There is one thing all highly successful business people do to stay organized and focused throughout the day: They all follow a work routine.
When you have a lot of tasks on your to-do list, you may feel overwhelmed, and find it a struggle even to get started. But having a routine provides structure to your day and allows you to get more done in less time.
As Stephen Covey wrote in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
More than 40 percent of time at work is spent unproductively, according to a study by Atlassian, but following a routine and putting a few strategies in place to organize your day can change that figure dramatically.
Here are six tips for improving your schedule and increasing your productivity.
1. Plan out your day in advance.
According to Attentiv, the average employee spends 13 hours per week on emails alone. If email is the first thing you do every day, it’s going to suck up all of your time — time you’re better off using elsewhere.
In Seven Habits, Covey wrote, “Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.”
Before you even open your email, take some time to write out your to-do list for the day and what you hope to accomplish. You could even write your list at the end of each day to prepare for the next one. This plan will allow you to get more things done and ensure the work you’re doing is right for your business.
2. Focus on three big tasks a day.
It’s easy to get caught up in the inevitable day-to-day emergencies, but it’s important to remember your larger goals. One of the best ways I do this is by focusing on getting three big tasks done every day. Write these goals at the top of your list and schedule your day around them. This helps me to avoid working on smaller tasks and to focus on more needle-moving work.
Avoid distractions and don’t let anyone interrupt you while you’re working on these three things. According to Atlassian, employees spend over two hours every day recovering from distractions.
3. Eat the frog first
In his book, The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss wrote, “Being busy is most often used as a guise for avoiding the few critically important but uncomfortable actions.”
We will do anything we can to avoid doing the thing we dread the most. But the tasks we dislike most are usually the most important. Instead of worrying about that task all day, it’s better to “eat the frog” first.
If you eat a frog first — do your worst task before anything else — then the rest of your tasks will seem easy in comparison. You’ll be able to better focus on them because you won’t be thinking about that dreaded task.
4. Schedule time in blocks.
If you’re jumping from task to task, it can feel like you’re busy, but the truth is you aren’t getting much done. The way to be the most productive is to take one of your big tasks and schedule out a chunk of your day to focus on it.
On his blog, leadership mentor Michael Hyatt wrote, “Your mind can focus deeply for a limited amount of time. Devote it to your most critical thinking.”
Productivity and performance are at their peak during uninterrupted 90-minute intervals, according to a study from Florida State University, so schedule your time in 90-minute chunks. During that chunk of time, don’t work on any other task, and avoid all distractions. Let your team members know you’ll be busy then, so you can focus without getting interrupted.
5. Batch tasks together.
Many employees claim to be good at multitasking, but that’s a myth. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that productivity decreased by 40 percent when people tried to do two or more things at once.
Instead of trying to get a lot of different tasks done at once, group your similar tasks together and get those done in one chunk of time. For example, that could mean making all of your phone calls during a designated hour, or creating all your content at once.
Batching your work will allow you to better focus on the task at hand and make you more productive during your time blocks.
6. Take breaks.
No one is highly productive 24/7. It’s important to take breaks throughout the day to give your brain a rest. That way, you can come back refreshed and ready to get more done.
In The 4-Hour Workweek, Ferris wrote, “Alternating periods of activity and rest is necessary to survive, let alone thrive. Capacity, interest and mental endurance all wax and wane. Plan accordingly.”
How do you maintain productivity throughout the day? What are your best strategies?