A Daily Planning Template and Workflow for Founders, Directors, Owners and CEOs

Learn in this article how you can structure your daily notes and a workflow to manage your tasks on a daily basis without getting overwhelmed (inspired by Bullet Journal).

white ceramic mug with coffee on top of a planner

Intro

I’m a self-funded solo founder and are running NotePlan as a profitable business which I started in 2016 as a side-project and since 2018 I’m working full-time on it. I’m wearing all the hats in my small company: Lead Developer, Marketing Department, CEO, Customer Support, Administration, etc. (with help from part-time freelancers and the generous and helpful community of course!).

Every day, there are a million things I need and want to do:

  • Developing new features
  • Fixing bugs
  • Replying to emails and messages
  • Taking time to talk to customers
  • Customer support (fixing billing problems, replying to questions…)
  • Marketing: Evaluating tests, content marketing, …
  • Conceptualizing and planning new features
  • Administrative tasks (paying bills, book-keeping, etc)
  • Read books
  • Go to the gym
  • Meet with friends
  • And the list goes on

One thing is sure: There is always more to do than time available. I learned to ruthlessly and efficiently prioritize things using a method which I’m refining since I started my business.

To me the most important thing is to keep my system simple. It all started when I picked up a Moleskin paper calendar and scribbled my tasks into the daily pages instead of meetings (I had and still have almost no meetings, my calendar is almost always empty). Then I discovered Bullet Journal which pushed me in the right direction.

So here’s my daily planning system I use to manage my life and business, inspired by the Bullet Journal approach and tweaking since day 1.

1. Setup

Of course, I’m using NotePlan, but you can use any note-taking software or even your good old Text Editor. I don’t recommend pen & paper, because you will run into trouble when you need to copy tasks forward (from one day to another). You can take a look at Bullet Journal, but for me it breaks down pretty quickly because I tend to capture a lot of things in one note.

Here’s the basic idea that follows me since years: You need one note per day. That can be simply a note or text file that you title with today’s date like “2022/05/10” at the top.

Why every day a new note? If you open a new note for a new day you have a blank canvas. You can decide what you want to do without having the weight of a backlog (long list of accumulated tasks) following you. It’s a “self-cleaning” system. You will most likely copy things from the previous day, but it’s a trigger that reminds you to make a decision and prioritize what you want to copy forward and what not. That’s your opportunity to review your lists.

Every morning before you begin the day or in the evening before you start a new note and review the old one. Make that your habit.

2. Template

Ok, so you got your note. What should you fill it with?

I’m using the following template that contains a handful of headings. NotePlan uses Markdown to format headings, bullets, tasks, links, etc., like ”# Title”. Why Markdown? Because I can type and format my text fast without having to click around to make things look organized. I don’t need to use my mouse at all. It pays off to learn the basics of Markdown (which is very simple).

One important feature I’m using is to collapse headings. This lets me hide information that I don’t need at the moment while it stays available on the same page.

Here’s my template with some sample tasks:

## Errands
* Order chromecast

## Today's Goal
- Fix the crash bugs and the calendar selection, then release a beta

## Focus
Bugs:
* Fix crashes
* Rework day and week selection

Growth:
- Write Twitter thread

## Growth

## Improvements

## Bugs

## Journal
- 1PM: Just finished lunch, now I'll start working on the bug fixes to close this release.

A task begins with an asterisk (*) and a bullet point with a dash (-). A heading with two pound signs and a space (## heading).

You probably need to swap out the headings “Growth”, “Improvements” and “Bugs”. They are special to my everyday business. More on that later.

3. Headings

I’m going through each heading in my template explaining what I capture there and why it exists.

🛍️ Errands

These are things you need in your normal life (groceries, packing your bag for a trip, etc.) or want to do (but this new book, read that article). They don’t have to be business related. Capture all the small things you need to get done or be reminded of.

I keep them at the top but collapse them to avoid distractions. When I got a minute, I check if I can get anything done from the list.

Errands are rarely urgent, so it’s fine if you don’t get them all done that day.

⭐️ Today’s Goal

Ideally you already have a long-term goal that you want to achieve noted somewhere else. Then you can use that and break it down to this day. For example, a long-term goal can be to have your own business. So you break it down to

  • this year (try different ideas and find one to double down),
  • month (research 5 ideas),
  • week (talk to 10 potential customers and learn everything about fitness),
  • and finally today (cold-DM 20 potential users)

Limit your goals for the day to 2-3 bullet points, no more. Make sure you focus on the most important tasks for the day to make progress.

These goals are your compass. If you are distracted or don’t know how to proceed, check your goals.

🏹 Focus

This heading contains a handful of tasks I’m working on right now. I use “mini headings” (these are not really headings, just a way to make things look more organized) to structure tasks into different roles:

Bugs:
* Fix this crash

Growth:
* Write that tweet

This heading is never collapsed. This is where I return to when I finish a task and want to start the next one. As the name says, it’s my focus for the day.

📥 Growth, Improvements, Bugs

These are inboxes for different roles or types of tasks.

When I notice a bug or read it from someone, I add it here quickly without having to think too much about prioritization.

My inboxes are always collapsed. They can contain long lists. If you have no way of collapsing headings, consider moving them further to the bottom.

If you run out of tasks, that’s where you need to take a look at. Make sure to prioritize these lists once in a while. A good opportunity is when you plan your next day. Also make sure to trim these lists, we don’t want them to build up over time. Don’t forward low-prio items.

Most certainly you have different inboxes and other roles to fulfill, so customize your inboxes.

✍️ Journal

Track what you do during the day or use it as a platform to get your thoughts out. It’s a great place and practice to keep your mental health in check.

  • Finished a task? Log the time and results here.
  • About to start the next task? Log what you are going to do and how.
  • Overthinking about something? Put it into words.
  • Journaling helps you to be mindful of what you are doing and actively work against things that don’t help you.
  • Journaling helps you to understand how you are feeling and why. It helps you to make sense of situations.

4. Workflow

As I mentioned before, you start a new daily note every day. The process looks like this:

  1. Start a new daily note, add the date at the top
  2. I usually start with my first Journal entry, just how I feel and what I want to get done
  3. Add the “Today’s Goal” heading and note the most important thing
  4. Open the note from the previous day side-by-side
  5. Copy your inboxes and errands, but remove the things you got done (if any) and prune the low-priority items that you have added. Sometimes a thing looks exciting and important today, but tomorrow you doubt that it still is.
  6. Check what you couldn’t finish in your Focus heading, decide if it’s still important and copy it forward.
  7. Looking at your today’s goal assemble your high-priority tasks

Hope this helps anyone! Don’t forget the perfect system is the one that works for you, so tweak it. This is most certainly not covering everything, you still need a calendar, and some notes or a place where you capture projects, goals, manuals, etc.

Stop procrastinating, start getting things done.

Download NotePlan on the Mac App Store

Stop procrastinating, and start getting things done

Download NotePlan and start your free trial now.

Download NotePlan on the Mac App Store