Like a kid on Christmas, my excitement was uncontainable this morning when I walked into Rocket Matter HQ. Sitting on my desk was a box of twenty or so pads of daily planners I had custom printed to my specifications. I pulled out one of the pads, which consist of twenty-five 8 1/2″ x 11″ color printed pages with a gummed strip at the top, closed my eyes, and pressed the fresh planner to my face.
I love my daily planners, and this is the second version of one I designed last year. Daily Planner #2 improves on the first version by allowing me to list tasks, track Pomodoros, and increases the size of the note-taking section.
It might seem odd for the CEO of a software company to rely on paper for a daily planner, but to me, there’s something helpful about using pen and paper for the day at hand that reinforces what it is I have to accomplish. Plus, there’s a certain analog from the computer world that informs how I work. The way computers operate (this is as gross as an oversimplification as one may ever come across) is that programs and data are pulled off of hard drives and put in RAM so the computer can access them more readily. My calendar, which is on Google, is similar to my hard drive. My daily planner is like RAM, or memory.
The five minutes I take each day help me know at all times the next thing I should work on and establish a state of positive well-being. Below is the layout:
Here’s a brief explanation of the sections and how I use this thing:
Date is self-explanatory. I like filling this out as it gets the ball rolling.
Type of Day refers to a Buffer or Focus day, which comes from my Strategic Coach training. In a nutshell, Buffer days are when I get non-valuable stuff out of the way, like phone calls and emails, and Focus days are when I produce enjoyable work that adds true value to my company.
Best Activities: These are the top three priorities for the day to support my week, and consequently quarterly, and thus yearly initiatives.
Accomplishments: Listing your accomplishments is a big deal for your positive well-being. I list what am I proud of or happy about from the previous day, which doesn’t have to include only work stuff, either. I include things like “Made it home for a 6pm family dinner,” “Caught up with cousin Joe”, or “Took a guitar lesson,” or other things that won’t happen unless I make them happen.
Gratitude: Gratitude is a cornerstone of the positive psychology movement. Your mind has a hard time being angry and grateful at the same time, and if you haven’t tried a gratitude regimen, you don’t know what you are missing. I list three things, usually one major one, like a core person in my life, and if I can get specific about something they did or some aspect of their personality, all the better. I also like to list things I take for granted, like “air conditioning,” “elevators,” “antibiotics”. It seems silly, but life without some of the things would be very difficult, if not downright miserable.
Tasks: New in Version 2! These are for things I have to do that aren’t big-ticket items. “Book flight,” “Respond to Kevin” or small things that I want to get done in addition to the Best Activities.
Schedule: In this section, I just copy down my appointments showing on my Google Calendar. It may seem like a wasteful exercise, but I enjoy doing this and having my entire day at a glance.
Pomodoros: New in Version 2! “Pomodoro” means “tomato” in Italian, the location where the technique originated. This is a single-tasking approach to work in which you to wind up a tomato timer for 25 minutes. During those 25 minutes, you work only on one thing – no email, Twitter, texts, and you can’t get coffee or get up and go to the bathroom. This means no interruptions either. I’ve been evangelizing the Pomodoro Technique for years.
For each Pomodoro you complete without an interruption, you get to check one off on the paper. I challenge you to do more than seven in one day!
Notes: I use this section and also the back of the page for notes. But if I’m recording notes from a meeting, I record those on a “meeting notecard”. More about that one in a future blog post.
If you’d like me to send you one of my daily planners, I’ll happily send one to you! Email me your name and address and just send me a cup of coffee in return. Not sure how you do that though – Starbucks card? 😉