Public relations expert Ivy Lee used to recommend writing down the six priorities for the next day, then crossing each one off when it was done. Today, planning options have gone way beyond a written list: There are weekly planners and monthly planners, available in hard copy, PDF or spreadsheet or computerized scheduling system. In whatever format suits your taste, weekly and monthly planners can boost your efficiency and productivity if you use them well.
Picking and Using a Planner
Find the planner format that's right for you. If you spend all day on your laptop, perhaps a computerized planner would work best; if you have three kids with after-school activities, you'll probably want a large planner with lots of space to track everybody's appointments. If you discover what you have doesn't work, look around until you find something that suits you better.
Use your monthly planner to map out events in advance--birthdays, anniversaries, vacations, appointments--and to block off large chunks of time where required school, travel, theatrical rehearsals or other activities. A typical monthly planner uses one or two pages for one month, so you have an instant view of how busy you are and how much time has been committed.
Use your weekly planner to map out your daily routines: Exact times for appointments, meetings, lectures, picking up kids or leaving for the airport. If your schedule is jam-packed, you can also use your planner to block off personal time for reading or watching TV.
Plan ahead. If you have an anniversary on May 15, put a note in your monthly planner to start looking for a gift ahead of time. If you have finals coming up, block out study sessions so that you're not rushed at the last minute. If you see Wednesday is already packed with demanding activities, don't plan a heavy cram session or an elaborate dinner for that night.
Don't give up. Remembering to write things down in your planners, let alone remembering to check it every day, may not come automatically at first, but if you keep trying you can make it a habit.