It might come as a surprise that the structure of your day can make an impact on the level of productivity that you see. Learning how to structure your day to be your most productive is a skill that will take you far in business. Is the structure of the day something that should be the same for all people? Getting a grasp on the basics is just the beginning of reaching your best productivity levels.
How should your day be structured to be more productive? It is important to know when you are most productive and schedule the most difficult tasks to be completed during that time. A variety of other scheduling tricks can be used – each of which has its own benefits for different people. All people are different, so there is no single magic solution.
Finding the best structure for your day starts with understanding how you work most effectively. Once you have that understanding, changes can be made because you can then get a better understanding of the best schedule for you. From when to do your most challenging tasks to the best time to check your email, there is a productivity boost to be found. Daily structures must be customized by the individual, company, and industry.
Find Your Productive Zone
No matter how much someone might argue the point, some individuals were just not made to be morning people. They can try to wake up early and get going, but no tips or tricks make a difference. There are countless blog posts on the web describing how each person made themselves a morning person. While this is great for them, it doesn’t work for everyone.
The morning is not always the most productive time. In fact, for a lot of people, the most productive time hits an hour or two after lunch. For others, the productivity zone is at 8 pm. Finding your own productivity zone starts with knowing your own work habits.
What time of day do you find yourself getting a lot of things done at work? Pay attention to your day, your tasks, and your accomplishments and analyze what you know. Finding your productivity zone is as simple as learning when you are most awake, alert, and motivated. When you have discovered your most productive time of day, use it.
Many employers are more flexible than they were in the past. This means that they allow for a change in schedule, allow employees to work from home, or might simply give some leeway when it comes to completing tasks throughout the day.
If you find that you are most productive at 8 pm and your employer can accommodate that schedule, give it a try. Schedule the challenging items on your to-do list within your productive zone to see the results in productivity that you are looking for.
Save Easy Tasks for Least Productive Times
When you have identified your most productive time of day, you have likely also identified the time in which you are least productive. Use that window of time to complete your simple, everyday tasks. This might mean checking email during these times, proofreading the mass email that you have to send out by the end of the day, or possibly even filing the paperwork that is stacked up on your desk.
No matter what the task is if you consider it easy or even just busywork – do it during your least productive time of day. This way, you have the ability to check items off of your list but aren’t wasting time trying to complete the most intense aspects of your job. You can easily waste more time by attempting to finish a big item on your to-do list when you aren’t motivated.
Attempting to complete a big-ticket item during your least productive time will likely result in a lot of staring at your computer screen, working in circles, or getting easily distracted. That wasted time could have been easily used by finishing off the more simple to-do items.
Do the Most Dreaded Task First
For most employees, the very first task that is accomplished upon arriving to work is checking email. While it might be important to get up to date on the happenings of your workplace, starting with a simple task does little to get you going. It also provides one more thing to put off the most dreaded item on the list.
Instead, do the thing that you hate the most first. It gets it done and out of the way so you are no longer dreading it for the rest of the day. You can look ahead at the day’s events with a sense of positivity and accomplishment first thing. That specific task is no longer hanging over your head or nagging your brain to get to it.
Maybe your most dreaded work task is making a phone call to one specific client. It could be solving a problem that you hadn’t anticipated a few days ago. Or, your dreaded task might be something much more severe. No matter what it is, getting it out of the way will only serve to make the rest of your workday better.
Get a Big Win Early
Similar to completing the dreaded task first thing, if you get something big checked off your list early in your day, you can feel more prepared for the day’s work. If you’ve been working on getting a new client, try a breakfast meeting instead of lunch. Getting them on board early on in your day can motivate you to do great things for the remainder of the day.
Placing emphasis on morning successes can be great for morale. Even if you are not a morning person or if you start work later in the day, make an effort to create positivity at the beginning of your workday. This big win doesn’t even have to be work-related. If you get a personal win before you start your work it has the ability to increase productivity as well.
A big win outside of work might be reaching a new 5k time or even something as simple as having 30 minutes to meditate before work. For many people with families, finding some time for quiet and being alone can be a challenge. Meeting that goal is a great way to start the day off right.
Start with an Energizer
Greet your day with an energy boost! While coffee tends to be the office go-to, there are a number of other ways in which energy can make an appearance at work. Some of the great ways to get energized include drinking water, exercising, and having a fun, uplifting meeting first thing in the office.
Water is known to be more energy-boosting than even caffeine. After a night of sleeping your body is often dehydrated and in need of water. By drinking a large glass of water first thing, you might notice that your energy is greater than with a cup of coffee. Water in addition to exercise is a great energizer.
