Do you ever feel you have a MOUNTAIN of things to accomplish but not enough time to climb your to-do list? I’m raising my hand, you guys! Let me know if this sounds familiar: Everyday, I tell myself I’ll plan out a nutritious dinner for my family, but about ten minutes before dinner time, I’m hunting through the freezer and hoping for a miracle. The thing is, even when we have the motivation to get started, we can quickly grow frustrated by the lack of time we need to get finished. In fact, when it comes to getting things done, time is probably the most precious resource we have. So how do we get everything done by the time the sun goes down? In this article, we will break down how to create a daily schedule, step-by-step.
How to Create a Daily Schedule Step 1: List Daily Tasks
To organize our daily routine, we first need to do a very disorganized brain dump of everything ahead of us. Grab a pen and paper and write down everything (literally everything!) ahead of you. The list might include things like the following:
- Wake up
- Walk the dog
- Feed kids breakfast
- Bathe kids
- Prepare dinner
- Run errands
- Work on hobby
- Talk to friends
- Fold clothes
- Read book
- Wash dishes
- Vacuum living room
- Write in journal
- Talk to husband
- Read to kids
- Pay bills
- Eat dinner
- Go through nighttime routine
- And on and on and on!
Write down every task that takes up your time. Don’t try to organize your list at this point. Just brainstorm and get your ideas out of your head and onto paper.
Remember, the mental processes we use to organize ideas differ from the ones we use to brainstorm ideas. So rather than switch tasks, which would be cognitively inefficient, just get all the ideas on paper, even if they seem messy.
How to Create a Daily Schedule Step 2: Establish Priorities
Once you’ve brainstormed all of the tasks in your regular daily routine, now we’re going to establish some priorities. To do this, grab two different colored highlighters.
On your list, use one color to highlight the top three things you NEED to do every day.
Use the other color to highlight the top three things you WANT to do every day.
Needs and wants are, of course, different shades of grey for everyone. Your list will be unique to you. Force yourself only to pick three needs and three wants. Have you highlighted? Great. We’ll come back to these later!
How to Create a Daily Schedule Step 3: Note Frequencies
Let’s keep working on our list of tasks and note the frequencies of each item. Using a pen, by the side of each task, write how often it occurs each week. For example, for a mom who works Monday through Friday outside the home, her task list might now look like this:
- Wake up x7
- Exercise x2
- Walk the dog x7 (morning and night)
- Work x7
- Prepare dinner x7
- Run errands x2
- Work on hobby x3
- Hang out with friends x2
- Fold clothes x2
- Wash dishes x7
- Write in journal x3
- Talk to husband x7
- Clean kitchen counters X7
- And so on
How to Create a Daily Schedule Step 4: Block Similar Tasks
Now that we’ve identified the importance and frequency of our daily to-dos, now let’s begin to cluster them in a more organized way. Are there any tasks that fall together into a bigger bucket?
For example, washing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen counters could be lumped into a more general task called “tidying the kitchen.” We’d naturally do both of those things around the same time.
Also, we might block out time to connect with our spouses at night, after the kids go to bed. This smaller item might be lumped together into a more general “wind down for bed” task.
How to Create a Daily Schedule Step 5: Begin to Fill in Weekly Calendar
To begin to create a daily schedule, grab a weekly calendar template. You can find some great options online or draft one by hand. I’m including a few cuties below, linked with affiliate links, so you can hop to the product page to learn more. Or, if you prefer to work digitally, Google Calendar is a great option!
Why a weekly, rather than a daily, calendar? We create a daily schedule using a weekly calendar to account for tasks that iterate with different frequencies. By using a weekly calendar, we can plan for tasks that happen twice a week, only on Fridays, or every other morning.
Take a look at your task list. Using a pencil, first, write in the three things you highlighted that you NEED to do. (These might be things like work and eat.)
How to Create a Daily Schedule Step 6: Optimize Your Daily Tasks
Now, compare your top three WANTS against the rest of your list. Are there things you need to do that take priority over your wants? Find out where there’s tension in your day.
For example, you might thing: “Well I WANT to go play tennis, but I need to go grocery shopping.”
If you’re like me, a trip to the grocery store can easily eat away two hours of your week, especially on Sundays. Could you save some time by shopping on Wednesday nights or, even better, ordering groceries online?
Or, if you find that preparing dinner each night takes a ton of time, could you bulk meal prep on Sundays to save time in the work week?
Consider where you can optimize your daily tasks to save time throughout your week. Weight your wants against your needs to figure out how to juggle your to-dos.
How to Create a Daily Schedule Step 7: Reevaluate and Stay Flexible
Once you’ve drafted out your ideal daily schedule (which might vary day-to-day throughout the week), take a pause. Lets make sure we answered the following questions:
- Did you include your top three needs? Why or why not?
- Did you include your top three wants? Why or why not?
- If you’re married or living with a significant other, ensure you’re both on the same page with the daily schedule. Do you both agree? Where are there still sticking points?
Consider this first version of your daily schedule to be a draft. Remain flexible throughout your week, noting where the schedule works and where it doesn’t. Refine your schedule as you move forward, adjusting timeslots and priorities to meet your needs.
Leave a comment below. What’s your biggest frustration when you create a daily schedule? Where do you feel challenged?