In this post I’ll share a daily schedule system for work, mainly to inspire you with some ideas — and hopefully to share your own so that I can improve too!
The basis on why and how I ended up needing a daily schedule are covered in another post, so we’ll skip that part and dive into the details.
The daily schedule backbone and mentality
In the core of it all lies the Getting Things Done approach, with two goals that David Allen shared and stand out for me:
- Free your mind from thoughts & stuff that eat up your mental resources. If you have an idea, task, thought you want to explore write it down to free up your mind!
- The best time to act on something is when it’s already in your mind. So if you just left a meeting, finished a task, had an idea this is the time to plan any next steps needed and be as precise as you can! If you leave that for later, your mind will still need to carry that burden! Plus, there is a big chance you won’t be that precise planning the next action.
Some additional goals that improved the daily schedule are:
- Have a single goal per day no matter what, coming from Deep Work and The One Thing as well as many other motivational posts & content out there.
- Addition of reminder tasks, that act as mantras and affirmations to recall on a daily basis.
- Make each day thematic, e.g. Monday is for Product+Support tasks, Tuesday is for Research, etc. This way it’s easier to plan when to work on each task and address ad-hoc requests to fit your schedule, e.g. “There is a request for a call with our support team, I should schedule that for Monday”
With the above goals set, let’s jump into the “How”.
Anatomy of the daily schedule
All work is broken down in tasks that are shifting between three lists — adopted from Getting Things Done:
- Calendar list, that holds all upcoming tasks that need work
- Next actions list, that holds all tasks that are related to the current day, meaning “today”.
- Work done list, that holds all tasks that are completed.
These lists have a home on Checkvist and it has been a pleasure to use so far!
Starting each day, I check the Next actions list that contain the tasks worked on the previous day. Everything that is complete is moved to the Work done list and every non-complete task is either re-scheduled for a future day — moved to the Calendar list — or stays in the Next actions list as an item for the current day. For any completed task that requires a follow up, a new task is added either for today or for the future.
When done with reviewing the Next actions list, I check the Calendar list and move tasks that are to be done today.
Anatomy of a task
Each task added in a list must clearly represent the required action to perform that task. This way you avoid engaging your mind to recall and reconstruct what you need to do. With time and practise comes improvement on expressing clear a task action.
Now let’s start with the main components of an open task — a task waiting for action:
- Date that the task should be worked on, is added first. This way it’s easier to scan in the Calendar list while choosing tasks for today, Next actions list.
- A task description, of what work needs to be done. Any additional information that can reduce mental effort are included in the description, e.g. links of documents, some bullet points outcomes of a previous task, clearly stating the final goal. Additional highlighting , like bold or capital letters, are used to reduce further the mental effort needed. A text in bold, means “Hey! You should work with me first!”
- A set of tags, that help in categorizing this task. These tags will be used on a personal retrospection to check how the effort is spread among departments.
The open tasks are populating the Calendar and Next action lists.
Now let’s see a completed task — one that the actions of the description are completed. A completed task is similar to an open task with some additional information added in italics right after the task’s description. That section includes:
- Task completion duration, how much work time was needed to complete that task. If the duration of a task derails or takes over a big portion of a day, this is the indicator to check when reviewing completed work.
- A brief description of work done, sharing what was essentially done while working on that task. This description is important when you need to recall what and when you talked about something. Of course, not all tasks are vital so you can be less or more descriptive depending on the task.
- Parts of text in bold starting with the word “Need” that represent follow-up tasks that need action. Each sentence starting with “Need” will be added as a new open task. Using the word “Need” acts as an extra no-brainer filter to separate just important remarks from actionable descriptions.
All completed task end up in the Work Done list. Each morning, completed tasks of the previous day are in the Next actions list. At that time, they are reviewed, new tasks are created as needed, and then moved to the Work Done list.
For a better organization, all completed tasks are grouped per day. This way you can get an overview of how many tasks were completed each day.
Summary, and why bother with all this?
Having this system in place has helped tremendously on having a free mind, with less worries. There was a slight discomfort at the beginning but now it has formed into a habit that is done almost mechanically.
To summarize, this system offers:
- A schedule is there for you! ❤️ There are zero days where you feel lost, wandering what to do, or whether a ball has been dropped at some point.
- Free mind 🧘♂️ Your mind is free to focus on the important stuff. All the minute details are already out of your head; organized and with proper descriptions to assist you.
- Progress 📈 Completing each task and proceeding with the follow up task is the thing! You get a sense of progress and achievement each day!
- Control of your time/less anxiety ☀️ By writing down all that needs to be done — vs. having them all as a soup in your mind — you can see the bigger picture. You’re not lost on prioritizing a thousand tasks in your day, you control your time, and you can choose to move for later a task that is not that pressing if more important tasks need your attention.
Well that’s it! This system has helped me wonders! Bits and pieces of this mentality feed a side project I’m working on, Team O’clock.
If you find something useful please share! If you have something to add, I’d love to hear that and try adopting it!