Yesterday’s article outlined 5 essential tips for working at home. One of these tips was to set and stick to an achievable routine, to help manage your workflow during the day. But the difference between deciding to make a plan and actually making the plan can be daunting. So, today, we’re taking a look at 4 different methods that can be used to help you structure your day. Some of these techniques can be combined, but for the most part, decide which concepts and ideas suit your style of working best.
Most of these suggestions start with making a list of some sort, and this first one is true to that technique. Make a list of what you want to accomplish today. Start with the professional tasks, but if you are working from home and want to include some personal things you need to get done, then that’s ok. You can factor these in to your breaks.
It’s important when making a to-do list to be specific with each item. This will help make them more achievable as they become tasks, rather than goals.
Let’s take a look at an example list.
- Work on presentation
- Work on blog
- Do housework
These are generic overall goals. This could be a plan for a day, week or even a month. Let’s change it slightly:
- Finish presentation
- Reply to emails / Reply to yesterday’s emails
- Write 1 blog post
- Wash breakfast dishes
These vague ideas have now become more concrete and tangible tasks. This gives you a more clearly defined idea of what needs to be done and how you are going to achieve it. This will help you as you pursue the remaining techniques.
Once you have your list, you’re going to mark each task on a scale of 1 to 3 exclamation points (!). This is based on how much of a priority the individual task is and deadlines will likely be the biggest influence on this. Let’s take our hypothetical list. An example of this technique would be as follows:
- Finish presentation (!!)
- Reply to emails (!!!)
- Write 1 blog post (!)
- Wash breakfast dishes (!)
Now there is no single way to structure your day from here, but this information should give you some helpful insight. I find that I am most productive at the start of the day, so I would start by replying to emails, as it is my top priority. I then might take a break by doing a low level task, like washing the breakfast dishes, before tackling the presentation. If you work better after lunch, maybe save your high priority tasks for then, assuming there is no deadline of course!
Let’s take our same list of tasks as before. This time however, we are going to give a (generous) estimate of how long each item will take:
- Finish presentation (30 mins)
- Reply to emails (10 mins)
- Write 1 blog post (1 hour)
- Wash breakfast dishes (10 mins)
What previously looked like a daunting list of chores is now 1 hour and 50 minutes’ worth of work. If you start at 9am, and took no breaks, you would have it all done by 10:50! This may not be advisable, as regular breaks are essential, but this should hopefully give you some confidence, and also an insight into the viability of your to-do list.
From here, you can structure your day how you want, and maybe incorporating the prioritisation method to help set the order of your to-do list could be beneficial.
4. Eat That Frog
While the previous three examples could all be used together, this one is a little bit different.
Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog suggests that we should all start our day with what we dread most. To (very hastily) summarise, the phrase comes from the idea that, if you eat a frog first thing in the morning, you know that nothing that the rest of the day throws at you could be as bad as eating a frog.
Now, of course, you should not take this advice literally, but look at your list and decide what the frog is. With our previous examples, while it’s not as big a priority, it could be that you are extremely dreading finishing the presentation. If you start your day with that, it’s over with, and that task won’t be looming over you for the rest of the day.
This method is not for everyone, and it may be that deadlines or prioritisation take… priority. But if you are struggling and looking to shake things up, this could be an interesting way to do so!