Maybe you have read some of these tipps before, maybe you haven’t. But when it comes to managing your daily schedule, there are some tricks that can help you be more productive.
We all have those days when, despite all efforts, we just cannot seem to concentrate or generate good ideas. The 4pm low-point hits all of us on occasion. With this structure, I’m hoping to give you some tipps not on how to do your work, but when to do it in order to be more efficient and effective.
First Half of the Morning:
Set your goals. Grab your coffee and write down the tasks you want to complete by the end of the day and by the end of the week. Also, set goals for your subordinates and communicate them as early as possible. Bringing speed and power into the day first thing in the morning will ultimately set the beat for the remaining hours. If you prefer, you can do this list the evening before. That way, you come to work and everything is already laid out for you.
Second Half of the Morning
Use your fresh (and now awake) mind to review important documents, brainstorm ideas or work out strategies. For me, this is usually my most productive time of day, so I try to get things done between 9 and 12.
Anyone knows this for the most part, but I’ll say it again: eat something filling – but light – during lunch, then try to get some fresh air and (if possible) 10 minutes of sunshine on your face.
If you eat pizza at your desk, chances are you’ll hit that afternoon low-point hard.
My personal favorite for lunch is quinoa-avocado-chicken-salad, which has all the nutritions I need. When I’m out for client meetings and I have to go to a restaurant for lunch (often with limited choices), I usually eat a large mixed salad and a small portion of something heavier, like pasta or curry or anything that I like on the menu. A large pasta would kill my afternoon, but salad-only is simply not enough to get me through the day.
Walking to lunch or taking time for a walk around the block is the best thing to digest and get anough oxygen for the remaining working hours. Plus, 10 min of sunshine on your face per day (in this case, preferably with no SPF) will recharge your vitamin D levels like nothing else.
Even if you followed all tipps above, you might still need a bit longer to digest and regain your full brain power. Trying to read through a heavy text or write a report is going to take you twice as long right now as it would during your most productive hours. The same goes for listening to someone with a monotone voice – we’ve all been there.
The best idea is to schedule a meeting where you have to be active and talking, or even better – standing up and moderating in front of a flip chart. But remember, everyone else in the room most likely just came from lunch, too – so the only way to get results is to interact with everyone and get them involved. Be engaging and moderate the discussion – they’ll thank you later.
If you don’t have an eight-to-five workday, your morning is likely much shorter than your afternoon. For example, if you get to work at, say, 8.30am and eat lunch at noon, that’s only 3.5 hours of work pre-lunch versus maybe 6 entire hours post-lunch if you leave at 7pm. Facing that entire package of working hours can, inevitably, lead to procrastination and lower levels of productivity.
There are different strategies for breaking down the large chunk into smaller, more do-able pieces. I like to schedule a quick coffee break with a colleague or mentor so that I split the 6 hours into 4 “slices” of 1-1.5 hours each. If it helps, set an alarm! If your doing lots of meetings, try to avoid having 30-minute-breaks between them. Either do 10-15 minutes for a quick break, or do one hour in-between so you can really get down to prep the next one or send out to-do’s that resulted from the one before.
Wrap it all up. Now that your energy is slowly fading, tie up loose ends by replying to all outstanding emails that can be answered and doing no-brainer tasks like expenses. Also, cross off everything you have accomplished from your list! You’ll feel so much better going home, knowing that you were able to get everything done. Also, prep your to-do list for the following day(s), especially if your agenda for the next morning contains early meetings.
To finish up this article, here’s one more really important tipp for higher productivity: Avoid facetime. And I don’t mean the iPhone function that allows you to talk to your grandma face-to-face (although that’s maybe not the best idea for work either); I mean staying in the office until everyone is leaving just so you seem motivated, busy and hard-working. Your brain and body aren’t stupid, they know when to give you their best performance and when to save energy. If you come to the office knowing that you have to stay until 8pm just to prove something to your manager, you’ll simply get the same amount of work done in more time. On the contrary, if you set a deadline for your day, like by making dinner plans or booking a gym class, you’ll be more motivated to get all your to-do’s done within the timeframe you have – making you much more efficient.
Remember, it’s not about the hours you put in, it’s about the output you accomplish.
In the end, your boss and your peers will value you for your work, your ideas and, in essence, your reliability to provide results in time and in high quality. If that means staying longer sometimes, so be it – but don’t do it just for the sake of working late. If you manage a team or even a whole business, show your subordinates that you value efficiency and that you trust them to put in what’s required. You’ll be promoting a positive company culture focused on results.