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Daily Planning – How Much is Right?

by Mark Ellwood

Daily planner with pen

Time management trainers always encourage you to plan your activities every day.

This makes intuitive sense. But what does a time and motion study reveal about planning time? We have conducted numerous time and motion studies since 1990 using our proprietary TimeCorder device. Employees track their own time with this portable device, which is easy to use. The results are anonymous, so employees provide honest feedback, resulting in a remarkable 94% participation rate.

One subset of employees that we regularly study is sales reps. Their main job function is to call on prospects and customers, aiming to increase sales and service existing needs. On a weekly basis, their planning time typically takes up 4.8 hours per week, or 10 % of a 47 hour work week. Planning activities are what we refer to as “A priorities” These are activities that affect one’s results a month or more in the future.

Included in these activities are determining long term strategies, territory management, account planning, deciding which customers to contact and presentation preparation. It also includes team meetings to plan strategies and share information, plus planning one’s daily to-do list.

Within the 4.8 hours per week on planning, most sales reps spend about 2 hours planning their daily schedule and activities. Another hour is spent in presentation preparation, and just under an hour in team meetings. The remainder is other planning activities, listed above.

So what do we know about planning and results? Are time management trainers correct to encourage you to do more planning? The answer is yes, to a degree. There is in fact a correlation between daily planning and time spent directly selling to prospects. (Selling time includes making presentations, calling, and sending emails.) The chart below shows four groups of sales reps, distinguished by how much daily planning they do each week.

Those who plan more are able create more time for selling – but only to an extent. Spending 2-3 hours per week, or 24 to 36 minutes per day results in 12.5 hours for selling. This represents 26% of the time. However, too much time spent doing daily planning (over 3 hours per week) becomes counterproductive and as a result, selling time decreases, as shown in the bar on the far right.

So be sure to invest the time to plan well. It’s easy to procrastinate, or to let interruptions get in the way. Instead, take the time to focus on your goals. But don’t go overboard. Your time is worth it.

Mark EllwoodMark Ellwood is president of Pace Productivity, an international consulting firm that specializes in improving corporate productivity. His passionate mission is to improve people and processes through consulting and training. 


  Dec 26, 2015 04:56AM
Thank you for the great insight about the relationship between planning time and selling time.

It's a great finding.

I am leading a sales team of 50 and I agree with your findings. More planning means more results but overdoing will not yield better results.

I will focus on 2-3 hours per week.


  Dec 27, 2015 05:31AM
Thanks Mark for great info. Daily planning can bring immense benefits.

Few of them are;

-You wake up with a purpose

-You have less stress

-You have more time for family and friends

-Procrastination will diminishes

-You don't get insomnia

-You have realistic goals

Finally you will succeed.

  Jan 01, 2016 08:31AM
Guy Chrétien
I always believe that too much of anything is bad. So over planning will definitely yield negative outcome. But I haven't got a clue about the time we should spend for planning for maximum results.

I am really grateful to learn that from your outstanding research. Please keep posting.

  Jan 03, 2016 11:12AM
I always thought that too much planning is bad. I am happy to see it proved.

  Jan 05, 2016 08:11AM
Trevor Campbell
I think the first step of daily planning is deciding how much actual time is needed for a task. You need to spend more time doing instead of thinking about doing. So you get better results. If reverse you end result may not good enough.

  Jan 06, 2016 05:01AM
Amber K
12.5 hours of sales planning seems to be a fair amount. Thanks for sharing.

  Jan 07, 2016 03:06AM
Wow. Great info. Thanks for sharing.

  Jan 08, 2016 01:37AM
I love this blog and love your writing spirit too!

I experienced that planning without a time-line won't bring expected results. So proper daily planning schedule can be ;

8.00am -8.30am starting work, checking emails, replying

8.30am -9.30am meeting with sales staff

9.30am -10.00am break

10.00am-12.200 Visiting Sam

  Jan 12, 2016 07:01AM
Thanks for sharing this great article. I used to have many goals and but was achieving nothing. I never do daily planning. It may be the reason for the failure.  Also I didn't aware about the optimum planning hours. Thanks again for great insight.

  Jan 21, 2016 05:57AM
Maximization is an old theory. It will not work for the most of the cases. Instead of maximization we need to focus on optimization.

So both over-planning and under-planning are bad. So we need to identify optimum planning time. Thanks Mark for the research.

  Jan 24, 2016 03:30AM
Space Rebel
Just do it, dont let your dreams be dreams

  Feb 07, 2016 11:21AM
Agree with daily planning. Generally I recommend hourly planning. A mix of daily and hourly plan will work well. Also planning time is a critical factor and it has a strong connection to productivity. According to your research 2-3 hours of daily planning is optimum. I strongly agree with that.

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