First off, do you plan your day? Or do you just make it up as you go? I can say that I have done both since I have been back from the mission and what I have found is that when I have a plan I am far more productive with my time. How you plan is up to you. Personally I use a paper planner because I remember things better when I write them down. In addition I have a calendar app on my phone that I use for school assignments and big events. I have other friends who only use planners on their phone or other devices. My advice is to try a few things out. Find what you like to use to plan. Do you like to have hours of the day to fill out, just some space to list to do items, or both? But whatever you do, don't stop using a planner!! I say this for a few reasons. Using a planner helps you to be able to accomplish what is expected of you, track your goals, and be accountable for your time.
1. Accomplishing what is expected of You
What is expected of you? At work? At school? At Church activities and callings? In your community? The list goes on and on! Life after the mission is often busier than it was on the mission. Personally I think the reason for this is because now you have to balance your time between all of your activities and requirements. On the mission, this was pretty much already done for you. (You were a missionary and you served the Lord full time.) Now you need to learn to balance all of these expectations. The Lord expects us to accomplish great things. Reflect on the Parable of the Talents, or Christ telling us to keep his commandments, or even Christ's commandment to "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matt 5:48). Planning is a tool to help you accomplish what is expected of you each day, month, year and lifetime.
2. Tracking your Goals
Are you following what you learned in PMG about making goals that are measurable? (Refer to PMG page 146 for help and a great reminder in setting goals.) And, how are you suppose to accomplish your goals if you don't plan for how to accomplish them! Elder M. Russell Ballard said, "I am so thoroughly convinced that if we don't set goals in our life and learn how to master the techniques of living to reach our goals, we can reach a ripe old age and look back on our life only to see that we reached but a small part of our full potential. When one learns to master the principles of setting a goal, he will then be able to make a great difference in the results he attains in this life" (PMG 146). Each one of us has so much potential! In addition the the many many talents and gifts that we have the opportunity to develop in this life, we are sons and daughters to a God and we have the ability to become like Him. Goals can shape who we are and what our future is. Remember that "goal setting and planning are acts of faith" (PMG 146).
3. Being Accountable
"The principle of accountability is fundamental in God's eternal plan. We will all stand before the Lord at the last judgement and give an accounting for what we have done with the opportunities He has given us" (PMG 150). Take a moment and think about all of the opportunities that Heavenly Father has given you today at work, home, school, or anywhere else. It can be really overwhelming to think about. However, I promise that if you apply planning to your life it will become less overwhelming because you will know how you will use those opportunities. To help you to become in the habit of being accountable, find people you trust and be accountable to them, or find ways to be accountable to yourself. President Thomas S. Monson said, "When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates" (PMG 150). I know that this principle is true because I have seen it work miracles in my own life. If you become accountable for you measurable goals, I know that you also will see miracles of improvement.
You will not become a perfect planner over night because this is not an easy thing to master! In addition, you do not need to become like a robot only doing what is in your plan, but like when you were a missionary, plan with the spirit and follow the spirit. And do all that you can to accomplish your goals.
I know that God gave us our time here on earth for the purpose to become like Him. This time is valuable and we shouldn't waste it. Brother Marvin J. Ashton said, "To live more fully each hour and to glean the most from each day is wisdom. How unwise we are to waste our todays when they determine the significance of our tomorrows. We should wisely live a day at a time because that is all we have" (The Time Is Now). I challenge you to improve the planning of your life. I know that if you do this, God will bless you with the increased ability to accomplish more than you ever thought was possible especially if you let Him lead you.