Make a super-simple daily schedule that works

When Aaron and I were doing the Home Work podcast, we preached about the importance and benefits of having — and sticking to — a daily routine, or schedule. At the risk of beating a dead horse I’ll reiterate here: it really is tremendously helpful to know what you’re doing and when. A predictable work/productivity schedule provides focus, direction, and eliminates the overwhem of “Where do I start?”

Humans will almost always take the path of least resistance, and that applies to forming new habits. I want to make this as easy as possible. Here’s a bare-bones way to get a “beginner’s routine” in place and, more importantly, into practice.* Follow these very simple steps:

  1. Write down your do-or-die tasks. These are the things you simply may not skip, ignore other otherwise fail to complete. Exclude the items that can slide for a day or two.
  2. Consider deadlines. What is due when? Make a note of each.
  3. Consider the time and effort each task requires. Again, make a note.

When that’s done, it’s time to sort. On a new piece of paper, write Monday through Friday. Now, using the annoted list you just created, plug in those tasks. Pay attention as you write: If something is due on Wednesday, for example, and it takes a lot of time and effort, schedule work to begin on Monday or Sunday. If a task requires little mental muscle, add it to a day with a few other similar tasks to take advantage of chunking. Have you assigned each task to a certain day? Great. Now on to the very last step.

Write it down where you know you’ll see it, every day. For me, that’s Google Keep. I don’t care what service or product you use, as long as you know for a fact that you’ll look at your new schedule daily.

I’ve been doing this for months now (yes, that’s my actual schedule pictured above) and it has been great. I’m weeks ahead on all of those tasks and I feel completley on top of it. Again, you can go much deeper into managing your time, but if  you’re currently struggling or working without such a plan, the steps outlined here will help you foster a very helpful and lasting habit of productivity.

*For a much deeper dive into this, check out Mike Vardy over at Productivityist.

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