Do you find it hard to complete the tasks you include on your to-do list? Are you always doing things at the last minute? Do distractions ruin your carefully planned work day? Are you falling behind on deadlines? If your response is in the affirmative for any of those questions, you could benefit from the following scheduling tips which have been proven time and time again to boost productivity.
Allocate time to planning
One of the most important items on your calendar should be the time set aside for planning. This is because when you take time to plan, it is easier to execute and go through your day in an organized manner.
We recommend that you block out an hour or two every Friday afternoon in order to plan for the following week. This planning time is useful because it allows you to identify your priorities for the week and allocate sufficient time to them. The planning session can also start with a review of how well you followed the productivity plan for the week before.
This review then helps you to make the necessary tweaks while planning for the coming week. You can also set aside time to plan for the next quarter, the next half year or the next three years. This ensures that you are in control of setting your goals and working to attain them on a daily basis without going so far off track.
Create a morning ritual
Habits are very powerful things because they automate behavior and one (almost) no longer has to think about what they are doing. It is for this reason that we suggest that you create a morning ritual geared at getting you ready to be productive during the day ahead.
There’s plenty of room for customization here since we are each different. For example, one person may have a morning ritual that includes taking a cold shower and then meditating for 20 minutes before leaving for work. Another person may prefer going on a morning run before reading for half an hour as they prep for their day at work.
Regardless of what you prefer, the key is to have a morning routine which gets you in the right frame of mind to be productive throughout your day. Experiment with different morning rituals and adopt the one that is best suited for you. Stick to it and see improvements in your productivity! And of course, schedule this morning ritual in your calendar.
Leverage time blocks
Another powerful calendar scheduling tip is to exploit a technique called time-blocking. This refers to setting aside a chunk of time for doing a particular task or related tasks. For example, if you are most productive in the early morning hours (9-11 a.m.), allocate this time to your most demanding or important tasks.
This approach is in sharp contrast to task-switching (aka multitasking) in which you keep hopping from one task to another without really focusing for any given length of time. By concentrating on one task at a time, you are better able to accomplish more on any given day when compared to another person who dapples in so many things without completing anything.
Identify your most important tasks
This is where prior planning comes into play. When you plan, you identify the crucial tasks which move the needle towards the accomplishment of your daily, weekly, monthly or even annual goals.
Identify 1-3 most important tasks for each day and schedule them during the most productive sections of your day. Don’t let anything stop you from completing these priorities since the success or failure of your day will be judged by the extent to which you accomplished those goals/tasks.
With your biggest frog eaten (as Brian Tracy calls one’s most important task for the day), you are free to attend to other matters on your calendar or even pay attention to unscheduled tasks.
Take frequent breaks
Another major calendar scheduling tip is to work as many short breaks into your calendar as possible. We tend to overestimate our attention spans and that leads to a drastic drop in productivity as we insist on hammering away at a task when our mental abilities have waned.
Breaks allow us to recharge and get back to work more energetically. A good place to start is to work for half an hour and then take a break of no more than five minutes. This break is best spent doing something unrelated to work. For example, you can do some quick stretching exercises or walk to the water cooler.
That change of focus or change of environment brings a new burst of energy to your body and mind, making you ready to resume work. As those shorter sessions of work increase in number, you can take longer breaks since the demands of your tasks may be depleting your energy reserves and revving up is a little harder.
You will start to notice that you can get more done if you deliberately schedule breaks in your calendar for the day.
Name your breaks
The human mind can play all sorts of tricks and it is easy for you to skip taking the scheduled breaks if you aren’t careful. For example, your mind can tell you that the 5-minute break ahead is just the time you need to complete a task before you rush off to a meeting.
Avoid such temptations or diversions by naming your breaks. For instance, a Thursday mid-morning break can be called “brisk walk to the gate break.” By so doing, you are reminding yourself that the break is important since there is a beneficial activity planned for that respite from work. The activity is important because a brisk walk is great for blood circulation, clearing mental fog, giving your eyes some rest (especially if you do computer work), and so on.
You shouldn’t become a prisoner of your schedule even when things aren’t working out. For example, don’t keep your head buried in the execution of a task when your mind is completely consumed by an emergency that has come up. Be flexible and go with the flow so that you complete what is within your power to complete on that day.
The important thing is to generally accomplish what you plan for each day, but we know that this can’t be possible every single day. Be flexible enough to adjust as needed, and this is best done by leaving buffers of time in-between blocks of time allocated to various tasks.
Once you get a good rhythm going by using the tips suggested in this post, you will find yourself achieving a whole lot more without sacrificing your life outside work. After all, life is to be enjoyed, so have fun implementing the calendar scheduling tips above so that you can have time to enjoy the good things of life!
To Your Success,