How to create and stick to a daily schedule: a handy guide
Updated 16 January 2023
One of the most effective tools for managing your time and combatting the temptation to procrastinate is to create a daily schedule. When managing a busy work schedule alongside personal commitments and a desire to make time for ourselves, it can be difficult to get everything done. Creating a daily schedule can help alleviate some stressors from your day-to-day work. In this article, we explain the benefits of a daily schedule, how you can create one of your own and provide tips to make it easier to stick with long-term to make managing your life a lot easier.
What is a daily schedule?
A daily schedule is a way of methodically planning the events of your day. It allows you to list intended times that events take place and serves as a reminder of tasks that need completing. You can use it professionally to organise meetings, projects and work-related tasks or to keep track of your personal commitments such as meeting friends or family events. You may also choose to create a schedule that maps out your daily routine, from your meals to your exercise regime. Regardless of your needs, you can format a schedule that works for you.
What are the benefits of creating a daily schedule?
Creating a schedule for your day has a range of benefits, as it can help you use your time more efficiently. Learning to stick to your schedule consistently can also improve your time-management and organisational skills, allowing you to plan and prioritise more effectively. Here are some other ways that creating a daily schedule can help you:
Stay focused: having clearly defined tasks, times and deadlines can help you avoid distractions and limit procrastination.
Understand your capabilities: it's often easy to take on too much. Being aware of all the commitments you've already made can allow you to set more realistic goals for new tasks.
Maintain a work-life balance: becoming more efficient at managing your time and organising your work tasks can free up space for more personal activities, whether that be time with friends and family or rest and relaxation.
Related: How to stop procrastinating
How to create a daily schedule
If you want to create your own schedule to help boost your daily productivity levels, follow these steps:
1. Make a list
Start by writing down a list of the tasks you like to complete within a typical week. Include both personal activities and professional objectives, but at this stage, focus on getting it all on paper without worrying about the structure. Make a note of everything you want to accomplish during an average day, from making your breakfast to your daily work tasks. Ensure you also include tasks you complete periodically, such as taking the bins out, changing your bedsheets or cleaning the bathroom.
2. Categorise your tasks
Once you've identified all of your weekly tasks, you can then categorise them. Separate your professional needs, such as responding to emails and attending meetings, from your necessary home life tasks, such as cooking food and doing laundry. When you've established what needs to be done, you can then determine your personal wants, such as attending a yoga class or meeting a friend for coffee. At this stage, it's useful to highlight each category of tasks in a different colour to help visually organise your task list.
3. Think about frequency
Next, identify how often you perform each task and mark the frequency next to the task. For example, next to daily tasks such as making breakfast write the number '7' and with less frequent tasks such as doing the weekly food shopping, write the number '1'. This can help make things easier when transferring your tasks into a planner, weekly chart or digital calendar.
4. Group similar tasks
Group similar tasks together to make more efficient use of your time. Consider which tasks require similar resources or take place in the same location. It can be useful to carry these tasks out one after the other. Organising related tasks in this way allows you to concentrate on one task at a time while also increasing productivity.
5. Prioritise important tasks
If you've identified several large tasks that need completing throughout the week, think about which ones have the highest priority. Try to limit the number of large tasks in your schedule to three per day to avoid overloading yourself. Think about what you can realistically complete within the time you have so that when you tick them off your list, you can feel a sense of accomplishment at having completed what you set out to achieve.
Related: What is prioritising?
6. Transfer your tasks into your schedule
You can now begin transferring your tasks into your schedule. There are multiple methods to plan your schedule, so think about what works best for you. You may choose to record your schedule virtually, using either a calendar program or a scheduling app so that you can access your schedule across multiple devices. Or you might prefer to write your schedule in a planner, as writing tasks down in this method may be better for some people. You might even choose to do both. It's about what best suits your needs.
Here is an example schedule that you can use to help structure your own:
Morning (7 a.m. to 11 a.m.)Wake up and make the bedGo for a runHave a showerMake breakfastRespond to emailsVirtual meeting at 10 a.m.Midday (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.)Return phone callsMeet clients for lunchWrite a 500-word blog postAfternoon (2 p.m. to 6 p.m.)Start working on a new projectCall Mum Virtual meeting at 4 p.m.Type up minutes from the meetingEvening (6 p.m. to 10 p.m.)Cook dinnerClean the kitchenTake out the binsWatch a filmComplete skincare routineRead a chapter of a bookGo to bedRelated: How to create an effective work routine (with tips)
Tips to help you stick to your schedule
When first implementing your schedule, it can take some time to adjust to having an organised routine. If following a system or structure doesn't come naturally to you, it can be tempting to fall back into old habits. Here are some tips to make sticking to your schedule easier and to help it become a habit:
Complete challenging tasks first
People tend to avoid their larger, more challenging tasks and instead focus on whatever is easier or more enjoyable first. This can often lead to procrastination and ultimately reduce the time you dedicate to big, daunting tasks. Reduce the risk of missing deadlines or the last-minute rush to complete cumbersome assignments by tackling them first. Then enjoy the gratification of a job well done and the freedom to complete the lighter tasks in your schedule.
When preparing your schedule, try to avoid overlapping tasks that require completion. While the ability to multitask can be beneficial, it can hinder your focus and make managing your time more difficult. Instead, alleviate the pressure by giving yourself ample time to complete each task. This might make it easier to adjust working within specific time slots.
Make reasonable adjustments
If the structure of your schedule or the time allowances you've assigned yourself aren't working, then you might want to make some adjustments. Reassess how long tasks might realistically take to complete based on how well you've been able to stick to your schedule so far. If you find you're completing tasks quicker than anticipated, schedule additional work or make the most of your free time.
Monitor the time
Every action throughout your day takes a certain amount of time, whether it be a bathroom break or making your mid-morning coffee. Take notice of the time and factor in enough space for your unscheduled activities as well. It's important to remember you aren't a robot, learn how much time you require to complete your work, and try timing yourself if you're unsure.
Make it a habit
Try to make your schedule consistent, so it becomes easier to follow. It's useful to follow the same morning regime, make time for leisure activities at similar times throughout the week or end your day with the same mindful routine each night. These actions can then become habits and are easier to factor into your schedule each day.
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