Never enough time?

25 Jul

This article is part of the series “31 blogs in 31 days” during July 2017 on howtofab.com.

If you are

  1. one of the many people who find it difficult to switch off in the evening because you are already mentally going through everything that needs to get done the next day AND
  2. somebody who likes writing to-do lists

try this:

Make your to-do list for the next day the last thing you do as part of your present work day.

Most people write their to-do lists in the morning or plan to write their to-do lists, but then they check their emails instead, or a colleague hijacks them on the corridor and any plan they may have sketched out gets thrown over immediately. At least this used to happen to me a lot and it caused quite a lot of stress.

Once I got in the habit of writing my to-do list the day before, it really helped me to “get closure” on that day, it stopped me from worrying about forgetting something during the evening and I woke up to an already structured work day – structured according to my own preferences.

Right before clearing my desk, closing all browser tabs and shutting off the computer itself, something I really do every day, I take out my notepad and plot out the next day with all the things I want / need to get done, including everything from the smallest tasks to the largest tasks. I usually hold positions that require a certain amount of flexibility, so I never plan my days out to their maximum. Instead, I make sure to leave some room for the unexpected by only booking out my days to about 70%. This of course requires me to allocate certain time-frames to each task and to prioritise. When a certain list seems too much for a regular work-day, I add the number 1 behind anything that is really important and the number 2 behind anything that can wait until the day / week after.

I also know that my best thinking time is before lunch, so I usually schedule the big tasks for then. I can easily work 2-3 hours on something that requires my uninterrupted and full concentration and focus before 2pm – after that I tend to lose attention more quickly. So whenever I have something meaty to plough through, I make sure to do it in the morning – sometimes even before taking a look at my email inbox. And I always close anything that could distract me too much during that time – emails, chat programmes etc.

Putting everything on paper like that (I am a paper person) allows me to empty my head while still in the office and to focus on other things as soon as I close the door behind me, without the stress of possibly forgetting something important and without the worry of having an overwhelming amount of work. Once I see everything on my short- and long-term to do list in front of me, I can assess if this is realistic to achieve. If it is, I don’t need to worry, I just need to get it done. If it isn’t achievable, I either delegate, get support or see if certain time frames can be shifted. And even if a day ends with me realising that I have too much work in front of me and I can’t quite figure out what to do about it here and now, the first thing on my to-do list for the next day is finding appropriate solutions so that I only ever work with realistic to-do lists. Anything else is counter-productive.

It really only ever happens occasionally that something pops into my head after I leave the office, but since I usually have my notepad with me, I then simply add it to the list and in doing so, heavily reduce its potential for rummaging around in my head all evening. And when I arrive in the office the next day, I simply open my notepad and I can get started immediately.

This all sounds extremely well organised and yes, of course, some days it’s harder to stick to than others. But since I am doing this for myself, and since I enjoy being organised, it doesn’t feel like a burden at all. This daily scheduling routine can take as little as 5 minutes, but it really helps me with being more productive during the day (something I also enjoy) and shutting down my mental tabs and leaving work at work in the evening.

Picture: R391n4 via Pixabay / CC0

 

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