Subscribe to

The Unconventional Guide to Work

Life’s too short to be bored at work. We can help.

What’s in an hour? Re-thinking your day for maximum productivity

Do you remember the last time you focused so deeply, so completely on something that it consumed you entirely? In the middle of writing this blog post I’ve already checked my mail (twice), flicked through a couple of articles on Medium, Forbes and Fast Company (my favourite research and inspiration hunting/stomping grounds) drafted an email to a customer and trawled through 76 responses from a user survey. I’m SUPPOSED to be writing an 1000+ word blog post, but more often than not I find my attention drifting to the million other things I need to get done during the day.

It’s mentally exhausting. Remember the good old days when distractions were less rife, when not everything under the sun was competing for our attention, before we has 3 second goldfish memories and even shorter attention spans?

I hereby present the concept of “monotasking”. Maybe you’ve even come across it, as you distractedly switched between tabs on your browser. Monotasking is slowly eclipsing its fallen cousin “multitasking” as more and more people are being encouraged to re-learn how to focus. And one great way to apply it to your work life is by re-thinking the structure of your day so you can get more done.

Tip 1: Be selfish with your time.

“I don’t take meetings in the mornings if I can avoid it. It’s when I need and use the most brain power. I’m caffeinated and can get a lot done.”

That quote by Angie Chang, co-founder Women 2.0 pretty much sums it all up. It may sound counter-intuitive, especially when we talk a lot about collaboration and building a great team culture in your business. BUT there is a time and place for everything. If you want to get stuff done, you’re going to have to carve out time for it. Sans distractions. This is a great opportunity to take a moment to gather your thoughts before the onslaught of the day begins.

What can you do?

  • Block out 15-20 minutes in your calendar every morning. Scheduling in the precious “me-time” as a regular, recurring event, will help you (and others) take it seriously, plus it will be visible to anyone checking your availability!
  • If staying at your desk is too distracting, find an empty meeting room or stay at the coffee shop across the road long enough to digest the day’s priorities and get your head in the game.

Tip 2: Make your to-do list more meaningful

“Our best work deserves our full attention” – 99U

Have you ever had that ominous feeling as you tackled a to-do list that seemed to just keep going on and on? Take it from me – there’s no point listing everything under the sun because there is just no way you will achieve it – and that simply creates anxiety and frustration.

What can you do?

  • The good old post-it note check. If it can’t fit on a post-it note your to-do list is simply too long!
  • Once you’ve prioritised what you need to do (Tip 1), realistically assess the amount of time it’s going to take.
  • Add some buffer space – even just an extra half hour during the day which doesn’t have anything specific assigned to it – but is just there, in case a particular job takes longer than expected!
  • Classify jobs by “type” and priority. Find out more about developing a custom ranking system in our blog post: Tips on prioritising tasks.

Tip 3: Delegate Better

Try as you might, you can’t do everything under the sun, and you shouldn’t even try!

Unfortunately delegation is often thought of as a sign of weakness and associated with a loss of control – when in reality, it’s totally the opposite. Done right, delegation can be super empowering both for the delegator and delegatee.

As a leader, you’re allowing others members in your team to step up and achieve a greater responsibility. Have you always done things a certain way? Other team members might have a better way of doing things. You might be surprised at the fresh new perspectives that start flowing in. Great leaders grow leaders!

What can you do?

  • Assess the skillset in your team and allocate jobs accordingly
  • Establish open communication channels so that progress on tasks can be updated on regularly, feedback can be provided quickly and questions can be asked easily.

Tip 4: Narrow your focus with these tools

Still feeling your attention wandering? Need a helping hand to help you stay focused and on track? At WorkflowMax we love when there’s a handy app that can help us out!

What can you do?

  • Eliminate distractions with Self Control or Freedom, two apps which conveniently block access to distracting websites for a predetermined period of time. I know what you’re thinking: *Gasp* No more Twitter or Facebook? But all these tools have your best interests at heart. We’re only cruel to be kind, my friend.
  • Try working in blocks. This is also a great way of committing yourself to a task for a short period of time. We wrote about the effectiveness of the pomodoro technique here. There are several timers you can use to work in this fashion, such as FocusBooster.

Tip 5: Know your pivot points

I’m totally governed by food. So my most productive periods are immediately after I’d had something to eat, but everyone works a little differently. Your productivity might ebb and flow depending on how much coffee is in your system! The point is to recognise your flow and then to tackle tasks in those zones – for example, would you want to waste the most productive “zone” of your day doing admin stuff?

What can you do?

  • Schedule the most complex tasks during your more productive periods.
  • Save admin and “easier” tasks for times of the day when less brainpower is required (for example a half hour at the end of the day).
  • Save on admin time by using an integrated project management software like WorkflowMax. Say goodbye to the hassle of remembering what you worked on during the week and all the wasted time trawling through emails trying to re-trace jobs. Say hello to online time tracking! Timesheets can be done on the cloud in minutes, maybe even over a beer at the end of the day. And at the press of a button, all the data from one stage of the project moves on to the next. Tasks that once took hours can be completed in minutes, leaving you with more time to focus on what you need to.

Bonus Tip: Re-think your WEEK next...

“We’ve set aside time in our diary each Friday to get to know someone new.” – Curative

Doesn’t everyone seem to be in a better mood whenever Friday rolls around? If you get the most challenging stuff out of the way during the beginning of the week, by the time Friday (Fri-yay!) rolls around, you’re able to spend more time exploring other ideas and opportunities.

What can you do?

  • Schedule team catch-ups for Mondays when everyone is fresh from the weekend; set priorities for the upcoming week and list the accomplishments of the previous one.
  • Use Wednesday as a mid-week pit-stop to refuel and recharge. Think team lunches, morning breakfasts or power meetings over coffee.
  • Have some fun on Fridays – take what Angie Chang calls “agenda-free exploratory meetings” and see what happens!

So there you have it, tips on maximising your productivity by embracing re-thinking the structure of your day (and potentially even your week!). Have you tried any of the above methods? We’d love to know!

How-to-be-productive-CTA