Today you’re going to learn how to schedule your day at work.
Scheduling can be a nightmare. Everyone has a different style that works for them and it seems that no two people can follow the same exact scheduling routine even when using a premade system.
Any office environment is a prime example of this when you look at how people use different methods to block out sections of time in simple common calendar programs that are used universally.
Some people will use all the bells and whistles with pop-up reminders and task lists, while others will simple mark off entire sections in their calendars with remarks of in or out of office. Some people prefer electronic systems while others rely on paper versions. The key thing is to find what works for you (and your team if you have one), and to find a way to coordinate the use of that system so that everyone can benefit from its usage.
How To Schedule Your Day At Work
An important principle to remember is the 80/20 principle: 80% of your results will usually come from 20% of the actions you complete. Therefore, it is important to figure out which actions are the most important tasks needing to be completed and then focus on completing them first.
Any big project can be broken down into smaller steps to determine what needs to be done first. That way items get completed in the proper order and at the proper time with little need for rework later on.
It is best to start your work day by spending 20-30 minutes scheduling your day so you know which direction your work load is going to progress in. Then you can plan how much time to spend on each task to help you reach your goal and set up perimeters for contact with others should the need arise to complete any of your projects.
You could also do this at the end of you day if it helps you sleep better at night and allows you to hit the ground running in the morning. Whichever method works for you (or your team) and helps you reach your end results faster is the method you should use and stick to throughout the entire project.
Once you have an idea of the tasks that need to be completed in any given day, there is a need to prioritize your work load. Look closely at the tasks that get you closer to your specific goals and determine if they are urgent, important, both or neither, and arrange them on your to-do list accordingly.
You should also consider if the task can be safely delegated to someone else to complete and if so, then pass it along. A good rule to follow: if it can be done in less than two minutes, do it and get it off your list as quickly as possible.
It is also important to decide, before you begin any task, how you will know if you have been successful. If you jump into a project with no idea of how it should look when it is complete, then you will not know when you have finished a good project.
Therefore, spend a few minutes determining what end results are expected; what the best possible results could be and what the lowest acceptable results would look like. Although you would obviously want to aim for the best results, knowing what results would be considered acceptable will allow you the freedom to adjust tasks that have become unachievable during the process to something that will still allow you to reach your end goal.
If you are responsible for a team of people, it’s important that everyone use a similar system and have a clear understanding of how the system works. In a team setting, nothing is more frustrating than members that cannot be contacted either because they do not understand the systems in place for contact, or because they do not know how to notify other team members of how to reach them effectively.
At the start of any project, the team should clearly define the ground rules for contact frequency, expectations for responses, and have a clear understanding of the projects time lines, goals, and expectations. Everyone on the team should know who to contact should anyone have questions and that contact should be clearly versed in the system and ready to assist anyone how is struggling with its use.
As we already said, people usually have their own preference for scheduling techniques (1). Some like the hour by hour routines while others prefer general to-do lists. It’s best to experiment with all the available options to find the one that best suits you and/or your team.
It’s not as critical when you work individually to pick a scheduling technique as long as you use it regularly. When a team is involved, it is almost imperative that the system be electronic in the fast paced society of today’s work force.
That does not mean that a person could not combine a paper scheduling system with the electronic system in instances where they did not have access to their electronic versions, but it would mean additional work on that person part to keep both systems up-to-date at all times.
Again, experiment to find out what works best and once you have determined which system you are going to use, stick with it (outside of updates).
The only other problem with rigid scheduling systems is the unforeseen events that occasionally happen. We cannot plan what we do not know and therefore we run into problems. That unexpected phone call or that person who just drops in unannounced can throw a wrench into our entire day and destroy the best laid schedule.
It is important when scheduling your day that you consider this and place a buffer in your day. Whether you do this by leaving certain areas unscheduled or by over scheduling items is totally up to you, but be prepared for the unexpected.
The other area that you must be aware of is the time stealers. Phone calls and emails are probably the worst for whisking away minutes that our mind forgets to account for in a daily schedule.
A prime example is if you check your email every hour for an eight hour period and it takes you fifteen minutes each time, you have spent two full hours of your eight hour schedule. Unless your world would literally fall apart from not getting an email that rapidly, try checking your email three times a day, once at the start of your work period, once in the middle of your work period, and once just before you leave for the day.
At that pace, you have cut your email time down to approximately forty-five minutes, freeing up an hour and fifteen minutes to be used for the actual projects that need to be done.
You are in charge of your time, even if you work for someone else, to some degree. Some people have more control than others but that should not stop you from using whatever control you have.
Tell your friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, and anyone else that contacts you frequently, that there are certain hours that you are not available for contact unless it is an emergency. Tell them to leave a message and you will get back to them in a few hours and then stick to it.
It’s really hard if you have a habit of treating every phone call, email, text message, or interruption as if it was a crisis, but if the reality is that everything can wait an hour and you make that known, you will find that you can be far more productive without all the interruptions.
In the long run it’s going to look better if you tell your co-worker that you can’t chat because you have a project than it would be to tell your boss that your project is not complete because you had to chat with your co-worker.
While you’re thinking about scheduling, don’t forget you’re human; you’re going to need breaks (2). Lunch, potty, coffee, stretch, or just a mental break, everyone has to eventually stop what they are doing for a few minutes and take a break.
If you ignore your bodies need for a break it will slow down on its own and your work will suffer. While you cannot pin point exactly when these breaks are going to be needed, you can plan on the inevitable need for them when looking at your overall scheduling.
At least five minutes out of every hour should be spent moving if you want to keep your mind performing at its best. And this movement isn’t the same type of movement you would do for your work. This type of movement has to be something different that gives the mind and the body a break from what you have been doing.