Our days can often feel like they run away from us all by themselves. What starts out as a blank slate gets eaten up quickly with an appointment here, a disruption there and incoming commitments. We end our day wondering where all that time went.
There is an answer but it takes some effort. We can schedule our days for success. We can schedule our days for work that matters. We can schedule our days for fun, family and friends.
What’s Your Rhythm?
Me, I’m an early bird. My most productive time is morning. My energy and enthusiasm is high. My thoughts are uncluttered. My day is yet to be disrupted.
In terms of my schedule, this means I usually front load my day with work and writing that needs deep focus. Surface level tasks that don’t require as much active attention can wait until later in the day. The mornings are my time for the things that are at the top of my To Be Done list. This is the time to get them done.
Your rhythm may be different and later in the day may well work better for you. You may need to warm up to the day. For a passion project, after work and after the kids have been tucked in may be your time to get stuff done. What works for you is what matters and many ways can work.
One or Two to Done
To Do lists can be useful tools for many of us but they can also become overwhelming if we overload them. This is easily done. We keep on adding all the things we want to get done along with the things we need to get done and then we try to do it all in one day. Guess what, we fail.
While you may wish to get to everything on that list it needs breaking down into manageable chunks. Not everything will have equal value or have as much urgency around it. We can split out the ‘time pressured have to dos’, ‘the want to dos’ and the ‘maybe I don’t have to dos’. We can carve our list up and break out the big tasks.
Personally, I tend to gravitate towards the Tim Ferriss recommendation from the 4 Hour Workweek of two main tasks per day. Of course, more often gets done but if I identify the right two tasks and get to complete it’s been a good day. Two may not sound a lot but knock lots of twos over and you will be surprised how much gets to complete. Besides, you’ve tried the never-ending list and I’m willing to bet that isn’t working for you.
The Power of Batching
I have applied a version of batching to my days since first reading Leo Babauta’s book The Power of Less around 7 or 8 years ago. It’s still a book I return to and can’t recommend enough. It started something of a simplicity journey for me.
Batching simply means grouping tasks. These may be tasks that need to be done daily. While they’re important, they can become a distraction all of their own if we don’t control them. That’s where the batching comes in.
Email, calls, meetings can all fall into the batching activity pot. For example, you may decide to only take meetings after 10am. Or check email at set times (the less the better!). Outside of these batching periods we revert to concentrating on our big tasks for the day.
Commit – Book It In
Now we have a framework for the day (main tasks, batching activities), let’s book time in the diary. Booking appointments with ourselves may seem redundant but it can also be a simple and pretty powerful way of taking control of our schedule.
The big tasks for the day should be in our diary. As much as possible, we can try to fit around our own preferred rhythms to make sure these get the attention the deserve when we are at our best. Block the time out, commit to it.
If we leave our diary open it will get filled by what others want us to do, not what we want to get done.
Schedule your day for success. Take control of your time and never look back.