What do I mean by ‘baseline activities’? Things you do regularly both work and life related: checking email, cooking dinner, exercising, sending out orders, writing a weekly blog post. It’s important to get things that you must do, and do regularly, onto your calendar, especially things that involve priorities like family and health, not only because it helps to show you how much time you actually have, but it also helps make sure you do them.
Sidenote: The above plan is actually a bad one; it’s too full and too ambitious. Try to leave some ‘breathing room’ in your plan to allow for life and spontaneity to happen! I mostly put it together this way to illustrate the concept. Thinking you can fill every nook and cranny of time with productivity is a fantasy that will just leave you feeling bad about yourself. (I know!) More on this later…
Your estimates and metrics really matter. This is where the accuracy of your estimates will either support your activities or show you where you need to make adjustments; a bad estimate is a part of life, but here is where you’ll see how one can blow your whole day or week off course. It is also the most helpful tool in tracking whether or not tasks and activities take more or less time than you anticipated.
Take a few minutes at the end of the day to note down how long whatever you had blocked out actually took.
Next time you set up your plan you can have these past ‘metrics’ to base your estimates on. I admit, this is getting pretty detailed, and I don’t always do this, but when you are tackling a new project or something that you haven’t done before, like a new production process, it can shed a lot of light on how long something actually takes to do.