How to create an effective schedule

There are only 24 hours in a day, and if you want to make the most out of those 24 hours, you need a schedule.

Creating and sticking to a schedule—both in your personal and professional life—is the best way to manage your time and ensure you fit everything you need (and want!) to do into your daily life. But schedules can be challenging, especially if time management isn’t one of your strong suits.

But even if you’re not a naturally structured person, you can take back control of your time all you need are the right tools.

Let’s take a look at why daily schedules are so important, and how to use a daily planner(opens in a new tab or window) and effective time management strategies to take back control of your time and squeeze the most out of every 24 hours.

The importance of a daily schedule

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So, first things first:Why is having a daily schedule so important?

Your daily schedule is like your blueprint for the day. It keeps you on track and helps you make the most out of your time.

Not only that, but schedules allow you to identify where the “time sucks” are. Think of these as areas that are draining your time and you need to get rid of (we’re looking at you, mindless social media scrolling).

And as if that wasn’t enough, having a daily schedule allows you to look at everything you have going on during any given day and prioritize the tasks that are important to you.

In a nutshell, daily schedules are important because they give you a sense of control over your time (and your life). And let’s be real, who doesn’t want that?

How to make an effective daily schedule

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All right, so now that you know why having a daily schedule is so important, let’s talk about how to actually create one.

Here’s a step-by-step process for building a daily schedule template(opens in a new tab or window) and squeezing the most out of every day:

  1. Perform a time inventory

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  1. Remember the “time sucks” we talked about? Well, if you want to build an effective daily schedule, you need to find out what, exactly, those time sucks are and get rid of them, stat. And the best way to do that? A time inventory.Use a time tracking tool (like Apploye(opens in a new tab or window)TimeDoctor(opens in a new tab or window), Toggl(opens in a new tab or window) or ProofHub(opens in a new tab or window)) to keep track of how you’re spending your time for an entire week. Track everything, from putting together client proposals to folding your laundry (for tasks that happen offline, just manually log the time afterward).At the end of the week, take a good, hard look at how you’re spending your time, identify the time sucks, and come up with creative solutions to take that time back.So, for example, do you spend an hour every day standing in front of the fridge, trying to figure out what to cook for dinner? Try meal prepping on Sunday so you have healthy options to grab throughout the week. Are you spending 10 hours a week sending tracking invoices? Invest in accounting software and use that time to generate new business.

The point is, even if you feel completely swamped, there are opportunities for you to streamline your schedule and take your time back—and a time inventory is a way to find those opportunities.

Is designing images for social media one of your “time sucks?” If so, take your time back without sacrificing design with Canva’s social graphic templates(opens in a new tab or window), like the Orange House Just Sold Social Media Graphic(opens in a new tab or window) or the Photo National Doughnut Day Social Media Graphic(opens in a new tab or window).

  1. List your daily/weekly/monthly priorities

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  1. Once you’ve cut the time sucks out of your schedule, you’re left with the tasks that are important to you—and in order to build an effective schedule, you need to organize and prioritize those tasks.List out all the tasks you need (and want) to complete on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. This includes both work-related tasks (like your monthly off-site or weekly marketing meeting) and things that are important in your personal life (like your morning meditation or monthly book club).Once you have all your must-complete tasks laid out in front of you, it’s easy to work them into your daily schedule, while also making sure nothing falls through the cracks.

Lay out your priorities and tasks each week with Canva’s weekly planner templates, like the Yellow Black Floral Feminine General Weekly Planner(opens in a new tab or window) or the Blue Simple General Weekly Planner(opens in a new tab or window).

Discover an equally artistic template for weekly schedule(opens in a new tab or window) in the Canva library.

  1. Invest in a daily planner to keep track of your schedule

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  1. You’ve eliminated time-wasters from your schedule. You have a list of all the important tasks, both work and life-related, you need to work into your schedule. Now all that’s left to do is actually create the schedule. And the best place to do that? A daily planner. Get one (stumped on which planner to get? We’ll get into that a little later) or create a daily planner(opens in a new tab or window) and block out your time so you know what you need to do, where you need to go, and when you need to do it. When blocking out your time, don’t forget to schedule things like travel time and extra padding between meetings; things often take longer than you expect, and if your schedule is too jam-packed, it will make you feel stressed and overwhelmed—and chances are, you won’t get everything done. Also, don’t forget to schedule breaks and downtime! Getting through all your to-do’s every day is important, but so is making sure you have time to unwind and relax.

You can use your daily planner to organize all areas of your life, like fitness or meal planning. Get started with a customized planner template, like the Purple Simple Workout Planner(opens in a new tab or window) or the Yellow Sprinkles Weekly Schedule Planner(opens in a new tab or window).

  1. Once you have your daily schedule laid out, commit to keeping itWe’re going to be honest, building out your schedule? That’s the easy part. Actually keeping it? That’s where things can get challenging.Think of your daily schedule as a commitment to yourself; you're committing to being more intentional with your time, taking back control of your day-to-day tasks, and making more effective use of the 24 hours of the day. Making a schedule and not sticking to it? That’s just a waste of time.

Why is having a planner important?

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Like we mentioned, investing in a planner is a must if you want to create (and stick to) a daily schedule. But why, exactly, are planners such effective scheduling tools(opens in a new tab or window)?

Obviously, planners are effective because they lay out your schedule and let you know exactly what you have on your agenda for the day. But they do more than that!

