One of the best habits I’ve picked up recently has been to (before turning in for the evening) schedule and plan out what I’ll be doing the following day. I take fifteen or twenty minutes at night just prior to hitting the sack to review my master to-do list and block out recurring activities like weight training, writing, eating, etc., adding in well-timed boluses of administrative or one-off work as necessary.
I make sure to batch these tasks intelligently. I never sandwich administrative stuff between creative work. This approach keeps my mind nimble and uncluttered. The human brain is notoriously bad at parallel processing, so the less noise I have coming in from adjacent tasks the better.
I notice a significant decrease in productivity when I don’t plan.
There is an art and a science to planning. It’s not so important that you actually replicate the schedule you plan out, but it is important that you try your best to do so. When you’re using your idealized day as a reference point, it’s a lot harder to justify squandering time on social media sites.
What I’m getting at is that you shouldn’t feel guilty if the day as you envisioned it doesn’t go exactly as you hoped. This is to be expected and becoming an automaton is not the point of the exercise. The simple effort of trying to follow the schedule as best as possible puts you one hundred steps ahead of where you would have been had you left the day to chance.
I like a simple pad of paper and pen for mapping my schedule. I toyed with MS Outlook and Google Calendar but found them unnecessarily clunky. With more scientific evidence coming out that writing by hand stores things in memory better than typing, I stick to ink.