The Official Daily Planning Guide

Ashutosh Priyadarshy author headshot

Ashutosh Priyadarshy, CEO @ Sunsama
October 2, 2020

Once per day, Sunsama will prompt you to plan your work day. The guided flow will help you develop a focused, intentional, and achievable list of work for the day. Once you finish the flow, you'll stay in a flow state by working your way down the list and ending the day feeling fulfilled and accomplished.

The guided planning flow has three major steps: picking out things to work on, deferring non-essential work, and ordering your work. Before you kick off the planning flow, Sunsama will give you a quick review of the day before.

Step 1: Pick what you want to do

The reason Sunsama works is because it helps you focus on just the work you need to do today. If you can be effective, focused, and intentional one day at a time, you will inevitably be effective, focused, and intentional in the long run.

In the first step, your goal is to start putting together a list of things you deem necessary and important to work on today. At this point, it's okay to be overambitious, Sunsama will help you with that in the second step.

1. Pull in meetings

Start by pulling in your meetings. Meetings are real work and they occupy real time in your day. If you've got five hours of meetings, you cannot expect to get another eight hours of heads down work done. When you pull your meetings into your task list, you'll create a more accurate picture of your workload.

Import calendar events

2. Pull in tasks from your "backlogs"

Next, review your integrations and backlog and pull in tasks you'd like to work on today. Sunsama is designed to work with your project management tools, not replace them. Let your project management tools do what they're designed to: plan projects. And use Sunsama to pull in the handful of tasks from your projects you want to work on today. Remember, your day is not a project.

3. Pull in messages from Email and Slack

Finally, don't forget to pull in work that's been casually assigned to you via email or Slack. This could be a colleague asking a question that requires an in-depth response or an email that will require an in-depth response or follow up work on your end. Trying to "squeeze in" asks from colleagues makes your day feel frantic. You'll feel less frantic if you accept that these requests require your time and attention and set aside time to tackle them.

You can use the Gmail integration to browse your inbox and pull in emails that will require additional work.

Pull in tasks from Gmail

You can use the Slack Integration to convert messages into Sunsama tasks so that you can follow up thoughtfully later in your day.

Create a task from Slack

Step 2: What can wait?

The secret to getting a lot done each day is by planning to do less. It's counterintuitive but when you start your day with a shorter list of work, you tend to remain focused and committed to getting through it. When your list is long and unrealistic you move through the day with passivity and get less done than you would have had your list started off shorter.

In this step, you'll set time estimates on each task and defer work that can't possibly be accomplished.

1. Estimate how long you'll spend on each task

Review each task and add a time estimate to it. Adding a time estimate is a simple and effective way to see if your workload is reasonable. As you add estimate, your "workload counter" will update to reflect your commitment for the day.

Set time estimates

Choosing time estimates can be challenging. When you are getting started don't aim for perfection or precision instead aim for a rough and realistic estimate. Your ability to estimate tasks will improve in just a few days. If you'd like to get a head start, you can read the guide to Estimating daily work.

2. Defer work until you've got a reasonable workload

Next, you should defer tasks that can't be done by dragging them over to tomorrow's column, deleting the task if it's not important, or deferring it to a date of your choosing with the snooze menu. When you defer work, you liberate yourself from the stress and anxiety of trying to do things that couldn't be done anyway.

Defer work to another day

Picking the right amount of work for the day is an art and something you can experiment with as you use Sunsama daily. Each of us has our own ambitions, priorities, and energy to manage so there's not a one size fits all approach. However, if you are targeting an eight hour work day, you should start by committing to only five or six hours of work in your first few days. This will give you breathing room as everyone tends to underestimate how long work takes to start. Don't be afraid to start by doing less. It's more impressive to finish what you set out to do than to naively set goals that you fail to reach.

Step 3: Finalize

You can maintain a state of flow and buffer yourself from distraction by being intentional about when and which order you'll tackle your work. If your work requires context switching, ordering your tasks is non-negotiable. You are better off figuring out the order in which you should work as you plan your day while you have clarity of mind and purpose. It's hard to make good decisions about what to do next when your mind is still processing your last meeting or the last task you just finished. It's also easier to stay focused and avoid distractions when you have a clear idea of where your attention should be. At some point, we've all felt guilty about the time we've spent checking our inbox, social media, and phone and vowed to do less of it. Instead focusing on what you shouldn't do, give yourself a higher more important objective than checking your feeds. You'll find that having something that's worthy of your time and attention will empower you to escape the pull of digital distraction more easily.

In this step, you'll take one of two approaches to ordering your work. If your day is meeting heavy, you'll drag and drop your tasks into the empty spaces on your calendar. If your day is open ended you can simply order your task list vertically.

Option 1: Time blocks tasks into your calendar

If the majority of your work day is meetings, you should time block your day by dragging your tasks onto empty slots on your calendar. Once you drag and drop, you can adjust the time and duration with your mouse. If you've got tasks that will take multiple working sessions, you can drag and drop the task to your calendar multiple times.

Drag tasks to the calendar

Option 2: Order your tasks in the order you'll do them

If your workday is open ended and flexible you might find time blocking to be overly constraining. In that case, simply order your task list vertically in the order you'll do the work and then work your way down the list. If your list is long, you can quickly re-order tasks by right clicking and moving tasks to the top or bottom. You can also right click to hide subtasks from your view.

Reorder tasks with the right click menu

Step 4: Share

Regardless of your team's existing daily standup practices, sharing your daily commitment with colleagues creates accountability and an added sense of duty that keeps your focus sharp through the day. Holding true to your word is a powerful motivator, and when your colleagues see you do what you said would day in and day out, they too will strive to work as effectively as you. The small act of planning and sharing your day can elevate your entire company, not just you.

In the final step, you may opt to share your plan with your colleagues. If you don't need to share your daily plan, you can turn this step off.

1. Edit what your colleagues will see

Use the customization menu to control what text gets autogenerated in the team check in text. You can decide to show private tasks, subtasks, and time estimate information from the customization menu.

There can be a discrepancy between the level of detail in which you've planned your day and what your colleagues care about. You can easily edit the text to remove items that your colleagues won't need to hear about.

2. Share obstacles and personalize

Share a quick sentence about any obstacles you might face or add some color about what your focus is today.

Share your plan on slack with teammates

3. Post

If your team uses Slack, Sunsama allows you to automatically post your writeup in the channel of your choosing. If your team has another workflow, you can copy the text and paste wherever you'd like.