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How to Use Your Planner to Have a Productive Day

smiling woman writing in a planner

Use your planner and other planning tools to make your day more productive. 

Experts are all over the place on how to be productive. Some say you MUST exercise in the morning. Others insist you should start with lemon water, meditation, journaling, a good breakfast, or simply getting up an hour earlier than normal.

In truth, YOU are the only one who holds the key to your own productivity, and here, we will give you some strategies to try.

Give Yourself a Break

The first thing is to be gentle with yourself on how much you get done in a day. Too often we put so many demands on ourselves. Add to that: our jobs, our families, friends, and countless other things demanding our time and attention, it’s no wonder that when many of us finally lay down at night we feel like we just didn’t make a dent.

Consider the Physical Elements of Productivity

Starting with the physical, make sure that you have a good routine to wind down at the end of the day, and that you are staying hydrated, fueling your body with healthy food, and getting restful sleep. This may mean putting your phone on a charger across the room from your bed if you can’t resist it.

Whatever type of work you do, take the time to be sure your workspace is set up ergonomically for your body. If you work at a desk, you can read more about this in our posts 5 Ways to Make Remote Working Work For YOU and Protect Your Eyes From Computer Vision Syndrome

Start Your Productive Day the Night Before

Take time in the evening to look over your list of tasks and projects for the next day (or week). Jot down what you would like to accomplish the next day in your planner. Now, revisit the list and pare it down to just three tasks. This allows for the unexpected tasks that pop up during the day. Remember, you can always add to your list of tasks.

dry erasable horizontal vertical calendar

An erasable calendar that hangs on the wall is a perfect place to keep due dates, project timelines, as well as social events (if you use it for personal items as well). An erasable calendar keeps everything visible at all times, so that when you jot down tasks in your weekly planner or daily planner pages, you know what you should be tackling first. In your planner, you can also use the monthly planner spread for this information.

Take Time for Yourself in the Morning

You need and deserve to start your day with a little time to yourself. Do whatever makes you happy and ready to start your day. The last thing you want to do is start your day off reading emails. That means you are handing power over to everyone except yourself. Additionally, try to simplify your day as much as possible.

Establish a morning routine and try to stick with it for at least a week to ten days to determine whether or not it’s helpful. Write your morning routine in your weekly planner.

For example:

  • Make bed (it doesn’t need to be perfect, just nice to come back to at night.
  • Take a 10-minute walk.
  • Eat breakfast and look over the plan for the day or create it.

Don’t Overwhelm Yourself

First, define what a productive day means to you. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Set small daily goals, intentions, and reasonable expectations, knowing that unexpected tasks will pop up. When working on projects or goals, break them into smaller, manageable pieces. Keep breaking the tasks down into smaller and smaller tasks until they almost seem silly in their minutia. Use a page in your weekly planner or your notebook to do this.

For example:

Goal-Clear out storage room. (This may seem like a very daunting task.) 

Break it down: Divide storage room into zones of smaller areas

Break it down further: Decide which zone will be addressed first

Break it down further: Decide what categories the stuff will fall into (Keep, sell, donate–the “Keep” category may need to be broken down into smaller pieces, like decorations, sentimental keepsakes, housewares that aren’t used daily, etc.)

Break it down further: Task: gather boxes and/or bags for separating stuff.

Break down time in your planner when you might spend just 15 minutes per week starting in your first zone.

Take Timeouts

Don’t skip lunch. Even if you eat while you’re working, take your lunch time to take a walk, read, take a power nap, or do anything that will refresh you for your afternoon ahead. If you sit at a desk, it’s good for you to stand up or walk around the room every 20 minutes or so. Just stand and do 3-5 gentle squats to keep the blood moving in your body.

Try Time Blocking

Time blocking is simply setting aside time to work on something with no distractions, instead of trying to take care of multiple things at once. Ideally you should try to tackle your most difficult item first, as you will likely be more focused.

To effectively block time, don’t answer emails, or texts during the 30-45 mins you block. You can certainly work on something longer than that, but at least stand up for a body reset. You can try blocking time in your appointment book, or in an hourly or daily planner, or set a daily reminder to use a time block to work on an important initiative.

Celebrate Wins However Small

We often have very high expectations, and we aren’t good about giving ourselves credit. Research shows that when you celebrate small wins, you are much more likely to continue down a positive path.

Be sure to reflect at the end of the day and celebrate whatever wins you had. Look back over your day for how your morning routine helped you, breaks you took that helped you to refocus, and what tasks–or parts of tasks–you accomplished.

DON’T beat yourself up if your day isn’t super productive. Some days will naturally be better than others. Just experiment with what works.


Your day will certainly be much more productive if you spend a little time thinking about what works for you. Try these strategies and make them your own.

  • Give Yourself a Break
  • Consider the Physical Elements of Productivity
  • Start Your Productive Day the Night Before
  • Take Time for Yourself in the Morning
  • Don’t Overwhelm Yourself
  • Take Timeouts
  • Try Time Blocking
  • Celebrate Wins However Small

Prioritizing and planning helps you live more fully in the present moment, and AT-A-GLANCE offers solution-based products like weekly, monthly, and daily planners, dry-erase calendars, appointment books, beautiful notebooks, and all sorts of planner accessories to help you be more productive and stay more present.

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What helps you have a more productive day? Let us know. Share this story so that your family and friends can benefit as well.