, but essentially, having a plan for your time allows you to focus on the important things and disregard the unimportant.
It allows you to prioritize your tasks so that each thing you work on will help you make progress towards your goals.
That means that in the micro, your productivity plan is a way to make more progress in the short term. And conversely, in the macro, the progress you make today will lead you to making greater progress each week, month, and year.
Soon you’ll find that you are moving faster and more effectively than ever before.
And the more efficiently you progress, the more quickly you will reach your goals and eventually attain that ideal life that you’re after.
Wow. Didn’t think having a productivity plan would be such a big deal, right?
Well, it is.
So see it as your action plan to improve productivity at work, with your health, or really any area that you are looking to make progress in.
How to create your productivity plan
Now that you understand what a productivity plan is and why it’s so important, it’s now time to learn how to create a plan of your very own.
While going through the following steps, keep in mind that you can create a plan for a number of different scenarios.
You can create a plan with your work in mind so that you can enhance productivity in the workplace. Or you can create a plan for this afternoon to ensure that you get some exercise in.
Or better yet, and this is what I do, you can create a plan for your entire day.
Either way, the following steps are ones that you can apply to your time in whatever way you’d like. With that, here are the steps to creating your very own productivity plan.
Productivity Plan Step 1: List everything out
The first step to creating your productivity plan is to list out all of the tasks that you need to do within a certain amount of time.
For instance, if you are creating a plan for the hour of downtime you have between getting home from work and going to the gym, write down every single task that you need to do during that hour.
Productivity Plan Step 2: Organize by importance
The next step is to re-organize your list by importance. Go ahead and place your highest-importance tasks at the top and your lowest-importance tasks at the bottom.
With that in mind though, I need to make a point about the term importance here. Because… well… it’s important.
When I say important tasks, I mean tasks that will help you make progress towards your goals. Not tasks that are irrelevant or are easy chores to handle.
Important tasks are ones that will help you achieve your goals. So keep those in mind while doing this step.
Productivity Plan Step 3: Note your time
With that step now complete, the next step is to note your time. To do that, you need to do two things. Write down:
- How much time you have total
- And how much time each task requires
So if you have one hour to complete your tasks, your total time available is one hour. And then looking at your list, you’ll want to note how long each task should take to complete.
For example, if one of your tasks is to create a design and it should take 25 minutes to complete, you’ll write down – 25 min: Create design
IMPORTANT: Before doing this step, you need to first be aware of Parkinson’s Law. For that, check out my guide to Parkinson’s Law here.
Productivity Plan Step 4: Finalize it
The next part in creating your productivity plan is to finalize your list. Take a look at the total amount of time you have available. Then add up the total time you need to complete all your tasks.
For instance, if you need two hours to complete all your tasks, but only have one hour available, that’s a problem.
In that case, you would remove the lower importance items to ensure that you can get everything done within that hour. Or if you find that you have 45 minutes worth of tasks and one hour available total, that’s perfect.
Your list is ready to go and you can move onto the next step.
Productivity Plan Step 5: Do the work
The final phase is to now do the work. You have your finalized plan, you’re ready, and now it’s time to take action.
Work through your list, keep yourself focused and on track. Make the progress that you are wanting to make by taking action and by putting in real, meaningful work.
Speaking of focus, if you need some help concentrating I recommend these two posts:
Productivity Plan Bonus Step: There’s more to it
The steps I just described are great, but they’re just a taste. A sample of a much more detailed, in-depth strategy.
What do I mean?
Well, each step that I touched on earlier is actually a brief, summarized version of my free, five-day productivity plan bootcamp. A bootcamp that covers each part of the productivity planning process in greater detail.
Let me explain.
The bootcamp is a free, five-day email series.
And each day during the bootcamp, I’ll email you with a lesson that covers one of the steps that I described above, BUT in a lot more detail. Each step builds upon the last and the aim of the bootcamp is to help you create a solid plan for your productivity each day.
In other words, see the steps described above like Cliff-Notes, whereas this bootcamp is the book. More detail, more instruction, more results for you.
Plus, a productivity plan example that you can follow along with to help clarify the lessons and prevent any second-guessing.
With that in mind, you have 2 options moving forward…
Option 1: If you are happy with the way I summarized the steps, that’s great! Feel free to move onto the next section of this post.
Option 2: But, if you want something a little more detailed, a little more in-depth and helpful, I highly recommend signing up for my bootcamp. It’s completely free and you can sign up right here:
When to create your productivity plan
You now know what a productivity plan is, why it’s important to have a plan, and how to create it. The next item on the agenda is when to sit down and create your productivity plan.
And the simple answer is… really whenever you want.
Whenever you want to put in real, meaningful work you should create a plan for your time so that it gets spent wisely.
That said, I recommend creating your plan at the end of each day with your next day in mind. Meaning that if today is Monday, at the end of today you’d create your plan for Tuesday.
So that when you wake up, you’ll be able to get right to work without having to scramble or waste time figuring out your plan. You’ll be prepared and ready to go. You’ll have your plan and can get right to work.
To conclude this guide to creating your very own productivity plan is the final piece of the puzzle – where to do your productivity planning.
And good news! I saved the easiest part for last. Because deciding where to create your productivity plan is straightforward and entirely up to you.
You don’t need a fancy productivity planner. You can simply use a note on your phone, or a Google Doc, or a pad of paper with a pen. Keep it simple and write out your plan on whatever is most accessible to you.
Let me repeat that last point.
Keep it simple. Seriously.
In fact, go ahead and apply that advice to this entire post. Productivity plans can quickly become a long, drawn-out, complicated thing. Don’t let that happen though.
Keep your plans simple, easy to navigate, and well organized. Write them down somewhere that you can get to easily (like a note on your phone) and watch how you start to make real progress forward each day.
Moving forward with your productivity plan
That’s it! You’ve made it to the end of this post and are now prepared to create an effective productivity plan. Well done for making it this far!
Well, first and foremost, don’t let this newfound knowledge go to waste. Actually go through each of the steps that I described and create a plan that you’re excited about.
Don’t just chalk this post up to a “good read.” No. Put in the work!
Because remember, you read this post for a reason.
You’re driven and have a lot to do. Maybe you’re even looking to add more to your plate. You’re busy and need a thorough plan for your time.
So go ahead and create a productivity plan of your very own and start moving faster and more effectively towards your goals.
With that in mind, if you want something a little more in-depth, I highly recommend signing up for my free, five-day productivity plan bootcamp.
Each day I’ll email you with a new lesson based around the steps that I touched on earlier, except in much greater detail.
It’s a fantastic way to add even more knowledge on top of the foundation that this post provided. If interested you can sign up right here:
Whatever piques your interest
Let’s say you:
- Read through this post
- Signed up for my free bootcamp
- Are going to read through the lessons each day
- And still want more resources to help you do more with your time
Well then you’re in luck. I have a handful of posts that complement this guide very well. Some are list-based, others are how-to’s.
My recommendation? Take a look at the list below and start reading through whatever topic first peaks your interest.
With that, some additional topics to read alongside this guide are:
- How to create a better morning routine. See the post here.
- Tips for having a productive day. See the post here.
- Time management books to read. See the post here.
- Various time management strategies to try out. See the post here.
- And you can sign up for my goal success course, here.