Lucas Brenner » Articles » Planning the Day

The Basics of Scheduling

There are three basic concepts which help you to plan your day. Whether you do the planning digitally or analog is up to you.

First, however, an important note: It is normal if you do not always and everywhere stick to your plan. Sometimes it is even better not to plan things in order to be able to be more spontaneous, especially when planning your life.

Especially when there are emergencies or interruptions, you shouldn't stress yourself out about your schedule or feel unproductive if you can't get everything done.

Scheduling should mean less stress, not more.

Time Planning vs. Energy Planning[1]

When it comes to scheduling, many people forget that they don't have a constant reserve of energy at all times. Human energy levels fluctuate throughout the day and decrease overall the longer you are awake. You should take this into account in your planning.

First of all, you should observe your personal energy balance. Some people are bursting with energy in the morning and fall into an energy slump in the afternoon. On the other hand, night owls really ramp up in the evening. The energy level is therefore very individual.

The planning of the day should therefore take into account the personal energy balance and provide enough space for breaks. Especially after high leverage tasks, you should allow yourself enough time to regenerate.

However, it is not only breaks that are important for refilling your energy reserves; sufficient sleep, exercise and a healthy diet are also important factors. So if you keep yourself healthy, you'll also be more efficient and productive.

Planning Mode vs. Execution Mode

You should mentally distinguish between two modes. On one hand, you are in planning mode. You're analytical, plan your events, and ultimately find an appropriate agenda for the day. In this phase, you do not work on your projects, but only lay the foundation for later execution.

In the execution mode, on the other hand, you no longer question individual parts of the schedule, but work through it. In other words, you act according to plan as best you can.

The distinction between the two modes is important so that you don't get lost in planning. Of course, thoughtful and sophisticated planning is important, but it's much more important to actually do something. It's easy to get carried away planning everything down to the smallest detail and forget about the actual work.

Routines vs. Adventure

Both order and chaos are important parts of life. Of course, this should also be reflected in daily planning. Therefore, it is important to give adventures space and at the same time allow the formation of meaningful routines.

Adventures in this context are the activities through which you leaves your comfort zone, try new things and ultimately grow. For example, you should leave enough time for meeting friends and family, or new hobbies.

Meaningful routines are habits that make everyday life easier or enrich it. A good night routine makes it easier to fall asleep and improves the quality of your sleep. A morning routine gets the day off to a positive start. Checklists can help with that.

As Jordan B. Peterson writes in his book “12 Rules For Life,” you live happiest on the border between order and chaos.

The Three Types of Tasks

It makes sense to categorize your daily tasks to improve managing your time and ensure a balanced workload.[2]

Focus Tasks

Focus tasks are high-energy, difficult tasks that require complete concentration. At best, you should not be disturbed while completing them. These effects have the greatest impact on your projects.

You should schedule a fixed time window for these tasks to ensure progress. However, they should be tackled after the unblocking tasks to increase team productivity.

Unblocking Tasks

Unblocking tasks have no direct impact on your personal productivity, but they allow teammates or colleagues to continue working. Sending an email with important information, providing assistance or feedback, and answering questions are common examples of unblocking tasks.

When working as a team, it's likely that these tasks are the bottleneck of team productivity. If a colleague has to wait until the afternoon for an important email, he or she can't work productively on that project until then. Therefore, you should set aside about 30 minutes at the beginning of the workday to complete unblocking tasks.

This will increase productivity overall, even though it may feel counterintuitive at first.

Process Tasks

Process tasks are administrative tasks like answering or reading emails, organizing files, or cleaning up your desk. They also need to be done, but they don't require much time or energy, so you can do them all together in one block of time or squeeze them into the gaps between other appointments. Still, there should be enough room for breaks, of course!

By planning you use your attention better and you can remember your life better because you have a review of your life.

In addition, avoiding overwhelm enables you to live a more mindful and happy life. In addition to this article, I write about the only productivity trick that works in this article.


[1] Thanks to Sebastian Martin for writing about this topic in his article “How to start managing your energy levels instead of your time.”

[2] James Stuber introduced the three task types in his video “Better Daily Planning With The 3 Task Types.”