For procrastinators like myself it can be difficult to get anything done without some external influence motivating you to get to work. This could be an alarm, deadline, or a impatient boss pushing you to get something done. Scheduling your day eliminates the need for you to make time-wasting choices and skirt your obligations. These are some of the most notable guidelines I’ve implemented in scheduling my day-to-day activities.
Create a Routine
Keep specific activities in a certain block of the day. This is most easily accomplished by implementing a strategy called block scheduling. Block scheduling basically requires you to schedule certain activities within a certain block of time routinely. If you are asked to do an activity that isn’t featured in your schedule, hold the line and don’t do it. Prioritizing consistency will aid you greatly in the long-term.
Optimize Time Allotted to Meetings and Calls
Meetings are a huge time-waster when mishandled. Schedule meetings and calls and always prioritize sticking to the end time you previously decided on.
In cases where a call may need that extra bit of time, don’t hesitate to adjust your blocks during the planning phase.
Use the Right Software
I use Google Calendar to book my schedule. It has many features and add-ons that make the process rather efficient. One particular feature being application slots.
Using application slots, you will actually be able to split a previously alotted section of time into even smaller sections. This is handy for scheduling tentative times for specific tasks within a larger chunk of time. For instance, allotting 5 hours for meetings but breaking that 5 hours down into 5 specific hour-long meeting blocks.
Put Emails In Their Damn Place
There is no reason that emails should dominate your productive time. I’ve experienced the dreadful wall of emails that need to be checked myself, but the urgency is not as real as you’d think. By setting a specific time to sift through emails, you keep the problem from getting out of hand.
Plan For Exercise and Time Outside the Work Cave
There are things more important than getting work done. Topping this list are your health and the relationships that are important in your life. The whole idea behind scheduling is that if you don’t plan for an activity, chances are it won’t get properly done. This applies to spending time with your loved ones and working out.
Emails, social media, and work in general can steal the moments that should be most valuable to us. Time to ourselves and times with our family and significant others. You may feel that avoiding these important tasks is constantly necessary to get more work done, but in the long term you will notice the detrimental effect it has on your health and overall happiness.
Manage Your Time Efficiently
I can’t stress this enough. Building a schedule is completely useless if you don’t optimize your time and use it effectively. A schedule is a tool that must be put to work to produce any results in your life. Here are some efficient time management techniques that entrepreneurs at the highest levels vouch for.
The Pomodoro Technique – This system, developed by Francesco Cirillo, hinges on the theory that the mind is in its most efficient state for only approximately 25 minutes at a time. The creator of this system refers to these intervals as pomodoros.
To implement this technique in your schedule:
- Decide which tasks need to be accomplished
- Set a timer to 25 minutes
- Get to work, ignoring any and all distractions.
- Take a 5 minute break
Repeat this process up to 4 times total. On the 5th pomodoro, take a longer break of 15-20 minutes.
The 18 Minute Rule – Peter Bregman is responsible for this sweet technique.
- Five morning minutes – Think about what you need to get done today. These must be tasks that will lead you to your ultimate goals and produce results that leaving you feeling successful. Once you have these tasks defined, throw them on your calendar.
- One minute per hour – This is your time to refocus. Set an alarm to go off every hour on the hour. When the bell goes off, reflect on how you spent the last hour. Bregman writes, “Manage your day hour by hour. Don’t let the hours manage you.”
- Five minutes at night – Stop working and review how your day has gone. As you wind down, it is important to reflect on what you learned throughout the day and sniff out points opportunities for improvement.
This technique is only moderately demanding and easily accessible to someone who is just getting started learning how to optimize their working time.
Clear-Organized-Productive-Efficient (COPE) – Productivity expert Peggy Duncan suggests this technique. This technique aims to systematically unearth the root cause of you losing time. “You have to totally revamp how you work”, she says. The first step is analyzing exactly how you spend your day by keeping a journal. The next step is eliminating all time wasters and tightening your routines. From here, you must prioritize your activities and work through them while trying your best not to multitask.
Automating tasks like email drafting correspondence and building schedules by implementing templates and outlines easily cuts out some of the biggest time wasters.
ABC & Pareto Analyses Combo – This one is a classic. Simply:
- Categorize your tasks using A, B, or C
- Tasks that are inherently urgent and considered important
- Tasks that are important but are not urgent
- Tasks that can wait
Work your way down this list, starting with column A. Prioritize the tasks that you have determined will take the least amount of time. Get the easy stuff done first, then take on the larger tasks. This maximizes productivity so you can quickly move on to group B.
Scheduling ensures that you have enough time in your day to get the important things done. Though interruptions are sometimes unavoidable and distractions inevitably come up, having a plan in your back pocket makes handling these inconveniences a lot less of a productivity-killer.