Do you find it hard to remember important tasks or deadlines? Is your lack of productivity in the workplace getting in the way of your free time? The best solution to these issues is to set up a daily schedule.
Setting up a solid daily routine is a mixture of science and art. The science comes from figuring out what to get done, while the art of it is figuring out when to do it.
Not everyone can set their schedules depending on the type of job they work, but if you work on a consistent schedule, there are ways to manage your calendar so you can get more out of your work hours. Here’s how to effectively manage and optimize your daily schedule, get more work done, and create a better work/life balance.
Why a daily schedule is absolutely necessary these days
We’re all so busy these days. Trying to remember everything you need to do to succeed at work and in life is almost impossible. People use daily schedules in many ways to different aspects of life:
- Calendars with hourly agenda for conferences, meetings, and events
- Task management app to track their daily todos and due dates
- A weekly schedule with daily time logs to keep track of work hours
- A meal plan to introduce a healthy diet and stop eating junk food
- Schedules for kids to organize their activities and education
- And much more
Our lives need schedules. And here’s why we all need daily schedules to be more successful and get things done.
Work/life balance is out of wack
With the rise of smartphones and remote work, we’re all online more than ever. Have you ever been to a social event on a Friday night but notice that you and everyone else are checking work emails? It’s all too common these days.
As more people begin to work untraditional work hours due to the increase of flexible work hours, a schedule tracks tasks so you can plan ahead on work tasks while managing your social life.
Software make it easy to view your day at a glance
It used to be that you could only view your schedule with a bulky physical planner. But now, a simple app can show you everything you need to do for the day.
Life gets busy as you get older
As we get older, our free time becomes much more valuable. We’re almost always doing something today between dating, kids, weddings, parenting, and much more. With a schedule, you can track what needs to be done for the day, so you can enjoy quality time alone or with your loved ones.
You’re likely to procrastinate or forget tasks without a schedule
It’s impossible to remember every single thing you need to do by memorizing it. As a busy professional, you have to balance meetings and actual working time. A schedule helps because it tracks your appointments and tasks throughout the day to better manage what needs to be done.
A schedule also holds you accountable. We all enjoy the dopamine hit of marking a task as completed in our task management tools, so these tools are valuable.
How biological rhythms impact your productivity (according to scientists)
Do you feel productive at certain times of the day? While other times of the day feel like a slog where you’d rather be watching Netflix instead of working? It turns out there are biological reasons why you feel that way. Let’s look at how biology affects productivity.
Peak time is the best time to work on tasks that require concentration and focus. For example, if you’re a programmer, it’s the best time to work on or challenge yourself with a coding task that requires concentration.
To best manage peak time, don’t focus on mundane tasks that require little to no effort. Ensure your peak time is dedicated to critical tasks and deep work that requires a large amount of focus.
Sometimes, people get a mental or physical feeling of tiredness and difficulty focusing. This trough in energy level usually happens during the afternoon, which some people call the afternoon slump.
It’s a great time to work on tasks that don’t require intense focus, like peak times. You’ll only be frustrated if you try to focus on important tasks during this time.
What kinds of tasks are best for trough time? Here are some examples:
- Replying to emails
- Submitting expense reports
- Checking Slack notifications for unimportant tasks
Trough time is also the best time to take breaks, go for a walk, pick up food, or take a power nap (more on that later).
Rebound time is when you lack energy but still have focus. You might not feel as mentally focused as peak times but aren’t feeling mentally drained either. It’s the middle ground between peak and trough times.
Creativity is most prominent during the rebound time. Instead of performing the same type of work you would for peak times but at a slower pace and worse performance, consider switching to tasks requiring insight and creativity.
Another way to ensure that you get your time back is to work in blocks of time. If you have a block of 20 minutes free, use that time to educate yourself on new updates in your field of work on a short side project.
How to make a perfect daily schedule that keeps you productive
By now, you understand why a daily schedule is so vital to success. But how do you make a schedule that keeps you productive, whether you’re a morning person or a night owl? Here’s what to keep in mind when working on your daily schedule.
Schedule in break times
We’re all guilty of trying to do as much work as possible during our productive time of the day. It’s no surprise that many people are skeptical that taking a break makes you more productive.
However, research shows that breaks help restore focus and motivation, consolidate memory and learning, and boost creativity. Taking breaks during the workday increases productivity more than working on a single task over a more extended period. If you need to do essential things during your downtime, taking a short break will make you more likely to complete the task.
If your goal is greater productivity and mental alertness, there are right and wrong ways to take breaks. Here are some of the best ways to take breaks:
Micro breaks: Rest your eyes and body
- The 20-20-20: Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
- Hydrate: Get a water bottle, so you have to get up and sometimes walk to refill it.
