5 Simple Steps to Create More Productive Workdays

by | Oct 1, 2020 | Blog

When we start to feel like our head is barely above the water, we’ve probably gone to some extremes in an attempt to get us floating comfortably once again. We’ve started getting up at 5 a.m. or earlier to squeeze out a few more hours, we’ve canceled plans with family friends, we’ve read countless productivity articles and retained none of the tips, and we’ve given up our weekends just so that we can get more done.

It’s no lie, there is a little bit of control freak in all of us, and the thing we want the most control of is how we spend our time. Unfortunately, we lose that sense of control as the meetings, emails, Zoom calls, deadlines, and more start to take over our day. Now we have to manage those things and still get our work done because it’s not like our workload mysteriously decreased during those meetings.

When the scale starts to tip toward the things that leave us feeling less productive, we are left feeling overwhelmed and like we aren’t doing enough, even though we are giving up more of our free time for office time.

And while that knee-jerk reaction to beating overwhelm is to create more time for work, that often leads to reduced productivity and burnout. So if working more isn’t the solution to getting more work done, what is it? In this post, we’re sharing 5, yes, just 5, simple tips to take back your day and be more productive.

Determine Where Your Time Is Spent

We live in a world where we are always tracking something. Sometimes we are tracking our spending because we want to save for a big purchase. Sometimes we are tracking our steps to make sure we hit our daily exercise goals. And while we don’t think twice about tracking most things, we never think to track our time.

In order to maximize your productivity, you have to know where your time is spent. Whether it is your 10th Zoom call for the day or you’ve found yourself so burnt out you end up mindlessly scrolling through social media, it is important to know where it ALL goes.

Time is a non-renewable resource, and the only way to know where it is going is to conduct a time audit. This is a simple exercise that will enlighten you on how you are spending your time. Get started on your time audit by completing these three steps:

  1. Write down your intentions on how you want to use your time
  2. Write down how you are actually spending your time
  3. Create an action plan for how to better align number one and two

While step one may seem an easy no-brainer, step two can be a little more complicated than you think. Just don’t spend an evening thinking about all that you do in a day; you’ll like forget a lot of things. Instead, take a few days or even a full week to write down exactly how you are spending your time. Once you know where your time is specifically going, it will be easier to make sure your time spent is benefitting your intentions.

Optimize Your Daily Schedule

When it comes to planning out our day, we tend to overestimate the number of things we can actually accomplish in a given amount of time. We often pack our schedules so tightly, we barely, if at all, leave ourselves time to eat lunch. But we rationalize this work style because we convince ourselves that we have to work every moment of the day so that we won’t have to stay late. Sadly, even with the lack of breaks, it never works out, and we find ourselves still working late and leaving the office feeling like we are constantly behind.

To get better control of your time, you have to optimize your schedule. No, that doesn’t mean skipping your lunch break, because taking breaks boosts your productivity, not hinders it. Optimizing your schedule is almost like a puzzle that’s end result is a more productive you.

Your first thought may be to just write down a general schedule, but like a puzzle, an optimized schedule requires tasks to be in certain spots. To get started optimizing your schedule, complete these two exercises:

Determine Your Peak Productivity Hours

We all have times throughout the day where we are extremely productive, and times we are in a work slump. The key here is to determine those times. There may be a best and worst time, or there may be a few times throughout the day when you feel either of these.

Put the Puzzle Together

Take your information and start to time-block out your day. Break out your day into blocks for different tasks. For example, during your most productive time-block(s), you should schedule difficult and thought-consuming tasks. During your work slump time-block(s), you should schedule simple tasks like checking and replying to emails. And the time in between should be filled with simpler or automated tasks and meetings.

Now that you have created an optimized schedule, you will get a feel for what your days will be like going forward. Keep-in-mind that this basic schedule is for the best day possible and not every day will be able to follow it. Make sure you take a look and work on your schedule each evening before you leave the office. You’ll start your day refreshed and be less worried about where your day will lead.

Creating The Right Habits and Routines

Whether we realize it or not, we all create routines and habits. Unfortunately, if we haven’t taken control of these two things, they are likely bad or taking away from our productivity. As you audited your time, you probably saw a pattern of these bad habits. Maybe you have found that you schedule meetings during your most productive times, or you find yourself putting off hard tasks by scrolling through social media. And when you created your optimized schedule, you didn’t include time for these habits or routines. So how do you get rid of the bad and develop better habits and routines?

To create better habits and routines, you have to retrain your brain. In order to do this, you have to determine what your habit-forming trigger is and determine a new reward. This may sound a little confusing, but maybe an example will help.

Let’s say every day about 2:30 p.m., you get up from your desk and go talk to one of your coworkers. You don’t really have a reason to go talk to them; you just do it without a second thought. To break this habit, you have to look at what is causing you to do this. Maybe you have a stressful meeting at 3:00 p.m., and you use the conversation as a distraction. Or maybe it is a way to put off working on tasks because you are exhausted from all of your morning meetings.

Once you know what the trigger of said habit is, it’s easier to recognize it and change it. So when your normal gab session internal clock goes off, change the routine to a quick walk around the building. You might be thinking, you’re just wasting time in different ways, but it’s not the same. When you take a little break, you give your brain a chance to refresh. So you’ll be walking into that stressful meeting ready to conquer it.

Abolish Distractions

Right now, we live in a time that is more distracting than any other time. We are faced with battling physical and digital distractions, and they aren’t easy to say no to. That’s why it is incredibly important to create an environment that is as distraction-free as possible.

That may sound a little overwhelming, but we don’t mean you have to tell everyone that walks into your office to come back later or put your phone on airplane mode the second you walk in the door. What we mean is to do your best at eliminating distractions during your peak productivity hours. So, during these time-blocks, you may need to set an email responder, put your phone on airplane mode, and make sure your office door is shut. By creating these distraction-free blocks, you’ll get more done than you thought possible.

Don’t Be Afraid to Delegate

If you read our blog regularly, you’ll know we are big fans of delegating. In fact, we talk about it on a regular basis because it really works. We all have the tendency to say “yes” more often then we say “no.” And when we always say yes, our cup will always runneth over.

Earlier, we talked about how your optimized schedule will be your ideal schedule, and that it won’t work for every day of the week. When we discussed that, we specifically left out a way to increase the number of good days and decrease the number bad days. As simple as it may be, delegation and asking for help are vital to having more of those good productivity days.

Just because you are working on a project doesn’t mean you have to do all of it. So quit thinking it is all on you and start asking for help when you need it. Maybe you need an assistant to make phone calls to specific vendors, or you need a designer to handle creating your PowerPoint presentation. Quit wasting time working on tasks that are not in your skillset. We aren’t saying you shouldn’t learn skills, but when your plate is so full that you aren’t getting enough done, you don’t have the time to learn how to create a PowerPoint presentation. Instead, delegate those tasks to people that know how to do them quickly and efficiently. You’ll surprise yourself with how much time you save.

After reading this, we hope that we have set you up for increased productivity, but don’t think you are in this all alone. If you need help creating workflows, recruiting an assistant, or virtual assistant service, we are ready to support you. Contact us for more information.

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