I want to start off by being honest with all of you…
I am not at all a Type A personality kind of guy. I’m not well organized or a great packer or scheduler (in my opinion). I would say that I am probably halfway between A and B with a Type A fiancé who keeps me in line and on time. With her help, I have mercifully been able to become a better-organized and scheduled person.
One area where her influence has helped most is in my time management and decision making, but that’s another story. My fiancé can’t be around to keep me organized and on top of things 40 hours a week when I am at my office. So I’ve had to figure it out for myself and I think the system that has developed works very well. At least for me.
Typically, I arrive at the office around 7AM and the first thing I do is set up my office for the day. I set up one or both of my laptops, organize the financials in a pile, then I place project files in order of importance. (If I have no physical materials for my projects or finances for the day, then I will just make a to-do list on my post-its, which lie scattered across my desk).
By setting up my desk, I feel like I have a plan for the day, which is fantastic for my mental morale. After that I jump into my schedule. Here is what I am really driving at this week:
We need to schedule and allot our time at work.
I would bet that one of the biggest reasons we waste time during the workday is due to a lack of preparation, primarily stemming from the fact that the majority of us don’t do a good job of allotting our time wisely. I am guilty of this very thing. When I started my current job, I didn’t have any resemblance of an organizational workflow. I didn’t have a method, strategy, or schedule for how to attack my work. I just kind of floundered around from thing to thing. What a terrible, inefficient use of my time. Over the last year I have realized that if I will allocate specific amounts of time to certain projects or tasks, then I will be far more productive than if I just wing it.
I know in the morning that catching up on emails generally takes 30 minutes or less. That includes responding to old emails, cleaning up my inbox, sending new inquiries, and updating mailing lists. After that, I generally jump into my bigger projects where I can easily allot an hour per project, sometimes more depending on the day. But when I set a time limit, I stick to it. If I don’t, my tendency is to go over the time limit and I end up getting lost or distracted. By setting this time limit, I force myself to get all of my tasks done by a deadline and if I don’t, I have just accumulated more work to be added to the next day. Once my hour for that project is up, it is on to the next project or task.
Generally, the last 30 minutes to an hour of my time at the office is dedicated to catching up on any loose ends from the day that I couldn’t finish earlier. If there are no loose ends, then I use this time to prepare for the following day. I reorganize my desk, answer more emails, or do whatever it is that needs to be done to get ready for another day.
I highly recommend coming up with a schedule for your day. Design a workflow or agenda for your day and stick to it. Don’t give yourself any leeway. Stick to it and see what happens to your level of productivity. I would bet that you get more done than if you just wing it for a day. Since I have devised a structure for my day, I believe that my productivity has easily doubled. I have a plan and a renewed focus every time I step into my office and I think if you give it a shot, the results will speak for themselves.
What things have you put in place for your workday that has helped you be more productive? Share your story in the comments!