“If you don’t spend your time wisely, it doesn’t matter how much energy and focus you have — you won’t accomplish a lot at the end of the day.” – Chris Bailey

Over the past month, we’ve focused on sharing tips and tricks to help you be more productive with your time — not just so you can get more done, but so you can do more of the things that matter most!

Because, as we shared at the beginning of the month, that’s the goal with productivity. It isn’t necessarily to do more, but to better focus on the things you’ve prioritized in the life you’re designing.

Hopefully this month you’ve found that with intention and focus it’s not actually all that hard to be more productive. But if you’re still looking for tangible ways to be productive each day, we’ve got you covered!

In today’s post, we’re outlining the five core components of a truly productive day. Incorporate these tips on a regular basis and you’ll quickly find that you’re (seemingly effortlessly) living out an intentional life.

You can’t lead an intentional life (and a productive day!) until you do these five things…

1. Prioritization

The reality of life is that you can do anything, but you can’t do everything. And that’s okay! You shouldn’t have to. If you’re living the life you’ve designed, you only need to focus on the things that are most important to you.

So, at the beginning of each week — and ideally, at the beginning of every day — plot out your top priorities. As part of your well-designed life, you’ve probably already identified more general categories; things like family, health, self-care, etc. Try to get more specific on a weekly and daily basis!
Maybe today you need to focus on finishing up a presentation for a potential new client, but tomorrow you need to prioritize your family vacation over the holidays. The beauty of prioritizing your days is that you become very clear on what you’re saying “yes” to — and, perhaps more importantly, what you’re saying “no” to.

“Being prolific is not about time management. There are a limited number of hours in the day, and focusing on time management just makes us more aware of how many of those hours we waste,” says author and organizational psychologist, Adam Grant. “A better option is attention management: Prioritize the people and projects that matter, and it won’t matter how long anything takes. Attention management is the art of focusing on getting things done for the right reasons, in the right places and at the right moments.”

And keep in mind that you can (and should!) be flexible. Sometimes your priorities will have to change, and that’s okay. What’s more important is that you’re clear on what’s most important for you to get done on any given day or week, so that you can quickly identify when things need to shift.
By prioritizing what’s most important, you can better dedicate your focus — and get a whole lot more done!

2. Planning

Once you’ve highlighted your top priorities, it’s time to plot them into your day!

Pull out your Day Designer and block out scheduled time for the tasks, projects, and appointments that are most important (in other words, those that align with your priorities) from day to day.

If you have extra time left over, you can add in additional tasks — and maybe even “schedule” time for yourself too. Remember that you’re at your most productive when you’re taking good care of yourself — mind, body, and soul! It’s just as important to prioritize yourself, and make sure that you have the energy that’s necessary to get done everything on your to-do list.

By putting your priorities into your planner, you’re guaranteeing that you have space for them in your life. You might quickly find that you’ve planned too much for a given day, or that you have more time than expected! Either way, using your Day Designer to map out your top priorities from day to day will help ensure you have the time and space in your life to get everything done.

3. Problem Solving

Laura Vanderkam, author of Off the Clock, says: “When you are absorbed in solving an interesting problem, you can lose all sense of time, just as might happen during a dinner with old friends.”

You likely have no shortage of problems to solve in your life; what’s important is to make sure you’re giving yourself enough time to solve them!
So, to start, when blocking out time in your Day Designer, overestimate the amount of time it will take you to get something done.

Secondly, consider how you’ll best get into flow. We’re best at getting creative and problem-solving when we get into a state of flow: that state of mind when you’re so immersed in what you’re doing that everything else seems to fall away and time passes without your noticing. 

Approach each priority and block of time in your planner with the same intention: What is the problem I need to solve here, and how much time do I need to solve it? 

If possible, come prepared to the time block with whatever you need to drop into flow quickly. Perhaps you need notes from a previous meeting, maybe you need to set aside some time for research, or maybe you just need to close your eyes and get centered for a few seconds before you get started.

Be intentional about what you’re trying to do (what would success look like at the end of this block of time) and make the problem easy to get absorbed into (have you prepped and given yourself enough time to focus and get into flow?).

By preparing to problem-solve and allowing yourself time to get into flow, even the dullest-seeming tasks and projects will become infinitely more interesting and exciting . . . and usually, it means you’ll solve the problem and finish the task even faster than you figured!

4. Presence

Speaking of dropping into flow, you’re likely to problem solve and complete a task more efficiently and effectively if you’re really present to what you’re trying to do.

Think about the last time you tried to write an email while also on a call while also scrolling through Instagram while also trying to soothe a crying kid, and and and . . .

According to David Allen, author of Getting Things Done: “It’s possible for a person to have an overwhelming number of things to do and still function productively with a clear head and a positive sense of relaxed control.”

Again, you can do anything, but you can’t do everything. And while it might not always be possible to focus solely and singularly on one task for hours at a time, try to be present with each task or project on your to-do list in the time that you do have.

If you’re at a doctor’s appointment with your kid, be present. If you’re on a conference call with your colleagues, be present. If you’ve set aside 15 minutes to read your book, be present.

Even if you only have three minutes to do whatever you need to do, work to be present in each minute.

There’s no point in doing everything you have to do (or want to do) if you can’t even do it fully. So, as best you can, give yourself the gift of being present with each and every thing you have to get done.

5. Praise

This last step is not just a core component of a productive day; it’s essential to a productive and intentional life — and it’s one we advocate for often here at Day Designer.

Celebrate what you do get done, instead of focusing on what you didn’t!
Not every day will be perfect, but if you incorporate the four steps above into each day, life will soon be infinitely more productive and aligned with your well-designed life.

Give yourself credit for what you get done and let go of the rest (or, better yet, plan it for another day!). Celebrate the wins, big and little, and honor the effort that you’re making. That will always be the best motivation to wake up and try again another day.

How we live each minute, each hour, and each day is how we live our whole lives. That can seem overwhelming at times, but actually, it’s promising! By taking the right steps every day, it is possible (and not all that difficult) to lead and live with intention.

If you’re prioritizing your time, planning ahead, solving the most pressing problems, being present (as often as possible), and praising your efforts, you will be living a life of intention; a life aligned with what you’ve designed for yourself. 

And isn’t that the ultimate to-do? Follow the components above and you’re guaranteed to cross that one off the list.

Which of the five do you need to implement into your day? Share what you’ll be starting with in the comments below!