The Art of Planning

Planning my days/weeks is my Achilles heel. I was never planning anything, I never knew a day ahead what I’m going to do. But that was alright. You don’t need to plan so much when you know that you will spend 8+ hours in the office. After/before the work you mainly want to chill and do more fun and relaxing activities, which mostly came up spontaneously for me. The real problem started when I didn’t have my 8+ hours job anymore and all this time that I needed to divide between different tasks. Which wouldn’t be so bad, if these tasks would be only fun and relaxing activities, nope, they were tasks connected with getting my life in order and start earning money $$!

So let’s say it was a rough start. I somehow see it as an art, I always sucked at art. I started to plan my daily life about two years ago when I moved to Vienna and started with my freelancing career. And man, this was a rocky road. Even 2 years later, I am on thin ice all the time – to plan or not to plan. But I am seeing brighter days, I think I somehow found a way that suits me and I can say that I am ok with it. For me, and for sure for many of you, it is important that it is simple. I tried a couple of different ways, but the current way seems to be the winner. For now, as I said I am always on thin ice.

In this post, I want to share my templates and tools I use to help me stay more organized. For now, I am really happy with my process, I find it easy and it doesn’t take much time to do it. Here we go.

Evernote and Simple Calendar

Evernote is the main tool that I use. I went through existing templates for daily/weekly planning and in the end, I combined them together and create the one that suits me best. As mentioned, it has to be simple. I like to add all my appointments to the Google calendar as well, and being a bit old fashioned, I also write down my weekly fixed tasks on my desk calendar and planner.

My Daily Template

For my daily planning I use a template where I answer these 4 points:

How do I feel today, what is bothering me, what makes me happy, what is in my head?

This part helps me to be more aware of how I feel, helps me to make a brain dump in the morning so I don’t need to carry all the stuff in my head. You would not believe how much comes up and writing everything down, it seriously clears my head and helps me to start the day more focused. There are no rules, sometimes I write only one sentence, really depends on the day.

Today’s fixed appointments/tasks

Almost every day, I already have some fixed appointments that take a lot of time from the whole week. I realized that writing down all the appointments every day (I do it also for the week ahead but I will explain that later) helps me to have a better overview of how much time I have left and to set more realistic goals that I want to achieve. Next to every fixed appointment, I add an estimated time that I would need to complete it.

Tasks to achieve to make this day great

One of the most important parts is to have a couple of goals/tasks that you would like to achieve in the day. The size of the goal really depends on the time that I have left in the day. I like to make it reasonable, so I have more chances to achieve the goal and be happier in the end.

My morning routine (do at least 3 of 5)

I start the day with a morning routine. I have a list of five and I usually pick 3 per day. After necessary morning coffee (double espresso), I do 12 mins back exercise with a Youtube coach Kozak or about 20mins Yoga, daily planning is my routine as well and drinking 1 big glass of water. Maybe it sounds stupid, but you can’t believe how many times I forget to drink the water and this is a great reminder. Optionally, I also have 30 mins read, since I am not big on reading and little walk or run. I think that routine should be really something small and easy to do, so you feel accomplished already when you start the day.

These points help me a lot to stay sane and focused during the day. Of course, it can happen that you don’t achieve always everything that you set up, but that’s ok. I think that with practice and reflection of the previous day, you also learn more about yourself and know how to set your goals better.

This is how my template for daily planning looks like:

My Weekly Template

As for daily planning, I also use Evernote weekly template for weekly planning. I do it every Monday, and it goes like this.

This Week’s Fixed Appointments

Here, I list all fixed appointments in the upcoming week, including time estimation, basically a sum of all my fixed daily appointments. I have a customer support remote job that takes a couple of hours per day, I prepare our apartments for short-term rental as well, so these are the events that I include to this list. 

I also add more fun events that we plan in the upcoming week, like date nights, meetups with friends, travels and also some not so fun events like going to the gym.  All this takes time from the schedule, so it is important to count them in.

This Week’s Focus

What area of your life do you want to focus on this week and why? Very simple. What is the focus of the week? This helps me tremendously to stay focused and not run around like a chicken without a head, as my mum often describes my behavior. Here, I don’t write any details, just an overall area that I will work on.

This Week’s Must Complete Tasks

What tasks must you complete this week? Here, I go more into detail and list measurable tasks that I plan to complete this week. When setting up these tasks you should always think about the outcome and to be able to say at the end of the week, if the task was completed or not.

Retrospective

How did it go? What came up for the next week? I love this part. Before I make a plan for the new week, I go back and think about the previous week and just write down my thoughts, again like a brain dump, everything that comes to my mind. Bullet points of feelings, events, things that came up, etc.

Here is how my template for weekly planning looks like:

Quarterly/Yearly Plan

For this, I use OKR (Objectives and Key Results) another great way to set the goals for three months and for the year. We check on progress regularly, so you really can’t procrastinate, which is my favorite thing to do. Again, I try to put reasonable objectives, with clear and measurable key results. Very simple.

Make it fun

If something is fun, it will get my attention for sure. So, we decided to add more fun when dealing with life on a daily basis. Are you curious about how? We came up with a year-long business challenge idea, spiced up with a gamification concept that Leo came up with. We actually just started like 2 weeks ago but it’s awesome. All that I mentioned above + other activities are part of the challenge now. We are giving each other points on a daily basis for our achievements. It’s really great, I feel like I am in a game. We help each other but we also compete with each other, which makes it really fun. And at the moment, I am kicking Leo’s ass big time. But I will explain more about it in one of my next posts. Stay tuned.

Maybe it sounds confusing at the moment and seems like a lot of planning, but actually when you start you see that’s not the case. It basically takes max 15 mins every day but it brings a huge value to my day. I feel way more relaxed and chilled, I know what I am doing, what is on my plate and I am not carrying so much in my head anymore. I can use my extra brain capacity for something else. But as I mentioned in the beginning, it is still a struggle for me and it works more perfectly on the paper than in reality but at least I am aware I am doing it and I am making steps in the right direction.

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