One no-brainer way to increase your productivity and sanity is to perfectly plan out your day to ensure you’re doing the most important things when you are most focused and energetic.
To get started, spend a week assessing your focus and energy levels throughout the day so you can identify your finest hours for deep work. During this time, keep a notebook handy and log when you are able to focus and be productive versus the times when you are restless, unfocused or lack energy.
According to my focus and energy levels, this is how my typical day unfolds. First, I need some “me” time in the morning and then my most focused and productive time of the day is between 8 and 10:30 a.m. After that I quickly lose my focus. By noon, I need some social interaction, movement and external stimulation. The afternoons are my most unfocused and low energy times and then I get my second wind in the early afternoon to evening. After that spurt, I really need time to wind down.
It doesn’t really matter how your energy levels rise and fall through the day, it’s just helpful to recognize your natural highs and lows.
Once I understood how my energy levels ebb and flow throughout the day, I was then able to clearly determine the best times for certain activities or tasks that would result in optimal efficiency. I must admit that as a result of this exercise, I decided to change my schedule around to focus on deep work versus checking email first thing in the morning. For many years, I started my day pouring through and responding to emails and then I realized I was wasting my most productive hours doing mindless work.
So, based on my findings, here’s what my perfectly productive day would look like:
While this presents an ideal case, inevitably things will come up that will prevent you from sticking to your optimal schedule but having a solid starting framework will still help you structure your day when you do have flexibility.
Watch this entertaining video to inspire you to plan out your own perfectly productive day.
TRY THIS OUT:
- When scheduling meetings, proactively propose times that best suit your schedule.
- Block your calendar during your most productive times to focus on deep work.
- Turn off email and social media notifications during focused work times to eliminate unnecessary distractions.
- Proactively reach out to your network to schedule lunch meetings, walks or outings in different and new places to get motivated and energized.
I hear this sentiment too often these days: “I’m super busy and I just don’t have enough time.” When asked how we are doing, we often just instantly and thoughtlessly respond: “I’m busy.”
It appears that being busy, overbooked and frazzled is seen as a sign of success. Perhaps it shows that we are wanted and needed. It could be that it makes us feel important. Or, maybe it’s our way of projecting our productivity. But being too busy and being productive are not necessarily one in the same.
Time is one of our greatest treasures and how we use our time is critical to improving productivity. Are you spending your time on the most important things? Do you find time slipping away without getting anything done? Are you running around all day but not accomplishing anything meaningful?
The best way to make the most of your time is making sure you’re spending time on the most important things first, foremost and at the times during the day that you are most focused and productive.
So, what’s most important? When considering taking on or starting a new task think about these questions to determine if it’s a good use of your time:
- How does doing this task benefit you?
- Does it fit within your current goals?
- Are there any dependencies or deadlines?
- Can it be done later?
- Could someone else do it?
- What is the impact of deciding not to do it?
- If you do it, what won’t get done?
Based on your answers to these questions, pick your top three tasks for the day and then plan when you’ll get them done. By going through this process, you may still be busy but you’ll also be more productive in terms of accomplishing the things that matter most.
Keep in mind that it’s not about not having enough time, it’s just a matter of how you decide to spend your time.
TRY THIS OUT: As a next step, review your calendar for last week and assess which things were a waste of your time and figure out how to eliminate them going forward. Then, look to the week and ahead and plan how you’re going to spend your time on the tasks and appointments that really matter.
Being productive starts with good time management. Most of us use some sort of calendar to manage our time. We are good about marking down appointments, scheduling meetings and noting deadlines. But, what happens in between those scheduled time slots is our biggest missed opportunity.
For years, I have used a methodology I call “time blocking” or more fondly my own version of “productivity Tetris.” So, here’s how you play.
At the start of the week pick a set time to start the game. First, review your calendar for the week ahead to make sure all of our appointments and meetings have been entered and are up-to-date. Next, make note of the things you must get done that week and start slotting them into the open spaces on your calendar making sure you schedule them ahead of any deadlines. At the end or beginning of each day, review and confirm your schedule and then pick the Top Three things you need to get done and slot them in between your scheduled items.
Be sure to go ahead and block times to handle recurring tasks such as submitting your timesheet at the end of the week or your expense report at the end of the month, paying your bills weekly, or taking a walk or doing yoga several times a week. By blocking these time slots you’ll have set aside the necessary time to make sure these things get done on time and you don’t forget about them or find yourself rushing to get them done at the last minute.
Once your day is fully time blocked then you simply work through it according to the plan. Always allow for more time to complete a task than you think is necessary. If you finish the task sooner then you can reward yourself with a break – a snack, social media surfing or a quick chat with a friend.
If, and when, something comes up that disrupts your day, then it’s time to play “Tetris” and rearrange your time blocks. First, determine how to make time for the disruption and then move around the other time blocks. By doing this, you’ll still be sure to have dedicated time for the things you wanted to get done.
If your calendar supports it, try color coding your time blocks so you can visually see how you’re spending your time and to make it easier to identify which blocks can be moved around.