The art of planning your workday to put you at ease and maximize productivity is the key to long-term success. But that’s easier said than done. After all, we all have different schedules and energy spikes — and distractions bombard us all the time.
But not all is lost. Here are some pointers on how to schedule your calendar to increase productivity†
Schedule time to plan.
You should plan your daily tasks as a daily, weekly or monthly exercise – or even as the whole year† Ideally, you should include it in your schedule — whether it’s a new Sunday night ritual or an hour you block off in your Google calendar every Friday afternoon.
When you schedule time for planning, you don’t forget essential deadlines or tasks. When you prioritize planning, you also gain confidence because you know exactly what to expect when each day begins. And more importantly, this prevents calendar conflicts or missed deadlines.
In short, having a plan creates the conditions for success and reduces the stress that comes from being unprepared or disorganized for the week ahead.
Start your day with a morning ritual.
“A morning routine encourages you to get into the right flow as soon as you wake up. It sets your mind and energy in such a way that you will have a productive day.” writes Deanna Ritchie in an earlier Calendar post. “Best of all, you don’t waste energy thinking about what to do. It’s automatic.”
“While everyone has their own ideal morning routine, Here’s what to add to your morning routine if you want to have a productive day:†
- You have more time for yourself if you wake up earlier than everyone else.
- Drink 16 oz of water after waking up. If you do need more hydration during the day, have another of these drinks after your morning routine. Instead of lingering on this drink, drink it up and be on your way.
- Do not use your phone during this time and think deeply.
- To keep yourself energized during the day, you need to exercise.
- Have a healthy breakfast. Exercise keeps your body and mind active.
- Learn more about your industry or learn something new by reading for 15 minutes.
- Meditate for about 10 minutes. It can help improve your ability to concentrate.
Block your calendar.
With time blocking you are more aware of how your time is being spent. More importantly, you can stay organized throughout the day by making time for everyday tasks. And that’s because time blocking achieves the following;
- Merge Similar Tasks
- Define borders
- Focusing on one task at a time
- Motivating you to think about your priorities
- Procrastination and multitasking is discouraged
While effective, there are some: time blocking errors you should avoid such as;
- Not prioritizing tasks. To avoid this, use strategies such as an Eisenhower matrix.
- Add to-do list items to your calendar. To block your tasks in time, you must first determine how much time you have available for each task.
- Underestimating how long things will take.
- Busy schedule. Track your time so you don’t underestimate or overestimate the tasks you need to complete.
- Busy schedule. Add buffers between time blocks to handle breaks, emergencies, or prep time.
- Do not designate an “overflow” day. Reserve an overflow day if you are constantly behind on tasks† You may prefer to block for half a day instead. The best day to do this is when you are most productive.
Assign a “main task”.
Taking phone calls, attending meetings and answering emails are essential tasks that will inevitably take up your day and keep you from achieving your goals. So make sure to include the things you need to do every day in your daily schedule to avoid these distractions.
Think about your goals each week when you plan your schedule. If you need help, ask yourself what needs to be done to keep you on track? Then choose an MIT (Most Important Task) each day. By staying focused, you can spend less time on non-essential tasks.
When I’m most focused and productive, I schedule my most important tasks at that time. Conversely, I schedule tasks that don’t require as much mental processing when I’m tired.
It is well documented that cognitive function shifts throughout the day depending on time. Peak productivity for most people, including me, takes place between 9am and 11am. That’s why I prefer doing MITs between 9am and 11am instead of less demanding tasks like answering emails.
You can take the opposite approach later in the day if you notice your productivity level rising. Understanding your peak work hours is essential to properly plan your MITs.
Harness the power of breaks.
The American Psychological Association’s (APA) 2017 feature on increasing productivity cites Larry Rosen, Ph.D., as a researcher who believes fewer interruptions are the key to productivity. But of course, that’s not always feasible for most of us.
It can be challenging to maintain an attention span on one thing for more than a few minutes. Juggling our workload, running errands, attending our children’s studies, and other obligations tend to get in the way.
Rosen’s answer? The habit of taking breaks. For example, if you work for 15 minutes without interruption, he will suggest taking a few minutes to check your phone or messages.
Despite the fact that 15 minutes may not seem like enough time, Rosen explains, “Once you learn to work for 15 minutes, start increasing the time before taking a technology break.”
Rosen’s research and other studies show that: the eight-hour workday is not the most efficient way to maintain productivity† Instead, breaking up the workday and eliminating standing meetings can drastically change people’s energy levels and increase productivity.
If you’re prone to procrastination or don’t know where to start, a long day at work with multiple large tasks can be overwhelming. However, using strategies such as the Pomodoro Technique can help you develop time management skills. That will increase your productivity over time while protecting you from burnout and overwork.
The Pomodoro Technique Explained
The Pomodoro Technique takes its name from the Italian word for tomato. And it consists of five simple steps;
- Choose a task.
- Set a timer for 25 minutes.
- Work on the task until the timer goes off.
- Take a short break – usually about 5 minutes.
- Every 4 Pomodoros, or 3-4 25 minute work periods, take a longer break – usually between 15-30 minutes.
This process should be repeated throughout the day. When you’ve completed a Pomodoro, mark your progress with an “X”. In addition, you should keep in mind how often you procrastinated or worked on other things. Think about this information after each working day.
It is possible to make adjustments along the way, in my experience. For example, suppose you set aside time for undisturbed work. Depending on your ultradian rhythm, you may be most productive at that time. Some people work in blocks of 30 minutes, while others work for an hour.
Regardless of the amount of time that works best for you, the idea is that your sprints work. These are followed by short breaks instead of jumping from one task to another.
Name time slots and downtime.
However, as an extension of the previous point, don’t set a vague, undocumented goal of taking a break every two hours. “Instead, schedule at least one one-time slot per day and decide ahead of time how you want to spend that time — as long as it’s not work-related.” advises Calendar co-founder John Hall† Designating a specific name for each pause, such as “Tuesday morning, break 15 min walk”, ensures that this time is purposefully used for your own personal plan of action. Your planner may also remind you to get your sneakers out of the car first thing on Tuesday morning.
“Be sure to avoid the two equal and opposite mistakes: (1) taking too much time for a break and (2) taking none at all,” adds Hall. “Put a hard start and stop time on your downtime and bring the same level of discipline into your daily break as you would with meetings, phone calls, emails, etc.”
To be flexible.
You can add a calendar event that must occur at a specific time. But that doesn’t mean you have the time or inclination to finish it at that point.
The ancient Greeks had two words for time: Chronos and Kairos, according to the research of Benbunan-Fitch† Chronos refers to time in chronological, quantitative and planned terms. Kairos refers to the perfect moment to act. As a result of being too preoccupied with sticking to Chronos time, you may miss opportunities to complete a task.
“By trying to schedule Chronos time and fill it with tasks, we miss important moments or events or the right times to do certain things,” she says.
You can try these tricks to make your schedule work for you, rather than the other way around.
Image credit: Helena Lopes; Pexels; Thank you!
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