Have you ever kept track of how much work you actually complete during the day? This timesheet template can help you get started. Whether you’re sitting at a desk from nine to five, a freelancer working odd hours to meet a deadline, or an entrepreneur spending your days networking, it can be hard to set an effective work schedule that keeps you on track. Office workers might argue that they don’t literally need to be in the office five days a week; entrepreneurs will say their effective work schedule starts with morning routine.
How do you know what’s best for you? Here are some steps to take to start building an effective work schedule based on your habits, your peak productivity hours, and your daily commitments to your clients and coworkers.
Carve Out Specific “Focus Time”
Focus time — i.e, uninterrupted time where you can achieve a lot without distraction — is precious. Unfortunately that means you have to mine it with care, and embrace morning, late evenings, or even weekends. Build your schedule around one of these blocks used to answer email, do some research, or think strategically. Mentally, knowing you have this time saved can reduce stress and help you stay productive and on track, even when the rest of your day is packed.
Figure out When Your Brain Is at Its Best
Your sleep schedule and your work schedule are closely connected, though maybe not in the way that you think. Sleep experts have determined that the way you should build your work schedule depends largely on your natural biorhythms.
Using animal descriptors, sleep specialist Michael Breus has developed four “chronotypes,” or profiles that describes one’s natural sleep habits and energy patterns. Chronotypes are anchored in your sleep patterns, but then take it a step further to identify how your energy levels wax and wane during the work day. For example, “dolphins” are light sleepers who need little to no sleep and are at their most alert by late afternoon. “Bears” on the other hand, start to run low on energy around 2PM, with two peaks of productivity in the morning and midday.
Knowing when you’re most alert can help you build your schedule to take advantage of your natural energy. Don’t struggle against what your body and mind wants!
Experiment with Prioritisation
There have been volumes written on hacking your to-do list and getting things done. Our advice? Try a few different tactics to see if the way you’re building your schedule helps you prioritize effectively. Some schools of thought suggest starting the day with an easy task to help you ramp up to the more important items on your agenda. Others suggest stepping straight into your most critical work when you’re freshest. If you can remember, try different techniques for structuring your day around the items on your to-do list and see which ones stress you out. Generally, the more stressed you are, the less effective the method.
Stop Going to Meetings
Research in the Harvard Business Review found that meetings are consuming the American workforce: executives spend an average of nearly 23 hours a week in meetings, up from less than 10 hours in the 1960s. Everyone knows that meetings are usually time consuming, unproductive, and lead to disengagement among workers, yet we can’t seem to stop going to them. Make like a remote team and stop having so many meetings — host a Slack channel, use Google docs, whatever it is you need to do to increase communication, meetings shouldn’t be it. Try to save meetings for agenda items that absolutely cannot be addressed without getting everyone in the same room at once.
Pro-tip: if you do have to go to meetings, try to schedule them in blocks. By doing so, you create other chunks of time when you aren’t in meetings — and can focus without distractions.
Create a Routine
Once you’ve established when your productivity is highest, carved out time for email, and cut down on meetings, it’s time to codify your successful work schedule. Routines help you build an effective work schedule by taking the decision out of how you will spend your time. Decision fatigue is a real problem: the more decisions you need to make, the worse you’re going to be at taking in all the information you need to make an educated choice. By protecting your calendar, whatever is not planned — does not happen. Your schedule may change through the year, but building a routine helps keep you focused on what the big picture looks like.
Communicating that you’re taking charge of your work schedule to your other coworkers is paramount; it allows them to be selfish with their time and also explore their own productivity. Building an effective work schedule takes time, discipline, and a little self-awareness, but it can pay off in terms of your morale, productivity, and overall success.
This article was originally published by Emily Heaslip on the Clicktime website at: https://www.clicktime.com/blog/how-to-build-the-most-effective-work-schedule/