As many entrepreneurs know, the key to maximizing productivity lies in a solid workday structure. The not-so-secret art of structuring can be applied at many levels and can save time, energy and creative juice and yield massive returns in increased levels of productivity and focus.
Yet, building workday structure can be a bit confusing or unsettling at first. You may try a method and find it’s completely wrong for you. It can help to have guidance or a template to go by. Below, eight members of Young Entrepreneur Council share strategies that have worked for them.
1. Set Your Agenda Before The Workweek Begins
Structure around the workday begins on the weekend, when I can clearly think about all the tasks that need to be met in the coming week while there’s some peace and quiet. Having a clear plan and goals before the workweek begins helps me set the table in a way that allows me to get the most out of each workday. I set up my schedule to come in very early twice a week in order to get the work that requires my full attention done—like contract reviews, reports and so on—while the office is quiet. Then for calls, meetings and appointments with others, I do my best to take those at end of day when I’m not being pulled from a thousand directions! Getting my personal work done during the early and late hours of the day allows me to focus my midday with employees when things are the busiest. – Jared Weitz, United Capital Source Inc.
2. Use Checklists
One of the big reasons people don’t get as much done as they want is simply because they don’t have a plan. You have a plan for the quarter, so why not become more granular by making a plan for your day? I use a simple checklist that features five tasks I want to work on for that day. I usually write this the day before so there is no confusion what I will be working on when I get to my desk. Out of those five tasks, I circle the three tasks that are the hardest in my mind. Those are the three I focus on accomplishing for the day. In addition to this checklist of tasks, I will also try to batch work together. If I know I have a bunch of content to write, I will batch a chunk of my day specifically just for writing. This helps me remain in a peak flow state and mute out distractions. – Justin Cooke, Empire Flippers
3. Plan Around The Biggest Goals
You have one limited resource—your time. To ensure that the important, not merely the urgent, gets the attention it deserves, we must plan around our biggest goals first. Some call these their “big rocks.” I prefer something that provides direction instead of weight; something that provides light in an otherwise dark (and often confusing) world. In come your North Stars. These are your big goals of importance that will guide all of your actions moving forward and focus on business, personal, family, health and spiritual. All five work in unison to move you forward toward your final chosen destination/paradise/“Oh-my-that-view-is-amazing” finish line. Set your North Stars and put them in your schedule before all else, ensuring the important, not merely urgent, guides your year. – Kim Walsh Phillips, Elite Digital Group
4. Avoid Context Switching
In a recent study, it was found that we spend an average of 1 minute and 15 seconds on a task before being interrupted, it takes an average of 25 minutes to resume a task after being interrupted, and heavily multitasking can temporarily lower our IQ by up to 15 points. There are some simple ways to avoid context switching. Schedule all your meetings on the same day or two of the week to increase the blocks of times on the other days to focus. Triage your email once or twice a day, rather than being in your inbox all day. Everyone has tasks that are necessary to do but don’t require much critical thinking. Tackle these when you realize it’s the best you can do. – Fan Bi, Menswear Reviewed
5. Switch Between Tasks
When I have a lot on my plate, there’s something that I do in order to keep myself motivated and efficiently finish them all in a short amount of time. I’ll devote 15 to 20 minutes to one task, and then switch to another. After working on that second project for a similar length of time, I’ll switch again to a third project or task. After a third interval, I will either take a short break or will jump back into the first task. Working in short time frames like this helps to keep me motivated and productive, since it forces me to keep engaging with fresh ideas and problems so I avoid feeling bored or burned out. If I get into a good rhythm, I can finish a week’s worth of work this way in only three days! – Bryce Welker, CPA Exam Guy
6. Hire A Personal Assistant
To help create structure for my busy workday, I hired a personal assistant. When I first started my businesses, it was the little and mundane tasks that always got pushed to the end of my to-do list. This was a problem, because even though these little tasks were mundane, they were essential responsibilities, such as making a quarterly tax payment or following up with a supplier. These little but essential tasks were eating away at the limited time that I had available to grow my business in other important ways, such as developing new products. Hiring a personal assistant to handle my administrative tasks helped me not only complete these smaller tasks, but also to move from project to project, stay organized and stay on schedule. – Shu Saito, Godai Soaps
7. Create A Routine
I think creating a routine is one of the easiest ways to have structure, which can maximize productivity. I start every morning with a cup of coffee at home while catching up on a series of blogs and news outlets. This helps me limit my news consumption to the morning and prevent it from distracting me during the day. I have set lunch and no-meeting windows in the day. Furthermore, I try to offset my schedule from the rest of my team. I come in a few hours after them and stay a few hours later. This means they have time in the office when I can’t be distracting them, and likewise, I get some peace and quiet to have a meetings-free window of productivity. – Ryan D Matzner, Fueled
8. Leverage Specific Tools
Being a small and completely remote business owner, it’s important that I stick to tasks that will move the needle and move projects along instead of getting trapped doing busy work. That’s where to-do lists come in. They help me prioritize tasks and manage expectations and project completion dates. 1) Todoist: You can create tasks, projects and sub-projects; color-code them; and prioritize and categorize your list depending on your work style. 2) FocusMe: This is helpful in blocking distracting websites and setting break reminders. You can schedule a “focus” session for the week and plan out what you need to do each day. – Dave Nevogt, Hubstaff.com