The art of planning your workday to put your mind 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 peaks — and distractions constantly bombard us.
But, all is not lost. Here are some pointers on how to schedule your calendar to increase productivity.
Schedule time for planning.
You should plan your daily tasks as a daily, weekly, or monthly practice — or even if the entire year. Ideally, you should incorporate it into your schedule — whether it is a new Sunday night ritual or an hour you block off on your Google calendar every Friday afternoon.
When you schedule time for planning, you won’t forget any essential deadlines or tasks. When you prioritize planning, you will also gain confidence as you will know exactly what to expect when each day begins. And more importantly, this will prevent calendar conflicts or missed deadlines.
In short, having a plan creates the conditions for success and reduces the stress that results from being unprepared or unorganized for the week ahead.
Jumpstart 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 up your mind and energy so that you’ll have a productive day,” writes Deanna Ritchie in a previous Calendar post. “Best of all, you’re not wasting energy thinking about what you need to do. It’s automatic.”
“While everyone has their own ideal morning routine, here’s what you should add to your morning routine if you want to have a productive day:”
- You’ll have more time to yourself if you wake up before everyone else.
- After waking up, drink 16 oz of water. If you still need more hydration during the day, take another one of these drinks after your morning routine. Rather than linger over this drink, chug it down and be on your way.
- Don’t use your phone during this time and think deeply.
- To keep yourself energetic during the day, exercise.
- Make sure you consume a healthy breakfast. Exercise keeps your body and mind active.
- Learn about your industry or learn something new by reading for 15 minutes.
- Meditate for around 10 minutes. It can help improve your ability to focus.
Time block your calendar.
With time blocking, you’ll be more aware of how your time is being spent. More importantly, you can stay organized throughout the day by blocking out time for daily tasks. And that’s because time blocking accomplishes the following;
- Batching similar tasks together
- Establishing boundaries
- Focusing on a single task at a time
- Motivating you to think about your priorities
- Procrastination and multitasking are discouraged
While effective, there are some time blocking mistakes you must avoid, such as;
- Not prioritizing tasks. To prevent this, use strategies like an Eisenhower Matrix.
- Adding to-do-list items to your calendar. To time-block your tasks, you first need to determine how much time you have available for each task.
- Underestimating how long things will take.
- Overstuffing your calendar. Track your time so that you don’t under-or-overestimate tasks take you to complete.
- Overstuffing your calendar. Add buffers in-between time blocks to address breaks, emergencies, or prep time.
- Not designating an “overflow” day. Set aside an overflow day if you’re consistently falling behind on the tasks. You might prefer to block out a half-day instead. The best day to do this is the day you’re most productive.
Designate a “most important task.”
Taking phone calls, attending meetings, and answering emails are essential tasks that will inevitably occupy your day and prevent you from reaching your goals. So make sure you incorporate the things you must accomplish every day into your daily schedule to avoid these distractions.
Consider your goals every week when you plan your schedule. If you need help, ask yourself what needs to get done to keep you on track? Then, every day, choose one MIT (most important task). Maintaining focus allows you to spend less time on non-essential tasks.
When I’m at my 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’s well-documented that cognitive function shifts throughout the day depending on the time. Peak productivity for most people, including me, occurs between 9 and 11 AM. This is why I prefer to do MITs between 9 and 11 AM rather than doing less-demanding tasks, such as answering emails.
You can take the opposite approach later in the day if you find your productivity levels increase. It is essential to understand your peak work times to plan your MITs appropriately.
Leverage the power of breaks.
The American Psychological Association’s (APA) 2017 feature on boosting productivity cites Larry Rosen, Ph.D., as a researcher who believes that fewer interruptions are the key to productivity. But, of course, that’s not always feasible for most of us.
Maintaining an attention span on one thing for more than a few minutes can be challenging. After all, juggling our workload, running errands, attending to our children’s academics, and other obligations tend to get in the way.
Rosen’s answer? The habit of taking breaks. For example, if you work uninterrupted for 15 minutes, he suggests taking a few minutes to check your phone or messages.
In spite of the fact that 15 minutes may not seem like enough time, Rosen explains, “Once you learn how to work for 15 minutes, start increasing the time before taking a technology break.”
Rosen’s research and other studies demonstrate that the eight-hour workday isn’t the most efficient way to maintain productivity. Instead, breaking up the workday and eliminating standing meetings can dramatically alter people’s energy levels and boost productivity.
If you are prone to procrastination or don’t know where to begin, having a long workday with multiple large tasks can be overwhelming. However, using strategies like the Pomodoro Technique can help you develop time management skills. That will increase your productivity over time while protecting you from burnout and overworking.
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 around 5-minutes.
- Every 4 Pomodoros, which is 3-4 work periods of 25 minutes, take a more extended break — typically between 15-30 minutes.
This process should be repeated throughout the day. When you finish a Pomodoro, mark your progress with an “X.” Additionally, you should note how often you procrastinated or worked on other things. After each workday, reflect on this information.
It is possible to make adjustments along the way, according to my experience. Suppose, for example, that you block out time for undisturbed work. Depending on your ultradian rhythm, you might be most productive at that time. Some people work in blocks of 30 minutes, while others work an hour.
Whatever the amount of time that works best for you, the idea is that you work sprints. These are followed by short breaks instead of jumping from one task to another.
Give names to time slots and downtime.
However, as an extension of the previous point, you should not make a vague, undocumented goal to take a break every two hours. “Instead, schedule at least a one-time slot per day and decide in advance how you want to spend that time—as long as it is not work-related,” advises Calendar co-founder John Hall. Designating a specific name for each break, such as “Tuesday a.m., break 15 min walk,” ensures that this time will be used purposefully for your own personal plan of action. Your planner may also remind you to get your gym shoes out of the car first thing Tuesday morning.
“Be sure to avoid the two equal and opposite errors of (1) taking too much time for a break and (2) not taking one at all,” Hall adds. “Put a hard start and stop time on your downtime, and bring the same level of discipline to your daily break that you bring to meetings, phone calls, emails, etc.”
You may add a calendar entry to occur at a specific time. But that doesn’t mean you’ll have the time or the inclination to complete it at that moment.
The ancient Greeks had two words for time: Chronos and Kairos, according to Benbunan-Fitch’s research. Chronos refers to the time in chronological, quantitative, and scheduled terms. Kairos refers to the perfect moment to act. As a result of being too concerned with adhering to Chronos time, you might miss opportunities to complete a task.
“By trying to schedule Chronos time and fill it with tasks, we are missing key moments or events or the right times to do certain things,” she says.
You can try these tricks to get your schedule to work for you, rather than vice versa.
Image Credit: Helena Lopes; Pexels; Thank you!