Imagine your perfect work day. What happens? Maybe you wake up on time, you get out of bed and start that early morning jog you’ve been meaning to get into the habit of. It leads to a warm shower and plenty of time for breakfast. You arrive at work early and are able to hammer out some of your “to do’s” before things get crazy, and because of your efficiency earlier this week, before you know it, you’re actually running out of things to do by lunch!
Sound like a fairy tale? Well maybe your morning doesn’t always start with a jog but this is all very real and possible. It all starts with a plan. With no plan in place chaos is likely all that awaits you. What does your plan look like right now? Do you have it written down? Do you have a plan at all? It’s alright, for many of us we struggle with this step or forget it all together. That’s why you’ve found yourself here. I’m here to not only remind you of the importance of planning, but how to lay it all out as well.
Let us start by looking back on last week. Take a look at what happened and decipher what were the wins and losses of your week. Let us for now just focus on what you did accomplish, or the “wins” as I like to call them. Now at what point in the day did these things happen? Are there any patterns? Some folks find themselves to be most efficient in the mornings while others are at mid-day. If you’re noticing a pattern in when you get the most done it may be best to focus on scheduling your most vital activities during that time. Let’s move forward with this concept a little.
A powerful way to look at things is that everything today is heavily dictated by how you planned it yesterday. So, start by going from this point forward. There are several ways to start, and tools associated with each method. I personally like to use a spiral bound planner, laid out for the current year. If you are more tech savvy, you can choose to use the calendar app set up in your smart phone, or even use Google Calendar. And if you really aren’t sure where to start or how you want to keep track of your schedule going forward, keep it simple and start by just printing off a blank calendar page off of the internet. Any way you choose to keep track will work, just choose what you feel is best for you and your way of staying organized. I select a spiral bound book because I prefer to actually write out my schedule, as it helps me remember it even without looking back at it.
Once you have your method in place, it’s time to get started. The key here, is to analyze your life and be HONEST with yourself. We live in a very strange time where many are working from home for the first time. If your typical work day is 8-5 you may not actually be able to realistically do this, so plan accordingly. So, it all starts in the morning. What time are you aiming to get out of bed? Put that as your first task and schedule out an hour to get your morning routine down (example, 6am = Wake up, Work Out, etc). If you need more than an hour due to a workout routine or what have you, that is perfectly acceptable. Scheduling out your personal events, such as workouts, will help you keep your day under control.
Now take a separate sheet of paper and jot down a list of all the important tasks or jobs you are aiming to get done in that day. If you have an on going project that requires more than a day, you’ll need to select a time slot dedicated to that project alone (ex. 1:30pm-4pm Project X), with a start and an end time so that you can move on and accomplish other tasks.
Got your task list finished? Now before you plug these into your schedule, set up your breaks and lunch schedule. Maybe you want a 30-minute lunch at 1pm, with a 15-minute break before at 10am and another one at 3pm so that you have time to check in on laundry, or even just to stretch and take a break for a bit. Caring for yourself and your family has still got to be a priority. Now that you’ve got the bare skeleton in place, we can fill in the rest. So far, you’ve got your morning routine, your lunch and your breaks scheduled out. Now take your task list, and plug in where you’d like to fit in all of the tasks and jobs you wrote down. If you’ve got specific tasks that are more important than others, place those in the time slots you find you are the most productive. Maybe save less productive spots for conference calls or virtual meetings where you’re not the only participant and others are contributing.
Last but not least, PICK AN END TIME. You need to give yourself ample time to cool down and switch out of work mode so that you can get together with your family, have dinner, and spend time with them.
Some extra tips I would recommend:
· Use cell phone alarms to help remind you to stop a continuous job and start your next task (If you dedicated yourself time till 4pm, use an alarm to STOP you at 4pm so you can move to the next thing)
· Add errands to your schedule. If you need to go grocery shopping or pick dry cleaning for example, put it in your schedule, handle it during the time slot you’ve elected, and the pick up where you left off. It will be less a distraction, and more just another task on your list
· Do not beat yourself up! If you aren’t able to finish something today, Set it up for your more productive hours tomorrow. You are in control of this schedule, and no one knows your work habits better than you! Adjust things to make the best use of your time.
· Get an accountability partner. If you have someone in the same line of work or worked on a team before, see if someone would be willing to help check in with once a day so you can keep each other on task.
You can do this. With a road map for your day you’ll find much less stress in trying to remember everything and feel a lot less burned out. This is a great habit to get into. If you are working from home temporarily and plan to return to the office when this has all subsided, I highly recommend continuing to make this a habit even after things have returned to normal. You may find a massive increase in your productivity!