How I Plan My Day


Hey friends,

I’ve read hundreds of productivity books, and almost all of them agree with this statement:

We need to separate planning from doing.

They need different skills and mental toolboxes. Trying to plan and do at the same time leads to distraction and procrastination.

For a few years now, my mental model for separating the two things has been The Pilot and the Plane. (Shoutout to my brother Taimur for coming up with the analogy lol – btw, check out our podcast Not Overthinking).

First thing in the morning, I’m The Pilot. I grab my morning coffee, take a step back, and figure out what I want to get done that day. Then I take a break and switch into being The Plane. At this point, and for the rest of the day, my job is just to execute orders that The Pilot’s already given. Crucially, I don’t need to worry about planning, or think too hard about what I could be doing with my time.

Today we’re taking a peek under the pilot’s cockpit, at my three-step system for planning the day. I’m such a fan of this system I’ve even built it into my essentiali stationery brand 🤩.

How I Plan my Day 🌤️

(I usually do this in the morning, but you could also do it just before bed).

🎯 Step 1: Set a Daily Highlight

I choose just one thing that I’m going to do today, and fully commit to it. Maybe call my grandma, script a video, or go for a run. The point is, I choose just one thing as my priority for the day, and commit to getting it done. Sounds simple, but how many times have you sat down in the evening and thought “I didn’t get a single useful thing done today”?

Setting a Daily Highlight helps us do stuff that actually matters. If we did our highlight every day for a year, that’d be 365 goals achieved – which sounds pretty good.

Some tips on setting your Daily Highlight:

  1. Start with a verb. Try to start your Daily Highlight with a verb. Clarity wins every time. Write Sunday’s newsletter gives the Plane a better direction than just ‘newsletter’.
  2. Lower the bar. If you’ve been procrastinating on a particular project, set your sights lower: maybe a 10 minute, very low-effort run around the block instead of a 2-hour gym session. This makes it way easier to get started.
  3. Be specific. Try to make your Daily Highlight something you could do in a single sitting. Don’t let some take up the whole day and leave you drained.

Especially when you’re just getting started, choosing Daily Highlights that are clear and easy will fuel your motivation-fire over time. 🔥

📅 Step 2: Stick it in the calendar.

Once I’ve set my Daily Highlight, I time-block it in my calendar, and protect that time from any meetings or distractions that pop up during the day.

This gives my future self (The Plane) the clearest possible directions, and plenty of time to do what The Plane does best: knuckle down and get stuff done.

You can’t call something a distraction unless you know what it is distracting you from. – Nir Eyal

🤔 Step 3: Make a Might-Do List.

The final (and most optional) step is to make a might-do listUnlike a list of stuff I have to do, it’s a brain dump of tasks I might do if I feel like it. I try to capture 100% of the possible tasks for that day. This clears my brain of internal clutter and helps The Pilot confirm that the Daily Highlight is the highest-priority thing for the day.

If we find ourselves in Plane mode wondering ‘isn’t there something more important I should be doing’, we can remember ourselves that The Pilot has everything under control – and get back to work.

Even if you just spend 10 seconds setting your Daily Highlight in the morning, I guarantee you’ll be more productive and intentional with your time.

Thanks for reading, and have a great week!

Ali xx

PS Here’s how my Daily Highlight and Might-Do List looks using the essentiali Daily Planning Sheets. Ngl, writing on my own stationery feels pretty good. ❤️

📹 Part-Time YouTuber Academy is back! 🎉

We are officially launching Cohort 5 of the Part-Time YouTuber Academy (PTYA), my online course on how to start and grow your YouTube channel from 0 to 100,000 subscribers.

So far, we’ve helped more than 2,000 students to kick-start their channel, and several of them have moved past the 100,000 subs mark by now. We’ve had loads of heart-warming testimonials and case studies. ❤️

Me and my team have spent the last 3 months perfecting the course and incorporating lessons from our last four cohorts. All to create a course that brings amazing results no matter if you’re a complete beginner looking to get started, or a pro and wanting to supercharge your channel.

If you’d like to hear more about what we’re planning and my latest tips for growing on YouTube, opt in by clicking the button below:

📳 The Drop Conference 2022

On the 17th February I’m giving the keynote speech at The Drop, a one-day virtual creator conference”. 🕺 I’ll chat about how to be a part-time creatorpreneur and other fun stuff.

A bunch of other YouTubers will be there (linguamarina, Joma Tech, Nate O’Brien). It’s being co-run by Luba, a PTYA student who you might remember from the newsletter. Here’s a link to The Drop if you’re interested.

♥️ My Favourite Things

🎬 YouTube Video – The Problems with NFTs by Folding Ideas. This is the first video in a while that I’ve watched at x1 speed. A super-eloquent, 2-hour long takedown of NFTs and crypto-bro culture that’s gone viral over the last 10 days (almost 4.2M views 🤯).

📚Book – The Pathless Path by Paul Millerd. Been highlighting this like crazy, halfway through at the moment. It talks about what to do if you feel you’re wandering down the wrong path in life, and how to figure out what you really want. It’s got me feeling more OK with my decision to quit medicine.

🐦Tweet Thread – realskindoctor.eth. My medic friend Usama went viral with this tweet thread, dropping some absolute truth bombs about skincare. Might do a cheeky video on this 👀

🎬 YouTube Video  These Healthy Weeknight Meals are changing my life by Ethan Chlebowski. Does what it says on the tin. I’m a big fan of Ethan’s videos: home-style cooking with plenty of scientific detail. He’s also an old PTYA student who’s absolutely crushing it on YouTube – love it. 💫

✍️ Quote of the Week

Trying to solve a problem before being taught the solution leads to better learning, even when errors are made in the attempt.

From Make It Stick by Peter C. Brown. Resurfaced using Readwise.

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