The need for a good work schedule should be a priority for anyone that manages their own time, regardless of the business. A common misconception is that only “really busy” executives need a schedule, but this is untrue, almost anyone can benefit from a well laid out work plan.
One of the most important things you can do to keep your workload organized and your productivity high – whether you work by yourself or with others, at home, or for a large company – is to set a working schedule. You need to allot yourself amounts of time to focus on various specific tasks and aspects of your work, from the small and seemingly trivial items, to the larger stages of projects within your day to day routine.
A smooth schedule that gives you enough time to address the various parts of your workday will help the time flow smoothly, and keep you motivated and on track. It will also help prevent you from spending too much time on less important tasks, or not giving enough time to larger or more important ones, and feeling stressed at the end of the day that you didn’t get the work you needed to finish done.
When working on a schedule you set yourself, it becomes very easy to become disorganized, or not use your own time wisely. All too often one can fall into the pitfall of feeling a schedule isn’t necessary, thinking you’ll just get it done as it comes along. However, without giving yourself the courtesy of setting aside a schedule you may find yourself overwhelmed when projects come to a head, or spending too much time on earlier stages and then falling behind on your work.
The process of setting a schedule for your self is relatively simple though, and can be broken down into a few basic steps:
List your daily tasks, as well as your non-daily tasks
Go over all the things you do in a typical day and break them up into categories of like actions, such as checking with vendors, printing reports, compiling data, making calls, etc. Try not to be too specific here there. For example, instead of writing down, “Call to check on the Johnson account,” you might simply write, “Make follow-up phone calls.”
Make sure to take into account ongoing projects or assignments that you are working on, where certain parts of the work should be done each day, even if the task itself may be different on a day to day basis (i.e. work on September marketing initiative).
Also make sure not to forget those items that aren’t done every day. If you only do certain things one day of a week, like checking figures every Monday, make sure you include it on the list.
Prioritize your tasks by importance and urgency
Obviously certain parts of our work are intrinsically more important than others, but you still have to do both.
If you are dealing with clients, or working on an assignment with an upcoming deadline, that is probably more important than returning phone calls or checking your email. However, if your job is focused on answering calls or correspondence in a timely matter, that may take priority over writing a report.
The key is determining which tasks are more important for you, and ranking them accordingly. This will help you establish how much time to dedicate to each instead of picking an arbitrary time limit out of the sky.
Determine what pre-requisites (if any) exist in determining the order in which activities must be completed and arrange them into the order to be completed accordingly
If you need to research facts and figures or collect data before you can create a quote, obviously the one must occur before the other and the schedule should reflect that.
If you need to send items off to someone else before speaking to them, make sure you schedule your time to make phone calls after that task.
This may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people allot time for phone calls and emails first thing in the morning, wasting a large chunk of time when there’s nothing to be done there yet – only to have to end up making more calls and writing more mails later throughout the day because most of the items they need to correspond about require completing other tasks first.
Divide the amount or working hours you have available into smaller sections – or work blocks, and determine how many of these blocks you need to realistically complete each task
Based on the information you determined above, lay out your daily tasks in a schedule, giving appropriate time to each based on priority and time realistically needed to complete the task.
When possible, try to group all of one type of activity together (such as phone calls, emailing etc.) to a few set times a day instead of throughout. When you have one type of task constantly interrupting the main work at hand, you’re not making effective use of your time, nor are you devoting the attention to the main priorities.
If you find that a certain area or your work keeps interrupting the others, assign more time to it to properly finish it if possible so you don’t have to keep coming back to it when working on other areas.
Print out your schedule, or if you prefer to use an application on your computer or another device, input it there, and stick to it!
In the end, a schedule serves no purpose if you don’t adhere to it. Try to stick to your schedule as much as possible, and adjust it as necessary until you work out the kinks.
When you reach the end of a work block and are supposed to start a new task, make sure you do so. Even if you’re not entirely done with the first item, this will help you get into the mindset of following your schedule, and prevent you from getting further behind. If you go over the time given on one item it will push the rest of your work back for the rest of the day. If you finish something else early, you can go back and finish it, and now you’ll know where to cut and add the time when you make your revisions.
Once you get used to working within the confines of your schedule, you’ll have less worries along the lines of, “I still need to finish this…” or “I haven’t even started that part yet…” because you know you have the time for it blocked out already, and you know the other tasks won’t get in the way, because they end at a certain set time.
Remember, not everything needs to be completed in one day, but certain things do need to be completed daily. By prioritizing and breaking up larger assignments and ongoing work so you don’t get caught up in one big project, causing all your daily tasks to get lost in the shuffle, you’re doing yourself a bigger service in the long-run in managing your work.
How do you handle your day-to-day work schedule? Do you allot yourself time for specific tasks? Or only certain things? Could you see the benefit from laying out a set time block for each section of your work? Leave your thoughts below!