Having the perfectly planned day get ruined sucks.
You do everything right, even preparing well the night before. But then an unexpected email, meeting, or feeling of apathy or distraction sidetracks you.
Research says it takes an average of 23.25 minutes to return to a task after an interruption. But the distractions usually don’t stop after the first one. As the day wears on, your perfect plan fades into a mere memory.
You’ve got projects to finish though. Ideas you want to share with the world. Fun to have with your family and friends. You need that plan to happen because if it doesn’t, you’ll never reach your goals.
One wrong thing derails that and it feels like your whole day is over.
You know how discouraging it is because this happens not just on a single day but throughout multiple days during the week.
Imagine how it would feel instead if you could turn any day around in just five minutes. What if you could get the enthusiasm back and get right on track with your original plan?
You can, and all it takes is frequently re-planning your day.
How to Re-Plan Your Day
There are three simple steps to re-planning your day:
- Recognize that you’re off track.
- Have a place to write down your new plan, preferably on paper.
- Write out what you want to accomplish the rest of your day taking into account your energy and time limitations.
I’ve used this method hundreds of times over the years. I still get excited at how quickly and effectively it alters the entire course of my day.
Just last week I used it when I was having a hard time getting momentum in the mornings. I would wake up late and struggle to want to do much of anything.
I knew I needed a little break so I took it easy on myself. But with the power of re-planning I could at least get something done each day.
Whether at 10 am or 4 pm, as soon as I felt disorganized, I would take just five minutes to make a new plan.
Sometimes I write my intentions for the rest of the day in a note-taking app on my phone. But what’s better is keeping a small notebook on my desk so I can physically write it.
Having my plan on a non-digital item means that I can see it and that it can inspire me without the risk of me succumbing to distractions again.
Armed with my new plan, I start with the first item on the list. If I’ve been struggling with apathy, I usually try to take it easy and only work for 15–20 minutes. Then, after taking a short break, I get to the next task.
This brings up the next rule for effective planning. You must anticipate what you can and can’t do with the rest of your day.
If it’s 4 pm, for instance, I know that I don’t have many hours left in the day. I also know that those hours are my least productive because I’ve already used up most of my energy.
At 10 am, on the other hand, I know that I can accomplish more with what’s left of the day. So I write a longer plan.
If you’ve been struggling to get motivated, though, don’t pressure yourself too much. Just put a few items on your list and then plan for a longer break.
It’s also baffling how much we expect of ourselves later in the day or on weekends. You push important but not urgent tasks to the end of the day or week and expect yourself to still be able to do them quickly. But you fail to acknowledge how tired and inefficient you’ll be.
If you’d let go of it and try again the next day or week, you could accomplish those tasks in half the time.
And to make your new plan even more effective, challenge yourself by having an attitude of “how much can I accomplish in the time I have left?”
When I was a student teacher a few years ago I remember how hard it was to keep my class of teenagers under control during the last five minutes of the day. My supervisor taught me the vital lesson that I could challenge myself and them to see how much we could learn in those last five minutes.
It worked a few times with those kids, but the bigger lesson for me was that I started to ask myself how much I could accomplish with just five minutes.
Today this attitude has carried over into my planning habits. I use it all the time to motivate the heck out of myself when I only have a little time left.
Re-planning your day isn’t a cure-all solution to distractions or illness. Sometimes you just need to take the rest of the day off when days get especially difficult. And even if you have to take a week or a month off, that’s not going to set you back as far as you think either.
But planning your day and re-planning it when it goes off the rails is vital if you want to accomplish your goals.
When you recognize that you’re struggling to get moving, take a look at your original plan, revise it according to the new time and energy constraints you have left, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly motivation finds you again.