Planners help hold you accountable; if you have written reminders of where you’re supposed to be and what you’re supposed to be doing, it’s more challenging to ignore.

Planners are also helpful because they help keep you organized. Instead of having your schedule spread out over multiple devices, calendars, and post-it notes spread across your office, a planner organizes all your daily to-do’s in one, easy-to-manage place.

Planner outline

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Clearly, if you want to build an effective daily schedule, you need a planner. But what, exactly, do you need to include in that planner?

Here’s an outline of the five must-have’s to include on each task in your daily planner schedule:

  • Time
  • Commitment
  • Other people involved
  • Contact information
  • Notes/Any other relevant details for the commitment

So, for example, let’s say you have a piano lesson next week. Your schedule would look something like this:

Tuesday, April 23, 2019 6:30pm - 7:30pm Piano Lesson with Mr. Robert Pianoman - 123 Main St, (213) 200-1313 - Bring piano instruction manual, enter through the back door

Once you have all your tasks outlined, pop them into a planner template, like the Pastel Bordered Personal Planner(opens in a new tab or window) or the Confetti Navy Personal Planner(opens in a new tab or window).

How do you keep your planner organised?

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So, you’ve got your planner. You’ve got your schedule. You’ve got all your tasks outlined. How do you keep it all organized?

One way to stay on top of your schedule? Use color coding to highlight to code different commitments. For example, you might highlight work commitments in pink, family commitments in yellow, and personal commitments in blue. That way, you can easily tell at first glance what kinds of tasks you have on the agenda for the day—and plan accordingly.

Another way to keep your planner organized is to fold over each page when you’re finished with it. Most planners have space for a year (or more!) of daily schedules; folding over each page at the end of the day makes it easier to find the current daily schedule—without having to flip through hundreds of past pages to find it.

How to keep an agenda?

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We can give you all the schedule-building tips in the world, but if you don’t stick to that schedule, they’re not going to help you take back control of your time.

If you find it easy to create a daily schedule but hard to stick to it, here are some tips on how to keep an agenda:

  • Enlist an accountability partnerIf it’s hard for you to stick to a schedule on your own, enlist the help of a friend, colleague, or family member to hold you accountable. Check in with them (a quick text or email is fine) to let them know your schedule for the day and what tasks you plan on completing. When you loop someone in on your schedule, it’s much harder to blow it off.
  • Do a daily schedule reviewAt the end of every day, pull out your planner and do a quick review of your schedule and assess how well you stuck to it. If you struggled, brainstorm a few ways you can do better the next day. And don’t beat yourself up! Sticking to a schedule is about progress, not perfection.
  • Set reminders on your phone to remind you where to be and whenIf you have trouble remembering to check your planner, add your daily schedule to your phone and set alarms to remind you where to be and when. Every time your alarm goes off, you’ll know it’s time to move to a new task.

Sticking to an agenda is easier when all your tasks are laid out in a well-designed format. A planner template, like the Minimalist Pink General Daily Planner(opens in a new tab or window) or the Blue Doodle Work Schedule Planner(opens in a new tab or window), can help keep your tasks organized—and make it far more likely that you’ll stick to your schedule.

Daily planner examples

All right, so now that you’re fully on board with the idea of getting a daily planner, the question is—what daily planner should you get?

There are a TON of daily planner options out there—and ultimately, you should get the daily planner that feels like the best fit for yourself, your personality, and your schedule. Here are a few popular daily planner examples that you might want to consider to get your schedule under control:

Panda Planner

Image via Panda Planner

Image via Panda Planner

The Panda Planner(opens in a new tab or window) has everything you need to build an effective schedule, including places to organize and prioritize your daily, weekly, and monthly tasks. The Panda Planner also has a space for Daily Review, where you can review your schedule for the day (and how well you stuck to it) and brainstorm ways to be even more successful tomorrow.

Bullet Journal

Image via Bullet Journal

Image via Bullet Journal

The Bullet Journal(opens in a new tab or window) is a daily planner and a way of organizing tasks that makes sticking to a schedule fast, easy, and efficient.

The Bullet Journal uses a system called “Rapid Logging” to easily identify and organizes tasks, events, and to-do’s using different symbols (including bullets, x’s, and circles). Rapid Logging takes a bit of getting used to, but Bullet Journal devotees claim the system and daily planner are the best tools on the market for getting and staying organized with your schedule. (You can learn more about Rapid Logging—and how to use it to organize your schedule—on Bullet Journal’s website(opens in a new tab or window).)


Image via FranklinPlanner

Like we mentioned, there are literally hundreds of planners on the market to choose from—but if you want to go with one of the originals, try with the FranklinPlanner(opens in a new tab or window). This no-frills (but extremely effective) planner, created by the time management experts at FranklinCovey(opens in a new tab or window), has been keeping the business world organized and on-schedule for well over 35 years.

Don’t want to go out and buy a planner? No problem! You can DIY a planner of your own with Canva’s planner templates, like Violet Circle Patterned Daily Planner(opens in a new tab or window) or the Blue Pattern General Daily Planner(opens in a new tab or window). Just print, assemble in a binder and boom—you’ve got your very own DIY planner.

Get your daily planner and get scheduling

Creating (and sticking to) an effective schedule is key if you want to take back control of your time and squeeze the most out of the 24 hours you have every day. And now that you know how to build an effective schedule (and schedule it into your planner), all that’s left to do? Get out there, get your daily planner(opens in a new tab or window), and get scheduling!

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