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I help people just like you build strong systems and establish kickass habits so you have more time for what really matters.
Systems and efficiency expert and the creator of The Daily Page Planner.
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Picture it…the house is clean, the kids are back in school, the scent of lemongrass is coming from your diffuser and you’re finally sitting down with a cup of coffee and a crisp new planner. The day is young, your hair looks great, and you’re ready to kick some ass. But life comes at you fast, m’friend, and without a little forethought your day can go into a tailspin real fast, am I right? Below are the five most common mistakes I see people make when planning their day, and how you can set yourself up for success, instead.
We’ve been taught that we should focus on the three most important, vital, or difficult tasks. But that can actually be pretty detrimental to our productivity.
Instead, start your day with “three easy wins”. These should be 3 things that are relatively simple and fast to complete (10-minutes or less each). Bonus points if they are something fun that you might look forward to doing, like responding to a friend’s email, restocking supplies, or organizing a team happy hour. You wouldn’t go on a 7-mile run without a warm-up — and you should warm your brain and body up for a day of productivity, too.
Think of the “3 Easy Win” approach as your warm-up. Put your 3 Easy Wins at the top of your list and do them first. Checking them off will give your brain a beneficial dose of achievement hormones (dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins) that will create momentum as you move into more complex tasks. I like to put a more time-consuming or tedious task in the #4 spot and roll right into it.
There’s a good chance that you are wasting valuable time and energy throughout the day worrying about what you’re eating — and chances are good, especially if you’re a woman, that you aren’t consuming nearly enough calories (FWIW, 1200 calories or less is starvation level no matter your size or activity level).
Food is fuel, and we need that energy to stay alert and focused throughout the day. If you are feeling sluggish, moody, or experiencing brain fog be sure to assess your diet and ensure you are eating plenty of high-energy foods that fuel your body and your brain. My favorite foods for busy days are eggs, avocados, green juice, or protein-loaded smoothies.
Did you know that 75% of us are living with chronic mild dehydration? And the first signs of mild dehydration aren’t headaches or feeling thirsty — they’re actually brain fog, fatigue, and trouble focusing! Just like eating enough nutrient-rich foods, you need to properly hydrate yourself for a productive day!
The best tip is to get a designated water cup and keep it with you throughout your workday. Take it in the car during your commute. Take it to meetings. Keep it at your desk. Move it from room to room.
Sipping consistently will help restore your natural thirst indicators (which get suppressed when you are chronically dehydrated) and you’ll likely notice that you consume at least 40-60 ounces without thinking much about it. Combine that with eating plenty of fruits and vegetables (10-15 servings per day is great for most of us!) and you’ll notice a huge increase not only in your focus and energy, but also in your mood, reaction time, and creative thinking! The best tip here is to reach for your after cup any time you start to feel sleepy, zoned out, or unmotivated and you’ll notice how connected hydration is to your performance.
Need help getting hydrated? Check out my 2-week hydrating habit course, The Hydration Checklist.
Ever get to the end of the day and think, “Wow, I was working all day but I have no idea what I even accomplished”? This blurring effect is not unusual, and a big part of it is that our workdays tend to include a lot of repetitive, recurring events and our brains try to save us bandwidth by sorta glossing over a lot of it.
You can combat this by choosing a highlight each day. This should be something that will stand out and doesn’t necessarily have to be a work-related task. Some examples could be:
Sitting in the sunshine for 10 minutes
Eating your lunch outside
Taking a 15-minute reading break
Having lunch with a friend
Painting when you get home from work
Making time to go to your favorite coffee shop
Discovering a new park on your way home
Planning something special for your partner or kids
Try to switch them up and do a different highlight each day to break up the monotony of the day. And most importantly, write your highlight down. This will help solidify the event in your memory and help you connect feelings of gratitude with it. When you get to the end of the week you’ll realize that you can reflect on your days and remember Monday as the day you sat in the sunshine while eating your lunch, and Thursday as the night you got home late but still had time for family taco night and a few rounds of cribbage.
Would you go on a road trip without a map or any directions? No. So why do we sit down at our desks with no idea how we want to spend our time? The very first thing I do each morning is review my calendar and create a rough schedule for the day. It’s really just an overview so I can see any interruptions (meetings, events), plan for necessary breaks (walking the dog, having lunch), and then assess what the remaining chunks of time look like and what types of tasks will best fit into them.
Usually, if I have a 2-3 hour block of time I’ll do focused work like writing or design. Tasks like photography, scheduling posts, or responding to emails can easily fit into smaller blocks where my focus might be limited. Having no idea how my day will be broken up means I have no idea how to best utilize my time and that is a recipe for a hectic, unproductive day.
Sometimes we make these mistakes simply because we’ve never thought about them, and sometimes it’s because we’re using the wrong planner! The key is a planner that doesn’t just focus on your productivity — but finding one that prioritizes both your work and wellness side-by-side. If you’d like a planner that gives you a template for setting up successful days, check out The Daily Page Planner. This innovative design gives you a full page for each day, with space for your 3 Easy Wins, scheduling, hydration tracking, nutrition, wellness, self-care, gratitude and so much more! I’ve used it every day for more than a decade, and it is my secret weapon for not only prioritizing my work but also my wellness. You can check it out here and take 10% off with the code GETITDONE at checkout.
Holistic, sustainable planners designed to help you align work + wellness.