“Goals without deadlines are just dreams”
Time is a resource. The interesting thing about time is that we all have the same amount, 24 hours each day. The thing that separates effective people (you know, the ones we all secretly grumble at) from everyone else is how they use that time.
Making a schedule of how you are going to spend your time is one of the best ways to make sure you get lots of things done. I have discovered a few tips and hacks on how to make the most of a schedule.
- Plan out your schedule on one day (and plan several days)
- Make no task shorted than 15 minutes
- Make no task longer than 1 hour (unless it is an interview or something in-person)
- Batch like tasks together
Plan out your schedule
If you try to decide what to do right before you do it… you are not going to get much done. You would do much better to try and make your schedule the night before, when you are not focused on the “OMG, I gotta get something done NOW NOW NOW” frame of mind.
Along the same lines I have found that if I go ahead and plan out a week’s worth of time I tend to get more done: It allows me to objectively look at my tasks (such as writing a blog post) and figure out where and when would be the best time to do it.
There is also a certain peace of mind that comes from having things mapped out. On any given day you know what you should be working on, so you can just go do it. No energy is wasted on trying to make a decision, the decision has already been made. All you have to do is… do it.
Length of tasks
I feel that on your calendar no task should be less than 15 minutes. If it takes you less than 15 minutes to do something, then that’s fine. Use the remaining time to do some filing, clean up your desk, etc. Trying to cram 10 1 minutes tasks onto a 10 minute block on your calendar is a waste of time. Seriously. At that point it is just busy work because you are spending more time entering the tasks than you are actually doing them.
On the other side of the coin, I would not make a task longer than an hour. Sitting for too long can cause you to get distracted. I like to break up long tasks into multiple entries on my calendar, either over several days, or with some other unrelated task in between. By putting this constraint on my tasks I find I’m more productive and effective with my time. A quick pro-tip: If you have a multi-hour task, try to put a block of time for physical activity in between session. Getting outside and getting the blood flowing is a very effective way to keep mentally alert and to keep the creative juices flowing.
Batch similar tasks together
When you are in the zone you are unstoppable. So why break up your streak by doing wildly different tasks? Context switching can be very expensive, but if you can stay in the same frame of mind as you switch tasks you will find you can get more done.
For example, imagine that you need to update your resume, clean your office, write a blog post, and make some phone calls. If you schedule the blog and the resume back to back, you will probably get more done faster because they are both writing tasks. If instead you decided to do the phone calls in between the writing tasks… well there’s no telling when you will get around to finishing the 2nd task. Phone calls seem to take forever!
Personally, I like to try and schedule phone calls and interviews in the afternoon. I find I’m more creative in the mornings and more social in the afternoons. By scheduling my day around these “facts” I find I get more done (and usually faster).
Wrapping it up
Make a schedule. Make it several days in advance. Make it around your strengths. Follow the schedule. Make it happen!