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How I Plan My Working Day

…basically a list of how I make lists

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Recently I’ve really found my productivity groove. The hours and hours of ‘cats and dogs being BFFs‘ video browsing has been cut down from four hour slots to just a handful a day, my mid-afternoon daydreams fantasising about taking naps have become just a once a week occurrence and when I reach Friday evening I’ve usually ticked off a solid 95% of my to-do list, instead of aborting it mid-week. There are a couple of factors that have contributed to my new-found burst of energy, which I mention in this blog post here, but I think it comes down to having more focus and politely declining things that my head replies ‘Ain’t nobody got time for that‘ in response to. It’s also a classic case of chomping down on veggies instead of five bowls of Coco Pops a day (BOO!) and being consistent with actually lugging my arse off my new blue velvet chair to move (I. Can’t. Stop. Stroking. It.). You’ve heard that one before and I’m eye-rolling at myself as I type it, but it’s annoyingly true.

Seeing as I’m back in a place where I actually plan my day – there were a few shaky list-free months prior to this, let me tell you – I thought I’d share the processes I use to nail down my goals and to-dos for the year, month, week and day…

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THE BIGGER PICTURE

There’s something that’s both equally terrifying and tremendously optimistic when it comes to setting goals for the year ahead. Being the plan-obsessed Virgo that I am, I bloody love it and practically pant with excitement at the thought of New Years resolutions, so I’m never one to pass up an opportunity to pinpoint some areas to tackle in the year ahead. HeckI even made a video about it. There’s a blog post too! Have a read of this to see my tips of how to make resolutions that are realistic and you might even be able to stick to come December.

Now being way past the halfway point of 2017, you might just want to hold off till January to set some long-term plans. But if you missed that boat at the beginning of the year, there’s no harm in sitting down and thinking about where you’d like to be personally, financially and career-wise when the 31st December rolls around. Write them down and either pin them up somewhere you can see them daily, or pop ’em on a page in your notepad that you turn past frequently. That way you can’t get away from them and they’re easy to find when it comes to planning your month ahead…

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MONTH TO MONTH

I tend to plan in a way that’s more focused on week-to-week, but when the first of the month rolls around it’s nice to be able to look in your calendar and see what the next four weeks are shaping up like. After being a slave to my paper diary for so long, I’m now the biggest lover of iCal. Unfortunately you no longer have the ‘Oh yes, I’ll have to check my diary when I get home to see if I can squeeze that in‘ excuse, but it does make changes, updates and extra information so much easier to add. Depending on which display you use, it’s also a better way of getting a snapshot of the month.

I’m a creature who loves home because I love nothing more than curling up under a blanket, sticking on a re-run of Friends and making puppy eyes at Mark until he finally relents on our Domino’s VS. Pizza Hut debate that we have every weekend (I’m obviously the one who fights the corner for Domino’s). I also love it because it’s where I’m at my most focused and most productive, and I just feel good whenever I’m chipping away at work and the dreaded inbox *shudders*. If I look at my calendar and the first few weeks of the month are heavy on trips, weekends away and London days; then I’ll try and block out the second half of the month as ‘Brighton time’ where I’m based at home and crack on with my to-do lists (and Domino’s consumption). #Balance, and all that. 

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WEEK TO WEEK

I used to plan daily; writing these lists that were as long as one full-page, detailing every single, little thing that I had to get done each day, with tasks broken down into 15 different steps and a shedload of boxes to tick off. Although it meant that I spent a large proportion of the day ticking which is always fun, it also meant that my day looked overwhelming from the get go, and if I didn’t complete my to-do list it looked as though I still had another 26 different things to do before I’d actually get to the end of it. I felt stressed and shite.

