The Two-Step Daily Plan That Can Give You Immense Clarity

Prevent second-guessing your plans and make to-do lists more specific.

Max Phillips
Feb 27 · 3 min read
Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

Do you ever find that tasks take a lot longer than you first imagined? Or do you not finish your to-do lists? If yes, then me too.

I would guess how many things I should do, almost always grossly underestimating how long they would take. This became a problem, as although I knew what I was doing, there was no real structure to my day. I floated my way through the list.

As you get older, you realize the value of planning. Perhaps none more so than your day-to-day life. A to-do list is great, but on its own, it’s not enough. There needs to be another step.

Step 1: Start with a rough time allocation template

Fed up with my lack of guidance, I decided to create a schedule. This would be my template.

I outlined time slots for exercise, writing articles, lunch, emails, and a dog walk. All of which had layby periods of about half an hour, just in case something went on longer than intended.

This was a marked change from before. I’ve experimented with having two days a week purely dedicated to writing articles but always wound up criticizing myself, no matter the amount of work I did. Even though I wrote something, the lack of structure left my day feeling loose.

Perhaps most importantly, I now wake up with direction. I know I will drink some water, write in my journal, and eat some food. It’s in my template. It tightens up any loose ends and cuts through any latent indecision.

It lays the groundwork for the next step.

Step 2: Specify with a task table

When I first started creating to-do lists, I just wrote random lists of tasks. No timeframes, no real specificities either. That’s changed.

My dad suggested horizontal planning. This way, instead of merely saying ‘write an article,’ you can mention the headline name, any editing you need to do, and anything else that falls under that umbrella.

For instance, I tend to have three categories: ‘physical,’ ‘writing,’ and ‘email.’ In the physical section, I’ll put:

a) wake up and eat breakfast
b) workout after the first article
c) dog walk before lunch.

It’s a simple trick that provides immense clarity to my day. For me, it’s the equivalent of the questions Oprah asks before a meeting:

“What is our intention for this meeting? What’s important? What matters?”

The specific table, coupled with the template, makes it a joy navigating through my day. The pressure is gone. I’m just flowing from one task to the next.

Take a leaf out of Oprah’s book

Ask yourself: “What is the intention of your to-do list?” It’s to get you closer to achieving your goals. If your tasks aren’t tailored toward them, they’re fairly useless.

Life coach Rachida Benamar has some valuable advice:

Think about the bigger picture to work out your priorities.

Your goals should determine your daily priorities. My goal is to become an accomplished, viral writer, so my daily tasks reflect that. So before you do anything, have an honest chat with yourself. Set out your priorities.

Most to-do lists are unforgiving

When you’re specific with your tasks, you’re easing the pressure on yourself. We often forget to include the little things, such as a dog walk or lunch. Even though they are a part of our day, they’re not mentioned. Perhaps we don’t deem them important enough.

Or perhaps we aren’t specific enough.

A template and horizontal table are the tools I will continue to tackle my day with. It’s weirdly enjoyable knowing what I’ll be doing. I highly encourage you to use them.


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Max Phillips

Written by

Words in Forge, Debugger, Better Humans, & more. | A 23-year-old writing about self-improvement that interests me. | Get in touch ->



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