How To Reduce Stress With Simple Daily Planning

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“Take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves.” It’s not the pennies that stress us out. It’s the pounds. The Benjamins, the buckaroos, the bacon, the bigger picture. BUT… when we don’t take care of the smaller units… the bigger picture falls apart. That’s why daily planning is essential. Inescapable.

Life can get pretty chaotic: whether it’s the three new projects your boss just assigned you or the never-ending privilege of being a parent, all these responsibilities add up – and if you don’t have a system in place to deal with everything, you’re probably going to try and brute-force your way through them.

By taking just a couple of minutes each day to plan out your activities, you’ll get to destress and squash those niggling thoughts that lead to stress and anxiety: “Is there enough in my bank account to cover everything?”, “I feel like I’m forgetting something important”, “Should I do this before or after lunch?”. Getting into the habit of daily planning is the cornerstone of how to handle stress.

I’ve got a simple system that I swear by. A daily planner in WorkFlowy. I’m going to quickly outline how my system works and how it ties in with my monthly calendar and projects. Do this and watch your stress evaporate:

All of my daily tasks start off in my WorkFlowy calendar. Although whittled down, here’s a sample of my actual tasks. The struggle is real:

My calendar only ever contains 2 months. I treat it as a “tickler file” of sorts… where I pull tasks from and push recurring items back to.

  1. Recurring daily, weekly and monthly routines, meetings, bills, etc.
  2. Scheduled events, birthdays, reminders…
  3. I also have projects within my calendar. Why not??

At the end of each day, I pull all items from the next day in my Calendar into my daily planner. But before that, I push anything that I’ve actively decided to not do tomorrow to a suitable future date. The beach can wait – because my schedule tomorrow will probably not allow for it. I’m feeling so in control right now:

So here’s what my daily planner looks like:

I know. Many are thinking the same think thing I once thought: “Why didn’t I think of this sooner?” So simple. So effective. So thoughtful.

Now… how to easily move items from my calendar into my daily planner?

In the above image, you’ll see that I’ve starred my CALENDAR as well as my daily planner (TODAY), so that they appear in the Starred Pages section of my left bar. I’m going to go ahead and start transferring items from my main document into time blocks in the left bar:

And here is my updated daily planner:

Notice in the image above at 7AM I’ve scheduled a project: Dog training. I’ve also included the next action after the title, which is to play a recording of our doorbell while our dogs are feeding. This is so that they won’t bark whenever they hear the doorbell because they’ll associate the doorbell with food. In the image below, you’ll see I’ve created a board out of my “Dog training” project. I have the current areas of focus in the “DOING” column, one of which I’ve included in the project’s title.

Exactly the same with my “Garden torches” project. My next action up is to split bamboo with a machete…

However… I’ve decided that my schedule is a little too full today to split bamboo with a machete… and so I’m going to push this project to tomorrow’s date in my calendar:

This is the beauty of the classic Kanban “pushing and pulling” dynamic. If you’ve got too much on your plate today, you can push certain projects or tasks into the future. You won’t miss them in your calendar. You can also do the same within your WorkFlowy daily planner.

Most of the items I’ve got scheduled are recurring tasks and events. And so once I’m done with my tasks, I’ll push them back into the calendar to the next day of the week/ date up:

And so we’re back to where we started. Tomorrow’s another day.

Noteworthy tips:

  1. You can also use mirrors to bring individual project tasks into your daily planner and/ or your calendar, so that you can keep those project tasks within their project outlines and not dissociate them. Just Shift+Drag any task into the place you want in your left bar:

… and once you’re done with that task you can delete it. The original task will remain in its project.

  1. If you’re interested in having a calendar in WorkFlowy, here’s a post called “The Genius Forever Calendar Template”. It will take the work out of manually creating monthly lists.
  2. You can create a template outline for your daily planner time blocks, which you can then duplicate daily – or just copy the time blocks you need.

And that’s a wrap! With just a tad bit of daily planning, you can significantly manage stress and anxiety in your professional and personal life.

Please do share how you plan your day and manage your tasks in WorkFlowy in the comment section below. And if you have any sanity-saving tips on how to reduce stress via planning, please share those as well!

Overwhelmed?

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8 Responses

  1. It looks like the link you gave to the forever calendar doesn’t work. The link to the article is fine, but the link inside that article doesn’t resolve.

  2. Hi, the way plan my day and manage my tasks in WorkFlowy is far less advanced than this. I basically use WorkFlowy like a so-called “pile of notes” app with some basic categories like “Journal”, “Questions”, and “Knowledge” and archive notes by quarter and year. I don’t have any “sanity-saving tips on how to reduce stress via planning.”

    I want to make sure to say I’m glad you provided a link to the first version of “THE “FOREVER CALENDAR” TEMPLATE” because version 2 has some errors with things the “calendar” like months beginning on Monday and some minor formatting issues (extra spacing). Hit me up for any details.

    I’m not familiar with Kanban. I didn’t quite understand these lines:
    “Most of the items I’ve got scheduled are recurring tasks and events. And so once I’m done with my tasks, I’ll push them back into the calendar to the next day of the week/ date up:”

  3. Frank
    I love this idea and a great way to keep your sanity. The one thing I struggle with is the fact that I can’t always get to my computer, mostly on weekends, to plan my day. I find planning on the mobile app extremely cumbersome and that is why I haven’t come back to workflowy for personal project/task management. Any suggestions on how to modify this for mobile heavy usage? If I could get over that hurdle, it’s a no brainer to use Workflowy

  4. Hi Chandler, excellent to hear from you!

    Admittedly, WorkFlowy on mobile does not approximate what can be done on desktop currently. We’re heading in that direction with tools such as an inline “move-to” feature. That will level the playing field some.

    In the meantime, specifically relating to the dynamics in this post… the easiest way forward for part of the workflow where most of the exchange takes place: between my calendar and my daily scheduler… one can place the daily planner (time blocks) just above one’s calendar. Then it’s just a matter of expanding your outlines and dragging and dropping.

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