However, I have found a new system that works for me and for the past four weeks I’ve stuck to it, managed to tick off all but one or two tasks by the end of the week and I feel satisfied when I shut my laptop at the end of the week. Here’s the secret. I’ve made it… realistic. On a Friday before I shut up shop, I take a look at how my diary is shaping up for the week ahead. I take into account any travelling I’m doing, gym or pilates sessions I’ve got booked in, when I plan to vlog and any social stuff I’ve got on. Then I write out a plan from Monday to Friday that fits around whatever else I’ve got on. I’ve learnt that on a day where we’re shooting pictures, there’s not much else I can get done aside from emails because the prep and editing afterwards swallow up my time. If I want to go to the co-working space then I’m best off writing blog posts because for editing YouTube videos I need stone-cold silence. So not only am I realistic about what work I can get done where and in what time slots, I set myself just four to six tasks a day. My whole week fits onto one page! It’s been pretty life-changing and although there’s less ticking that happens, I actually tick off everything in the allotted time (mostly!).

DAY TO DAY

Because I set my agenda weekly, there’s not much switching around day to day. I have my tasks to complete and I think about how best to go about getting them done. Usually I’ll try and tick off the quick ones first to break the back of them, or if I’m feeling all badass from some podcast listening (have a read of some of my favourite career-related ones below), I’ll go for the hardest/longest/’one that makes me groan when I look at it’ tickbox first. As a general rule though I’ll try and write blog posts and edit videos during times of the day when I’m least likely to be disturbed and do shorter, more errand-based tasks when the phone is ringing and the postman is at the door and I’m naked about to jump in the shower. I also find that keeping my phone on silent and turned facing down helps minimise distractions and I keep my mail app closed on my laptop to halt the constant pings. Only opening it when I have 20 minutes on the clock to reply, to save emails hanging around in my inbox for days.

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CAREER PODCASTS I LOVE

Being Boss – I literally discovered this last Friday and have since listened to about 10 episodes as I’ve cleaned, tidied and pottered around the house. The hosts, Emily and Kathleen, call this a podcast for creative entrepreneurs and they cover everything from how they’ve created functional and inspiring home offices to the importance of ‘White Space’ and how they fiercely protect their weekends to keep them work-free. A great one to listen to if you need some idea juice.

The Lively Show – I’ve loved Jess’ podcast for years and it’s still one that I listen to whenever I feel like I need to get my brain in order. Her show covers a vast amount of topics, but I love her Q&A episodes where she talks about her travels and her experience of basically pressing the reset button on her life. Her guided mediations are also a great tool for when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Her podcast is basically like a big ol’, comforting hug.

Let’s Discuss – Created by Monica of The Elgin Avenue and Ella of Coco’s Tea Party, I love the range of topics they talk about in their episodes and often find myself nodding along in agreement. It’s one of my favourites, because with them both being bloggers we’re all kind of in the same boat in a lot of different situations. I found their episode on productivity and procrastination to be particularly insightful and kick-ass when it came to motivation.

How I Built This – This is one of the few podcasts that Mark and I both enjoy equally, so we often crack this one out when we’re on long car journeys together. This is an NPR created podcast and basically gets in amazing guests who’ve had ridiculous levels of success with their business ideas and asks them how they started their brands. I’d recommend a listen to the airbnb episode, which actually started as people staying on air beds in the founder’s front room. MAD.


Photos by Lauren Shipley


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Comments

  • Ana Martins

    I loved this post!! I can relate to so much of what you described: I’m also a Virgo (so even if sometimes I let myself be lazy I still need to feel I’m on top of things), I also just love being at home under a blanket and watching friends…it’s like I was reading about myself! Anyway, thinks for sharing all of this, it is definilty working (you are killing it here and on YouTube!) and it has definilty inspired me 🙂

  • Ray

    I started to scheduled my days on an hourly basis and it has been really effective for me.

    http://www.underaytedray.co.uk

  • I can definitely relate to this post, and I will also make sure to check out these podcasts, especially How I built This (it’s always very inspirational and reassuring to see that people always start from nothing)! Thank you for sharing 🙂

    http://fannyanddailybeauty.com

  • Julia Deutschen

    This is such a useful post!

    I love making lists myself and to make me feel more productive, I sometimes even add things like “washing my hair” – which is kinda crazy.

    I am defenitely going to follow your tips and see whether it makes a difference.

    xx Julia

    http://www.talesofjules.com

  • I absolutely loved this post, so helpful. I definitely feel motivated now to start making lists. I gave up ages ago because it always made me feel pressured.

