How to Use Your Agenda to Increase Happiness: Step by Step Guide
Ever feel like you don’t have time to work out, meet with friends, complete tasks that have been on your list for a while, or just relax and enjoy some downtime? Do you feel a sense of constant pressure or even stress when you think about all the things you need to get done let alone all the things you want to do?
Okay Girls, let me first tell you that you do have time for everything it is that you want to fit into your life; it’s just a matter of knowing how to organize, prioritize and plan!
On weeks that I fall off the habit of keeping my agenda up to date, I feel more stressed, overwhelmed, and less prepared for the week...or just life in general! I also find that the feeling of guilt more readily creeps up when I’m doing “fun” things like going out for dinner, meeting with friends, or watching youtube when I know I have things to do. But when I’ve taken the time to plan and pencil everything in, the end of every week feels like I’ve been productive and like I’m moving forward. And when I do relax...I feel completely guilt-free!
There are a lot of articles all of over the web showcasing different ideas of things to include in your planner. But I find that most are either too vague - they don’t show you detailed methods of effectively utilizing your agenda, OR they’re overstuffed with so many stickers, drawings, diagrams, and suggestions of things to track that after all of it you can’t even see your schedule.
I will show you exactly how to plan your time, what to write in your agenda and when to write it. But FIRST! Let’s take a look at how it will make your life so much better!
5 Ways Planning Makes Your Life Better:
- Frees up Mental Space. When you write something down, it relieves you of having to think about it multiple times in the week because now you know it’s on your list, you’ve scheduled when you will take care of it and you don’t have to worry about how and when it will get done.
- Diminishes Stress. Because your mind is freed up of the whats, whens and hows, the only thing you have to concentrate on is to take one day at a time and accomplish solely what you’ve written down for that day. You will be able to fall asleep much easier as well!
- Increases Productivity. When you’re able to physically see your week ahead, you’re less likely to procrastinate. You will see that you can’t say “I will do this later” because you can actually visualize that there’s no option for later. This means that you know you must make use of the time you’ve penciled in for this task - and so you do! *This is HUGE for workouts! Say my goal is to fit 5 workouts in for the week. On days I don’t feel like going but look ahead and see there’s no other time to go, I usually go anyway so that my number doesn’t permanently drop to 4 with no time to makeup for that missed session.
- Strengthens Relationships. A lot of the time, you feel overwhelmed by your daily work schedule, errands, and tasks, so the thought of making plans with friends you haven’t seen in a while actually stresses you out rather than excites you. Looking at the free space you have in the month allows you to make plans ahead with somebody important to you. Knowing that your tasks have already been scheduled, you can meet with your friends stress free and feel happy to be there in the moment with them!
- Improves Mood. This makes complete sense. Half the battle of accomplishing everything it is that you want, is planning out your schedule for the month! Once you’ve done this, you can be content knowing that all you have to do is stick to your schedule and cross off items one at a time. You feel lighter knowing you have a plan, which means less room for stress and more room for feeling positive!
So girls, if you want to stick to your workouts, accomplish your goals, have time for yourself, feel motivated and stress-free, follow these steps:
How to Plan and Prioritize in your Agenda:
1. Find a pretty planner you love. I make sure mine is super attractive to me and has both a monthly overview page, and of course daily slots to fill out for the weeks. I consider it a bonus when it has some extra room on the page for writing lists.
If you’re looking for something really fancy, my absolute favourite is the Erin Condren Planner. You can either custom design it or choose from tons of really cool covers. The layout is amazing and it comes with stickers, motivational quotes, bookmarks and more. The draw-back is that it is pricey, and of a larger bulkier size.
Currently I’m using a Kate Spade planner which was significantly more affordable, and of a simple and classy design. I didn’t have to order it in, I simply picked it up from Chapters bookstore.
2. Start with the monthly layout. Do this at the end of every month. Here is what you should pencil in FIRST before you fill in weekly plans.
- Work Schedule for the month. This is especially important for you shift workers or the casually employed. My schedule is pretty consistent but often I pick up overtime shifts and those go into my agenda as soon as I get them. Because work takes up the majority of your time, it goes in first so you can see how much time you have left over.
