Just like the weekly plan helps you keep track of your assignments, a daily plan helps to concretize it and follow through to make sure the assigned tasks for the week get done. Ask yourself: what am I doing today? Creating a list of everything you need to do, and everything you intend to do, helps to get it done. It’s a small trick that can help to make much better use of your time. The list helps you know what to do at any time, and the system is flexible enough that you can revise your plan if needed.
Because your working memory can only hold a few items at a time, you can probably remember only two to three of the things you were meant to do today. If you now try to add changes to this schedule – let’s say, instead of meeting your study group at 3 pm, you’re now meeting at 4 pm, you need to keep in mind this new information. At the same time you also need to figure out what to do in this new slot of time available. Chances are that you can’t really think of anything, and end up spending the time checking email or on Facebook.
Having a list makes it easy to see what you have planned already, and easily make changes to this plan. If something takes less or more time than planned, you can be flexible and add or subtract tasks. If someone asks you to do something, you can look at your list and determine if you can accommodate their request.
The list is also a subtle trick against procrastination – seeing in black and white what you are supposed to be doing makes it a lot harder to spend all your time on something unrelated; I have found that even when I don’t explicitly refer constantly to my list, I am more productive just by writing one. Once you have things written down, you can compare them, or classify them according to types of tasks. Once we get distracted or start working on something, its hard to also make decisions about the best use of our time. The brain isn’t great at planning and executing on tasks at the same time, so make it easier on yourself by separating the two, and do the hard work of planning beforehand.
Creating a daily to-do list doesn’t need to be complicated – it can be as simple as writing in a pocket planner or notebook or even just a single sheet of paper that you keep with you. If you’re so inclined, you could use the digital approach – there are lots of great apps that can help you create to-do lists and mark the date due, as well as organize according to different categories. Most apps also let you add reminders and alerts, so you could use those to remind you to work on specific assignments.