Organizing your day has several benefits. It allows you to be more efficient and make progress with your projects, relax in your free time, and remain present for those you love. Convinced yet? In this article, you will discover two simple techniques to organize your day efficiently.
We recently participated in a two-day conference. Everything was perfectly organized and structured. And despite a rather busy program, the plan was accomplished with just the right amount of time for intermissions and breaks.
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Just enough time for a few minor non-conference actions: a quick call, a quick email, etc.
During conferences, we know how to get to the point — no unnecessary actions, no superfluous chatter. We focus on the essential and work for the result.
As individuals, we tend to do the exact opposite:
- we take more time than necessary for our tasks;
- we are wasting time on non-essentials and minor details;
- Either there is no planning, or it is too restrictive and unnecessary.
Not to mention the chatty colleagues, the last-minute demands of higher-ups, and other unforeseen occurrences.
How to organize your day
The experience of the conference leads us to think that estimating the necessary time to complete a task is useful.
Combine that with meticulous management of the working time, and we have a basis for a solution that consists of the following techniques.
Parkinson’s law indicates that work tends to expand until it takes up all the time available for its completion. In other words, — a task always uses all the time allocated to it.
The risk of this is taking too long to work on some elements and not having enough time to treat other issues properly. It is, therefore, necessary to determine in advance how long the execution of a task might take. And also, avoiding being overwhelmed is a problem to keep in mind.
In addition, limiting the time set for each task requires going to the basics. In doing so, we are encouraged to respect the Pareto principle — achieving 80% of the result by spending only 20% of your time.
The method for effective time management is simple:
- Estimate the time required for each task or a type of task. Aim for balance – neither too little to stress and lose quality, nor too much to procrastinate and waste time. If you make lists, you can add timeframes rather than recalculate them every time.
- Use a timer to track the time used on each task. Depending on your habits and tastes, the allocated time can be split into several blocks.
With time and practice, you will get better at estimating the necessary resources and learning to target the essentials. You will thus improve your efficiency and productivity.
The Pomodoro technique
More or less, the Pomodoro technique has five stages:
- Deciding on the task;
- Setting the timer to 25 minutes;
- Working until the timer rings;
- Take a short five-minute break;
- Every four sessions take a slightly longer break of 15 to 20 minutes.
The official and complete version of this method is more complicated. But the main purpose can be summed up in these five steps.
Working in the sprints of 25, 50, or 75 minutes and dedicating each part to a specific task is the most useful and effective productivity technique we have ever used. We strongly advise you to try it.
To start, don’t hesitate to work in 15-minute stretches with 5-minute breaks. By chaining three series together, you will stack one hour of work.
Planning your day
Organizing your day means acting according to your objectives and their duration. The two important concepts being “according to your objectives” and “their duration,” they are vital because:
- your goals allow you to determine what you should do, and what you can delay at the moment;
- the duration of the activities tells you the best possible arrangement of actions.
A third element can intervene — the nature of the task. You can group assignments by their type, or execute a couple of simple tasks simultaneously.
The typical example is a phone call. You can go through all of your daily phone calls during work or make them on the move (not while driving, though).
Organizing your day generally amounts to:
- reserving time slots to process tasks;
- prioritizing tasks.
With these two steps, you have a basic method of planning your days.
Reserving time slots
Make an appointment with yourself. Use these appointments to carry out the tasks and activities of the day.
You might already have meetings or appointments scheduled. If so, take some time between those packed spots.
A good ratio is:
- 60% of the time for planned activities;
- 20% of the time for unforeseen activities and hazards;
- 20% of the time for rest or social activities.
Organizing your tasks by priority
It is essential to carry out the crucial tasks first. They are the ones that advance your projects and objectives. Rank all you need to do by importance. The most vital jobs will be given priority. The others will patiently wait their turn and might even be postponed until the next day.
When a task has a real urgency to it, or it must be executed that day, we think that assignments like these should be above priority. So they have to be done before the others. However, it is essential to prevent these situations from appearing in the first place. But that’s a topic for another day.
And don’t forget that you can always:
- remove tasks that have been hanging around for too long in your lists;
- delegate when possible.
Organizing your day realistically
The planning of your day concerns the time reserved for the handling of unplanned tasks, that’s what we have been talking about, but you need to also take into account the planned stuff — meetings, appointments, lunch, or social activities.
In order to be productive, your planning must be realistic and consider elements, like possible trips, setting meetings and appointments, the transition between each part of the day, and the unexpected. Plans are rarely executed flawlessly. So you should take some precautions:
- Do not overload yourself by overestimating your capacities;
- Allow for margins — add 5 to 10 minutes to each planned activity;
- Prevent interruptions and distractions. You cannot predict disruptions, but you can prevent losing time by putting them in that 20 % for rest or social activities;
- Don’t forget about the breaks.
In summary, the techniques we listed are the basis for improving your time management skills. By prioritizing and keeping track of your workload, you can become more professional in your approach to work. And we are not even mentioning the increase in productivity that comes with figuring out the optimal plan for your day.