Games or Lessons. I know I have volleyball every Tuesday at either 7PM or 9PM. I look ahead at the posted schedule and pencil in every game into my planner. If you have scheduled practices, games, or lessons of any kind, write them down.
Events or Commitments. This includes things like bridal showers, weddings, concerts, interviews, volunteering, community events etc.
Appointments. Pencil in appointments you’ve already made, like a teeth cleaning or haircut. This is when I also think about what I still need to book. If I’ve been meaning to see my doctor or book a waxing, I will call right away and make an appointment for a day I see is open. It’s also a good reminder for me to immediately book work off for the day that I might need to leave a couple hours early or come in a couple of hours late.
- Deadlines. Write down anything that has a due date for that month. For example, a work project, a form to be submitted, an application deadline, or payment dues.
Now that you have written down all commitments that are less flexible, it’s time to see where you can plan for the things you want to do and accomplish.
3. Next, schedule your week. Do this every Sunday. Here you can pencil in things that you want to add into your schedule.
Workout Routine. This is the best way to stay on track with exercising! Set your goal. Do you want to workout 4 times that week? 5? 6? Whatever it is, take a look at your space and write down “workout” on the number of days that you set. If my goal is 5 days that week and I can see that I’m busy all of Wednesday but need to workout on that day in order to reach my goal...then I know I have to do a morning session, and I write that in. If I’m training for something, like a half marathon, I will map out exactly what distances I need to complete by which dates.
Errands/Tasks/Chores. This really helps you get things done as you go, such as household chores, instead of taking 4 hours out of your precious Saturday trying to do it all. I might only do one or two things a week but I write them down to make sure they get done. These are things like, clean bathroom, wash bedsheets, mail card/letter, cleanout car...you get the point!
Goal Tracking. Commit to working on your personal goals. You want to get better at playing the guitar? Pencil in your practice times. You love Spanish and want to speak it before your trip next year? Schedule in times to study. Even if you can only do 20 minutes in the morning one day, it’s better than nothing and it keeps you moving forward.
Meeting Friends. Is there someone on your mind that you haven’t seen in a while and you’ve been feeling guilty because the last few times they’ve tried to make plans with you it fell through? What about a new friend you just met that you want to bond with more? Take a look at your schedule, give them a call, and set up a date to meet! (This might also work well when you’re planning your month, as more notice is usually better!)
Time for yourself. Schedule in time that’s just for you! You will relax so much during these times knowing you’ve planned for it and everything else is taken care of. Maybe you want to read your book or watch a TV series. Perhaps you just want to take a bubble bath and give yourself a pedi. Whatever it is you like to do!
4. Finally, detail your day. Do this every evening before bed. This is where I start to get specific. I like to allot specific amounts of time for each thing I do that day. Do I have to do my workout in the morning? How much time will I spend practicing guitar and organizing my sock drawer before meeting my girlfriend? You get the point!
This helps with being able to read your agenda quickly and easily once you get used to which colours correspond to which categories. Choose any variation you like! Here’s mine:
BLACK - Permanent Schedule. Most of the items I write down for my monthly layout.
GREEN - Workout Schedule or Training
RED - Tasks, Errands or Chores
BLUE - Goals
PINK - All the good stuff! Fun plans, meeting friends, time for yourself or relax-time
I don’t overload my planner with a million tabs, bookmarks, sticky notes, stickers and pictures. I like to keep it clean and simple.
Using Your Agenda:
At the end of every month, map out your monthly schedule for the following month.
- At the end of every week (I do this on Sundays), map out your week.
- At the end of every day, plan and review for the next day in more detail.
Always leave your agenda open to the current week so you can glance at it or make changes whenever you need to! Mine sits on my dresser drawer, always open.
Of course things in life are NEVER static so you will be writing things in and switching things around as you go. The week will probably rarely go exactly as you have planned it down to the hour, but trust me, use this method consistently and your life WILL be better in all the ways I’ve listed above. I challenge you to try it for 1 week and leave a comment telling us what differences it made to you!