Plan your day
I am really spending lots of my mental resources on making sure that I am productive and spending my days on things that really matter. And I have to tell you that I see a major difference between the days I have spent at least 5-10 minutes in the morning on planning and the days I did not.
Here is a couple of reasons why planning your day or maintaining a todo list may be a good idea.
It really helps
Ok, Mr. Obvious. Tell us something new, you may think. However, it's still suprising how many people know that and they still don't do it. Are you?
You can't improve what you can't measure
You are not a TODO person? You don't like managing those long lists of tasks? Whatever methodology for planing your time you have chosen or going to choose, no matter if it's GTD (Getting Things Done) or not, does not matter if it's a web application or a sheet of paper - there is one thing I am sure about - it's only going to help.
First and the most important thing is that... by managing your daily todo list you can actually take a look at what you've been doing lately. I had many days in the past that I felt like I was working VERY HARD all day and then at the end of it, I was not able to remember a single thing I actually completed. Or if the things I was doing was actually meaningful or a complete waste of time.
Second of all, there may be one thing you got stuck with that you should've completed a long time ago or... you could just delegate it, but it's ruining day after day. If you don't have a simple list of things to do and things you have done - there is no way to know that.
How can you be sure you are doing your best if you have no record of what you've done? You have it all in your head, you may say, but I can guarantee you that you are not able to remember all of it and look at it objectively after a while. NO WAY.
Whatever you do - make sure you at least have a chance to go back and evaluate your performance.
How much time should I plan for?
I've heard many times that you should plan at most 80% of your day, because there are always unexpected issues you have to deal with every day. And that it is very important to make sure you are able to complete most of your TODO list, because it's very frustrating if you feel like you are only getting one of ten things done every day.
I am not going to argue about a specific number. However, I discovered that no matter how many items I put on my todo list in the morning, I never complete more than that. Maybe sometimes, but it's so rare that I should not even mention that, so you don't have an excuse :).
The reason is simple - if you only added a few items to your todo list hoping that you would add more once you deal with this, it will actually tell your brain that it has plenty of time to do all of this. One more coffee to make - no problem. One more person to talk to - sure. That super urgent private thing you were supposed to do yesterday - why not? Bla bla bla.
Many books about being effective at work would tell you to keep your goals ambitious or you won't feel motivated to actually achieve them. And it also applies to such a small goal like actually completing your entire TODO list.
It actually struck me one day. My TODO list became an absolute mess after I was postponing some boring stuff for a while. I think I had like 28 items already on my Today / Focus list, another 14 in the Inbox and a few more in my head. I remember thinking that I am totally overwhelmed and that it's so many things that I will never get them done. I shared that with my co-workers on our company chat and then... I realized that I am not really giving them a good example. Especially as a boss, I should never complain and think negatively. So I added "and you know guys, I am going to knock out those 28 items TODAY". And I did. It was a great feeling, especially that - as it turned out - everyone thought I was just sarcastic about it.
Since that discovery, I always plan a bit more than I can actually handle in a day. That keeps me focused. And that gets things done.
Remember, you will always get more done when you plan your day, but be careful, because you will rarely get more done than you have planned for.