Getting in a workout prior to starting work can ensure that you are awake and ready to go. Your heart is pumping, blood is flowing, and there is little lethargy left in your system. If going to the gym early in the morning isn’t your thing, you might try something as simple as taking the steps instead of the elevator.
Meetings are usually boring and uninspiring. However, having a meeting specifically to inspire and motivate employees is a great way to start the day. Keep it short, have everyone remain standing, and get workers ready to go. This can be a great energizer in just about any office.
Prioritize Your To-Do List
A lot of individuals write out a to-do list in order of how they thought of the tasks. While this helps to ensure that you don’t forget anything, it does little to help prioritize. It is important that a to-do list is in order of importance so that if not everything gets accomplished, it is the least important item on the list.
Choosing not to prioritize your to-do list can result in missing big deadlines or not having the time to do the most important thing on the list. When you make your to-do list for the day, be sure to put the tasks in order from most important to least important. What absolutely has to get done on this day and what could stand to wait until the following day?
By making this simple change in your list, you will be more productive with the important items. It can save you from stress and can help you to complete everything in a timely manner. Focus on the big-ticket items and see your productivity soar.
Batch Your Tasks
When you are developing your schedule try to batch together the items that are most similar. While multitasking has been proven to be a productivity killer, it is possible to complete one similar item right after the other without a break in between. This is great for productivity.
For example, if you need to bring documents to the finance department and pick up something from R&D, it is best to do those items within the same block of time. It saves you from having to leave your desk when you are getting something accomplished and additionally saves time from leaving your office space twice instead of once.
Another example might be writing memos for a few office reminders. Instead of writing one memo in the morning and another one after lunch, write them at the same time. You already have the necessary program up from the first, so continuing on to the second memo only makes sense.
The majority of employers do not give breaks in a way that will benefit productivity. In truth, breaks should be taken every hour to 90 minutes. By setting an alarm to step away from your work for 10 or 15 minutes every hour and a half, you can be sure that you will be at your best when you return.
Putting off your breaks often means that you get burnt out or run out of steam too quickly. Getting a coffee, water, or even stepping outside for a bit of sunlight for a few minutes can do wonderful things for productivity. If you work from 9-5, you would reach a higher productivity level by taking a break 5 times.
Make List a Day Ahead
If you are currently structuring your day in the morning, you are most likely losing valuable productivity time. Additionally, if you forget something and have to add it last minute, it can throw off your entire day. Instead, try making a to-do list and schedule the evening prior. In your final 10 to 15 minutes at work, think about what you need to get accomplished the following day.
You can start with a to-do list. Prioritize it and then place the most important or challenging items on your schedule when you are most productive. You can then structure your day surrounding the other items by batching similar items and writing in your breaks. Having your schedule set the evening before allows you to be more prepared for the workday.
When you are prepared the day before, you are more likely to run into fewer surprises. However, if a surprise does arise, it is easier to handle if you have everything else already prepared to go. Making changes to your daily structure is much more complicated if your schedule was thrown together the morning of.
Strive to Reach Your Productivity Potential
Reaching your maximum productivity is contingent upon a number of factors. Structuring your day for productivity is one factor that can make a major impact. In fact, not having a daily plan, schedule, or structure can cause a hindrance in your workday. Making an effort to reach your productivity potential requires effort in your schedule.
By following some of the above suggestions, you are likely to see a vast difference in your productivity levels. Adding structure to your day takes only a few minutes, but the increase in productivity can be worth far more. Discovering the best mix of workday scheduling can require some trial and error, but it is a change in which the benefits outweigh the challenges.
How can a to-do list be used to maximize productivity? Using a to-do list is a great way to ensure that everything that needs to be done gets accomplished, but it must be used properly. In addition to prioritizing and batching like tasks, lists must also be realistic. Aiming to accomplish too much can be detrimental to productivity and motivation when they cannot be completed.
How should flexibility be introduced in the workplace? When adding flexibility to the workplace, it is important that employers assist employees with the change. Rather than throwing everything at them unexpectedly (“Here’s a laptop – work from home next week.”), employers can introduce the upcoming change and have a small number of people that are more comfortable with change try it out first. Those employees can then help others through it.
What measures productivity? The answer to this question varies by industry. It can be measured in the number of products sold, the number of new clients obtained, or the number of calls taken. Each business has its own way of measuring productivity. Looking for an increase in sales or customers is a common method of measurement.