How much time do you waste on a typical workday?
If you already know, great. If you’re not sure, now’s as good a time as any to find out.
Spend a week keeping detailed notes in a “productivity journal.” Note exactly when you begin, and end scheduled personal and professional tasks. Keep track of what happens between these scheduled tasks, too. The goal here is to determine just how much time you lose along the way — to needless distractions, tasks ripe for automation or delegation, non-essential social interactions that interrupt your workflow and train of thought.
The results won’t be pretty, but they’re critical for what comes next: an all-hands-on-deck effort to optimize your workday.
Want a head start? No matter what your productivity journal reveals, these six efficiency-friendly routines may help turn back the tide of distraction with a wave of good old-fashioned productivity.
1. Use Sunday to Get a Head Start on Monday
Set aside 20 or 30 minutes every Sunday afternoon or evening to get a head start on your week. If you’re like most busy professionals, your calendar for the coming five days is likely to be half full or more at this point. Now’s the time to:
- Determine how much slack remains in your schedule
- Prepare for important check-ins and meetings
- Game out what you’ll do during your downtime
- Attend to lower-priority emails and clerical activities you’ve put off during the previous workweek and weekend
2. Hit the Gym First Thing
You don’t have to hit the gym every single day. Silicon Valley veteran Kris Duggan spends about an hour at the gym three days out of the week, plus occasional after-hours rounds of ping pong. The timing is more important than the frequency — you’re far less likely to crimp your own style with an early-morning workout than a midday gym interlude. Plus, you’ll jolt yourself out of your morning stupor and hop out of the shower ready to tackle the day.
3. Don’t Overschedule Yourself
Your time is valuable. Don’t let others monopolize it. No matter how many fires you have burning, set a scheduling ceiling: say, 80% of your workday hours. Leave that 20% unscheduled at all costs — you’ll need it to handle mission-critical issues that arise during the course of the workday.
4. Shun Impromptu Calls and Meetings
Don’t give that 20% buffer over to impromptu calls and meetings, either (at least, not all of it). Make it clear that you prefer scheduled to catch-as-catch-can interactions. Bear in mind that a preference for scheduling doesn’t preclude an open-door policy; you can cultivate a culture of transparency, respect, and forthrightness without literally leaving your door open at all hours. (Truly sensitive matters are best routed through HR, anyway.)
5. Vary the Scenery
Don’t stay cooped up in your office all day, every day. Vary the backdrop: take calls outside on nice days, keep a once-a-week coworking membership, spend an afternoon per week buckling down at your favorite coffee shop. Just don’t waste too much time in transit from one setting to the next.
6. Make Time for Dinner
Professional productivity isn’t everything. No matter how busy you are, carve out non-negotiable personal time — for instance, family dinners twice per week, or standing weekend outing to the park, museum, or show. This is your time to recharge, to remember what really matters, and perhaps learn a thing or two along the way.
Always Be Optimizing
These six new routines won’t by themselves lead you to workday nirvana. Like so much else in business and life, productivity is a long game. For every distraction or inefficiency, you eliminate, there’s another waiting in the wings to take its place. Stay vigilant, and always be optimizing.
Featured Image from Shutterstock