It's amazing how much some people can accomplish in one day. A few people I know seem able to pause time and be everywhere! They don’t have the power to stop time or add more hours to the day, but they know how to manage their time wisely while optimizing their schedules for maximum productivity.
Want to know how they do it? Start by making these three incredibly simple changes to your work schedule. They’ve made me 3.28 times (yes, I track my time that closely) more productive, so I’m confident they’ll work for you as well.
1. Create and stick to a morning routine.
It’s no secret that some of the most productive people are early risers. This doesn't mean you have to get up early, it just helps many. The main reason for this is that it’s really the only time of the day where you have to yourself.
How you spend that time is totally up to you. Gary Vaynerchuk consumes as much as information as possible before heading to gym. I spend this quiet time reflecting, meditating, writing and reviewing my calendar. Then I hit the gym.
Researchers at the University of Bologna and the University of Education Heidelberg have found that people are more proactive in the wee hours of the morning.
“When it comes to business success, morning people hold the important cards,” says Christoph Randler, a biology professor at the University of Education in Heidelberg, Germany. “[T]hey tend to get better grades in school, which gets them into better colleges, which then leads to better job opportunities. Morning people also anticipate problems and try to minimize them. They’re proactive.”
Furthermore, early risers tend to be more consistent, creative, calm, cool and collected.
There is no gain to getting up early if you spend this time binge-watching TV while scarfing down an Egg McMuffin. To be productive your morning routine should be consistent, while containing habits that will keep your productive throughout the day. These habits include reviewing your goals, reading, exercising or walking, organizing your workplace, and reciting daily affirmations. Here is a guide to better calendar management to help.
2. Think energy, not hours.
“Productivity is less about what you do with your time, and more about how you run your mind,” wrote leadership expert Robin Sharma on Twitter. Sharma is pretty much spot-on.
The thing is, how you run your mind depends on your energy level. As Choncé Maddox perfectly explains in a previous Calendar post, “Everyone has a period of the day when their energy levels are most high. For me, my energy goes in a downward slope which is why I choose to knock out most of my work in the morning.”
I’m in the same boat with Choncé. Am most productive in the morning. As such, I typically block out from 8am to noon to work on either my most challenging or urgent task of the day.
For us early risers this makes sense. It turns out that when it comes to cognitive work, most adults perform best in 2-4 hours after waking-up - which is in the mid-to-late morning. According to Steve Kay, a professor of molecular and computational biology at the University of Southern California, this because as our body temperatures rise it increases working memory, alertness, and concentration.
For most of us, myself and Choncé included, our energy levels begin to dip as the day goes on. As a result, we focus on less mentally challenging tasks like responding to emails, organizing your workspace, and planning for tomorrow.
Keep in mind that everyone has their own biological prime time. Just because I’m most productive in the morning doesn’t mean that’s the case for you. I suggest you check out this article from Chris Bailey, author of The Productivity Project, to help you identify your biological prime time.
3. Pick just three big things.
“The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities,” wrote Stephen Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
But, how can you determine what your priorities are? Take the advice from Tim Ferriss and pick the three big things that you absolutely need to get done before the end of the day.
I know you have a million things to do. But, when you have a lengthy to-do-list, you can become easily distracted and overwhelmed because there’s no possible way you’ll cross everything off this massive list in one day. Again, focus on just things that are the most urgent and will have the greatest impact on your business.
By focusing on your “big three,” you’ll stay focused, productive, and motivated since you’ll be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Also, it keeps you sane when you sit down at the end of the day and know exactly what you need to do when planning for tomorrow.
Final words of advice.
These are just three changes that I made to my work schedule that have made me 3.28 times more productive. Not only have they been effective, they’re been pretty easy to implement into my daily schedule.
But, they’re definitely not the only changes I’ve made. I’ve also made it a point to declutter my workspace at the end of the day, periodically purge useless tasks, turn off notifications on my phone while working, and embraced technology like Calendar, which I built for this exact reason.
Even though these have worked for me, they may not for you. That’s why I would love to hear about the changes you’ve made to your work schedule that have increased your productivity.