- Stand up and stretch for 60 seconds.
Moving breaks: A great way to counteract the effects of sitting for long periods
- Take a five-minute walk every hour.
- Office yoga: If you think office yoga might be for you, just search for it on YouTube.
Nature break: The benefits of walking in nature are widely known
- Walk outside in a local park or take your dog for a walk if you have one.
- Go outside if there are trees and a bench nearby.
Social break: Social connection is positively correlated to a happier, healthier, and more productive life
- Reach out to somebody: It may be an email, call, or a quick visit. Use this time to show gratitude to someone who helped you. It will be pleasant for the person and also restorative for you.
- Schedule a walk with a colleague with whom you enjoy talking.
Mental gear-shifting breaks: A way to get back on track when faced with being overwhelmed, unfocused, or unproductive.
- Meditate: 3-5 minutes of meditation is enough to focus.
- Controlled breathing for 60 seconds. Take a deep breath and expand your belly. Pause for five seconds. Exhale slowly to the count of five. Repeat this four times for the best results. This technique helps improve stress levels and sharpens your thinking.
Schedule a nap (yes, we’re serious)
Remember when you hated nap time as a kid in elementary school? It turns out our teachers might have been onto something with naps. A 30-minute power nap works wonders on your productivity and energy levels. Choose a suitable time of day and enjoy the rest.
Leverage “time blocking”
Your productivity curve is a map of how you can fill out a single day in your daily schedule. Time blocking focuses on when you’re most suited to do certain types of work.
Use the Eisenhower Matrix
Former US president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, leveraged the Eisenhower Matrix to keep himself productive. Turns out, being President of the United States keeps a person busy. With this method, he determined which tasks were important and needed to be worked on and which tasks could be delegated to his direct reports.
There are many nuances to how the Eisenhower Matrix works, but it’s a proven productivity tool designed to manage day-to-day tasks and projects better.
Start the day with your most important work
What’s one secret to success? Get the most critical work done first.
The first thing they do is block out time for meaningful work before anything else and don’t start their day with distractions, stress, or emotional triggers (i.e., email, social media, and Slack).
There are a ton of great examples of this in practice. For example, if you’re a writer, you might block out 2 hours a day in the morning dedicated to writing while blocking out email, texts, and other notifications. At this time in most people’s day, they tend to have more energy and fewer distractions. This is usually the most effective time of your day to get critical work done.
Focusing on and completing important tasks first thing in the morning starts your day with the right intention and ensures you’ve done something meaningful no matter what else happens. This has a cascading effect and drives momentum throughout the day.
Put meeting buffers in place
Back-to-back meetings aren’t fun and are an overall drain on productivity levels. By putting a 5 to 10-minute buffer between meetings, you can free up time to stretch, get ready for the next meeting, and take a short break to keep you energized.
Don’t check email or Slack at every moment
Seriously, turn off your Slack notifications. We all depend on it these days but letting Slack dictate your workday can lower productivity and even more distractions. Leverage Slack’s Do Not Disturb feature so you can stay productive. If any messages are urgent, then someone can contact you directly.
To prevent email from getting in the way, just close your email tabs. You can open them up at set cadences to check and reply to emails as needed.
Use task management software
Physical planners are nice, but they’re an outdated concept in today’s modern world if we’re honest. They take up unnecessary space, they’re bulky, and some of us have handwriting that can barely be read. By using task management software, you can track all your tasks for every day of the week in one location and tweak them as needed. It’s so much more convenient than planners.
What kind of daily schedule template do you need?
Creating a daily schedule from scratch can be daunting. This is where daily schedule templates come in. And it’s easy to find a free template that can be downloaded with a simple Google search. A daily schedule template serves as a to-do list, deadlines tracker, or a monthly calendar that gives you insight into your focus areas for the month. You can just look at it to assess your availability and whether you can squeeze more projects into your schedule.
Using a schedule for reflection can be an excellent way to reflect on your successes and failures. You may also find it helpful to work on goals. Additionally, scientific research has shown that you’re more likely to get things done when you write things down.
So use a daily schedule template to improve time management skills, keep track of your accomplishments, and have more control over what you do with your life.
There are technically four kinds of daily schedule templates available:
- Buy a calendar with a daily schedule
- Create your planner in a notebook
- Download templates available online
- Use a project management tool
A daily schedule is vital in today’s world. A detailed schedule can be the difference between success or failure. You can get started with a template when working on your daily schedule, but it’s easier to rely on time management tools instead.
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