Are you having trouble staying focused at work? Do you feel completely overwhelmed by the amount of projects you have? If all your work created an avalanche on top of you, do you wonder if anyone would be able to find you?
Try scheduling your time. Sure, you may have meetings and deadlines in your calendar, but what about the time in between? Scheduling your day can increase your productivity and reduce stress levels. Here are 5 tips to help you create the perfect schedule for you.
First things first, make a list of all your projects, any deadline dates, meetings to prepare for, daily office duties and any other personal tasks you need to complete. Now prioritize them. Number the most important item on your list as number one, then continue on from there. Be sure to take note of deadline dates while you’re prioritizing.
Now that you have numbered your items in order of importance, think about how much time you need to do each item. Do some items have to be done in a day? Can you work on a project over a period of days? Lets look at some different examples:
Emails – This is a daily tasks that maybe could take 30-60 minutes. Depending on your work communication and flow of incoming mail you might want to spread out scheduled email time. Try a half hour in the morning and a half hour at the end of the day. Or an hour first thing when you come in, then 20 minutes at lunch and 20 minutes at the end of the day. Find something that works for you.
#1 Priority Deadline Project – This is the most important item on your list, but it can be completed over a period of days. Schedule yourself a block of time each day where you can create and keep momentum working on the project. You don’t want to schedule too little time because you don’t want to loose a good working groove. On the other hand, you don’t want to schedule too much time so you don’t have enough time to work on other projects. Try scheduling an hour per day to work on one specific area of the project. Or take two hours if you need it.
The key here is to be realistic about how much time you need and how much you can get done during that time.
It is just as important to schedule breaks as it is to schedule your work. They can be a five minute music break, a fifteen minute walk, or an hour lunch. There are 3 types of breaks you should consider:
1. Screen Break
It is important to take the strain off your eyes. Look off into the distance while listening to music for five minutes or eat your lunch not looking at a computer screen.
2. Activity Break
Last week, Dominic Peters talked about avoiding RSI. Get up every couple of hours. Go on a walk during your lunch period or walk to someone on a different floor who you need to speak with.
3. Mind Break
Give your mind some stress relief. Read about something enjoyable or read about what’s going on in your industry. Giving your mind a break from the pressure of deadlines will do you good.
In The Daily Muse article , How to Avoid Burn Out When You’re Saving the World, you’ll see a suggestion to take time off every six weeks. Different industries and companies have different requirements for being in the office so this might not work for everyone. Find what works for you and schedule it. If you don’t schedule it, you may never take it.
“The Heroic Minute”
The heroic minute is a term used by St. Josemaria Escriva. The concept of the heroic minute is that when the time is up, you stop right then and there. Try it. It seems simple, but it is extremely hard to do (especially the heroic minute of starting after your alarm clock goes off), but your organized productivity will pay off.
At the end of your day take 20 – 30 minutes to reflect on your day. Did you get done what you wanted to? If not, why? Did you give yourself too much or too little time? Adjust the time for that project tomorrow. Did you not stop working on one project so another project fell behind? Set an alarm to remind yourself to move on. Finish what you need to tidy up, then write down what you need to come back to tomorrow.
Remember, your days may not all look alike. You may have to make a different schedule per day. Be flexible. Adjust your daily schedule when needed. Or make a decision – Is keeping a consistent daily schedule more important or can you adjust to the requests of others’ work schedules? I would suggest being adjustable, but there’s a chance consultancy might work better for you.
Here’s an example of my daily schedule. My schedule is a little different because it depends a lot on when work comes in. I decided the best plan for me was to structure long periods of time for other work I can do for myself then adjust and take breaks after I get a feel for what my work load is going to be.
How do you schedule your time? Do you have any additional tips?