    Lisa | Soho Stripes

  • Em

    Such great notes, love this! Also, can’t wait to check out the Let’s Discuss podcast. I recently rounded up some of my fave podcasts here – http://www.organicallyemily.com/the-podcast-lineup/
    The best way to multi task 🙂
    xo,
    Em
    http://www.organicallyemily.com

  • This is a really useful post for me. I am quite bad at long-term planning and looking at a bigger picture – I definitely get distracted by all the details and probably spend too much time on them. But this post is an eye-opener and will help me move forward and focus on the right things!

  • Chloe

    This came just in time, I was feel very overwhelmed by endless to do list! I need to remember to make it realistic like you said! 🙂 x

    http://chloeharriets.com/

  • I’m terribly guilty of pulling a Gumby and getting stretched far too thin to make progress on any given project. And the to-do list procrastination-shame cycle is real! I had the simplest task on there that I kept rescheduling for weeks before finally ticking it off after 2 minutes of work. I need to give a wider, weekly view a try before I pull all my hair out.

  • catherine ♡

    You always seem super organised and on top of things so this post is really helpful! I’ve been loving podcasts too recently so I’ve got some more to add to my subs now 🙂 x
    http://www.cocoamay.co.uk

  • Abby Harrington

    I have been reading your blog for years, and love it! I love that I can go here and search for a product and read your review on it. You are one of my first stops in making a new beauty purchase. I trust your opinions on products (and that we have the same skin color/type :). Recently, the photos on your blog have been very bright and out of focus (it looks like the style you’re going for), and I feel like they are taking away from your content. When I want to read a post I get really put off by it, and end up leaving your page before reading the whole post. 🙁

  • Libby

    I’ve been told that you should always try and do the biggest and least appealing tasks first – that way the rest of your day is full of little easy jobs which are more relaxing to do (and you feel empowered by conquering the hardest stuff first). It really works – figured I’d pass it on.

  • Beth Webb

    I am loving these work related posts. It’s coming up to September and as a teacher it’s been time to get organised for the fresh start. Thanks for the inspiration! I’ve just organised the classroom, my ‘home office’ as such. I’m hoping I keep as organised as you have:)

  • Erin Russell

    I have found being organised is very delicate for me, I am very organised, but when one tiny thing goes wrong my life falls into chaos lol
    Erin || MakeErinOver

  • Your organisation posts are so helpful Anna! As the ultimate procrastinator (I mean I put the laptop on to do some work right now and here I am commenting on blogs 3 hours later and no work done) I need ALL the tips please! x

    What Josie Did Next

  • Hi Anna! Thank you so much for this! I love your writing style and all the tips you shared with us are really useful! How is your bullet journal going? Maybe you can share with us an update on it! =D

  • I am someone who loves list! I find it so satisfying ticking things off!
    Elizabeth || Liz Living

  • HarrisonBeach

    Such a good post! I love the idea of planning blog posts a month in advance.. I really need to do that!!
    http://www.byharrison.com

  • This is such a great post. I really needed this to get reorganized.

  • I do my weekly list on Fridays as well, that gives me the feeling of being prepared for the week ahead and not stressing out about it on the weekend.

    Linda, Libra, Loca: Beauty, Baby and Backpacking

  • I am definitely a list person!
    http://www.lottiegibbons.com

  • elisha mae

    Such a good post yet again Anna – love it! Can we see the new millennial pink office yet???

    Elisha-Maé | http://www.elisha-mae.co.uk

  • Anamika http://www.anamika.ca

    My favorite post of all time on your blog Anna! Any chance you could do a post on how you set up your iCal? I’m sure you’re into color coding and have some great tips on how you split out the different aspects of your life within iCal 🙂 Thanks!!

  • Emily Hammond

    Totally not a list person but going to (attempt) to change my ways after reading this post!
    EVHXO EDIT

  • THIS. I need everything in this post. I am the worst for, week-by-week, feeling like I WANT to be productive — each day set out to be ‘the day’ where I kick butt — and the week slips by, with me feeling like I only was productive maybe 2 hours of the day. Your post has given me such good insights and tips, not just into how to conquer this, but how to organise my time better. And the podcasts! I’m a newbie in this whole-new-world of content, but I am going to listen to some of these, too. Thanks again for another great post!

    Eire | Wolf & Stag