In most professions, starting each day with a written plan for what you want to accomplish will help you focus on what’s important and make you feel the day was worthwhile at sunset.
When I started as a financial adviser with a major brokerage firm, my branch manager explained the importance of a written plan that was composed before you left the office the previous day. His rationale was “Things are fresh in your mind.”
Years later, the entire firm caught on to the same strategy. They engaged Franklin Covey to teach us how to use Franklin Planners. Later, technology arrived, and lots of record-keeping moved to laptops and tablets.
Here are a few more tips my manager gave (or I figured out) concerning daily plans:
1. Use a spiral binder — Today’s plan fits on a page. Notes on conversations with clients go on the following pages. The next day’s plan comes after that.
Why: This sounds archaic, but it’s an easy way to document when you talked with someone, what you talked about and what else you did that day. The record is easy to store and portable. People will always be suspicious of electronic records (which you keep too). Can they be altered or removed? You can’t add a page to a spiral binder.
2. Date on left, goal on right — What do you want to accomplish today? If you are in sales, it might be a dollar goal. Maybe it’s a number of calls or appointments set. That’s the focus.
Why: To hit a big goal, you hit a lot of little goals.
3. Prioritize activities — If you are in sales, this might be your list of people to call ranked by priority. Client Relationship Management (CRM) software programs like ACT do a similar job of prioritizing calls.
Why: It’s easy for “immediate” to squeeze out “important.” Know what rings the cash register.
4. Ongoing projects — You might have a marketing campaign involving LinkedIn posts and in-mails. You might be contacting community organizations for speaking engagements. This project likely has its own file, but you want to do some work on it continuously.
Why: You prospect for new business. It should be done every day.
5. Meetings and appointments — Yes, they are in your client contact system. They are on your calendar. It’s good to write them down on each day’s plan so it’s always in front of you.
Why: You will likely need to prepare for those meetings. This requires time
6. Promised tasks — You are a Realtor. You told someone you would work up comps for houses in their neighborhood. You might not do this if you don’t write it down.
Why: Nobody’s memory is perfect. We feel so dumb when we must say “I forgot.”
7. Goals in detail — You would become mercenary pretty quickly if everything revolved around a single dollar goal in the upper right hand corner of the daily plan. Write down those other goals, such as “Spend one hour prospecting” or “Schedule five seminar attendee bookings.”
Why: It’s easier to stay motivated when you hit a few and miss a few vs. constantly being measured on only one activity.
8. Personal stuff — On the right-hand side of the page I list the non-business activities I want to get done. Running my own business, this might include the bank and dry cleaners, or booking a hotel for a vacation.
Why: These things need to get done too. They are often fun distractions. You can use them as your own rewards.
9. Business journal — I like to keep a record of what went right that day and what didn’t. It only takes a minute or two.
Why: It gives a sense of accomplishment. You can re-read your entries to confirm some business leads didn’t slip through the cracks.
10. Next day’s plan — This one’s obvious. You transfer items that didn’t get done to the next day’s plan. If you find yourself transferring too many items (that aren’t ongoing projects), you are trying to get too much done in a day.
Why: It’s an easy item to check off. That alone gives you a sense of accomplishment.
The daily plan written in a spiral binder may be “old school,” but it’s an inexpensive system to keep yourself on track. You want to act, not react.