We now know more than ever about the habits of the most successful individuals in our society and – if you’re anything like me – you will have likely read a plethora of articles about why you should implement these habits yourself.
But, if you’ve been left feeling more stressed than ever about fitting in all of these new activities and are wondering how these seemingly superhuman people do it, don’t worry – you’re not alone.
We’re here to let you in on a secret: honing the way you plan your day is the key to making the most of your time and effort. So, with this in mind, here are seven useful strategies to help plan your day more effectively.
1. Manage Your Time
Making sure that your time is divided and used appropriately is one of the simplest ways to make the most of your day.
Say, for instance, you’ve been given too many tasks and not enough time to do them. It’s vital for you to understand how to be productive while having limited time available. Otherwise, you could end up falling behind and burning yourself out as a result.
Depending on your particular strengths and weaknesses, managing your time could mean a range of things. For example, if you’re a self-confessed procrastinator, you may wish to use a time management application to set mini-deadlines for tasks throughout the day. This, in turn, could help you avoid giving in to any bad habits.
2. Make A To-Do List
While making a to-do list may seem like a fairly obvious, unhelpful suggestion, did you know that your brain absolutely loves them?
Psychological studies have shown that the human brain prefers order and that writing down your tasks is a simple yet effective way of improving your performance and productivity. What’s more, it’s also said to reduce the risk of forgetting something important and letting it slip through the cracks.
If you don’t believe that to-do lists work for you though, there’s still hope. The success of your list can sometimes depend on the way you write it. Optimizing your list will help you to clearly visualize your day and, in turn, make it easier for you to tackle each item.
3. Do Exercise
Did you know that some companies actually pay their employees to exercise at work? It may sound a bit odd at first, but it’s actually an investment in their continued success.
"Providing your staff with electric bikes [for their commute] can provide huge health benefits, happiness as well as improvements in productivity." Owner at Urban eBikes
Both the mental and physical benefits of exercise have been widely reported for some time now. Increased energy levels, lower rates of anxiety and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease are just some of the positives that come from getting in the daily workout, whereas happy, energetic employees also offer a much greater output. Talk about a win-win.
Recently, scientists have discovered that improving your physical wellbeing could also have a beneficial effect on your mental acuity. Sharper cognitive skills directly translate to better quality work, so getting a sweat on could supercharge your day.
If you’re already using a to-do list and you still feel pressured or chaotic when it comes to meeting deadlines, you may want to consider prioritizing your tasks.
Ordering your work by importance and urgency is a great strategy to adopt, as it allows you to get the most critical things done first.
Sometimes, life happens. You may encounter an unexpected setback on a project, catch a cold or even feel burnt-out and need a mental health day. It’s ok, you’re human, and these things are unavoidable.
Instead of then putting extra pressure on yourself to catch up with your work, approaching it in this way could make your schedule a lot more effective.
You will have most likely got the most pressing tasks done, after all, which should only leave the quicker, easier to defer projects left to do. Over the long run, this should help significantly reduce the pressure you feel.
5. Plan For Breaks
You know that feeling after a vacation or time off where you feel rejuvenated and ready to take on the world? Well, the good news is that you can benefit from including some of this into your routine.
It’s been proven that you’re more effective if you take small breaks from work throughout the day; a recent study stated that the ideal way to do this was to work for periods of 52 minutes and then follow them with a 17-minute break.
Make sure that you leave your desk/work environment and completely disconnect during your short breaks and you’ll find yourself working smarter, not harder.
6. Say No
It seems like a bold thing to be assertive and say no. Saying yes to too many projects is an easy trap to fall into, especially if you’re just starting out. But, saying no doesn’t have to mean ‘be confrontational’.
In reality, managing hectic schedules by multitasking is bad for all of us. So, instead of worrying about saying no, consider how you can allocate your resources – including your time and energy – on a practical level.
Knowing how much you can take on allows you to give your all to the tasks that you do have. By utilising capacity planning tools, you can map out where to direct your efforts, produce higher quality work and avoid overstretching yourself.
7. Stop Searching For Perfect
Theodore Roosevelt famously said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
Therefore, while you may not consciously compare yourself to others, it’s still possible to compare yourself and your work to what you believe is ‘perfect’. Most of the time this is an unattainable idealisation of the qualities we want our work to demonstrate.
Research has shown that while perfectionism can provide some benefits, such as high levels of motivation and engagement, it is also linked with significantly greater levels of burnout, anxiety and depression.
Consider the overall implications of chasing your idea of ‘perfection’ – it might actually save you time and be better for your health in the long run.
Planning your day effectively doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult. By prioritizing your workload and balancing work and play, you can make a huge difference to your level of productivity.
Implement the strategies we’ve outlined above, utilize helpful tools and, we can pretty much guarantee your daily planning will be a breeze.
This is a guest post contributed by Daniel Groves.
For more productivity tips, check out How to Overcome Common Productivity Slumps.