How to improve your productivity with a default diary


John Nieuwenburg

John Nieuwenburg has been a professional business coach since 2004. Prior to becoming a coach, he held executive positions with Tip Top Tailors and BC Liquor Stores. In 2019, MacKay CEO Forums awarded him with Canada’s CEO Trusted Advisor Award in the Small Business category. Since becoming a coach, John has worked with over 350 clients, taking them through a systematic process that helps them feel organized, confident and in control of their businesses.

At W5 Coaching, we teach our clients how to create a default diary or sometimes known as time blocking.

The first thing in the process is to track or audit how you are currently spending your time. At the end of the week, you’ll review your notes and answer three key questions:

  1. Were there tasks that you could have delegated to someone else on your team?
  2. Did you spend time on low priority tasks that could have been put off?
  3. Are there any tasks that took up your time that you didn’t really have to do at all?

One of my clients was so busy with her business that she wasn’t sure she could spare the time for this activity. However, once she did, it gave her a solid perspective about time management.

“I got a reality check about how long things really take,” she said afterwards. “This has made project estimating easier and more accurate. I’m far more realistic about what I can get done in a day or week and I schedule appropriately. I’m less stressed and more productive. This assignment turned out to be so helpful that I’m still tracking my time six years later.”

A default diary helps you answer 4 key questions.

  1. What are the most important results you need to get this week?
  2. What do you need to do to get those results?
  3. How much time will each of those activities require?
  4. How do I map my time over the week so that it matches those priorities?

Here is an example of a Default Diary for someone who is a consultant:

Example of a Default Diary

Increase your productivity with these two key leverage points

Additionally, there are two key leverage points to take note of in your calendar:

1. 20 minutes at the start of each week
Use this time to plan out what you need to accomplish and what you want to accomplish before your week starts. Remember to prioritize, plotting out your ‘big rocks’ before filling in the spaces with your ‘little pebbles’.

2. 10 minutes at the end of each day
10 minutes might not seem like much, but it is enough to set you up for success the following day. As each day comes to a close take a brief review of what you accomplished that day and prepare for the next – making adjustments to your plan as needed. Again, prioritize. This way you will start the next day able to get down to work and be immediately productive.

Finally, remember that multitasking and switching back and forth between activities is not productive.

For example, if your calendar has a lot of phone calls with clients or prospects, then remember to schedule in time to prepare. Doing your research and planning out what needs to be done on the call ahead of time eliminates the need for calls to run long, allowing you to stick to your schedule.

In this case, if you have five blocks of time dedicated for calls in your Default Diary, make sure you take the first of those five time blocks to prepare for all of the calls. That way your planning and preparation are complete, and you can move on to making your calls and seamlessly transitioning from one to the next.

Or as Jim Rohn put it: “Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.”


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