Gaining Perspective to Improve Your Workday Routine
Even after you’ve identified how your workday routine works and doesn’t work, you may feel as if something is still missing. One way to gain clarity is to step away from how you normally do things and do it how someone else does it for a while. Let’s look at how this can work for you.
Document Your Day – One of the first things you should do when you want to gain perspective to improve your workday routine is to document your routine. As you document it, pretend that you’re going to hand this routine over to someone else to accomplish. Fill in any gaps that you notice as you do this so that it is self-explanatory.
Hire a Productivity Coach – One of the fastest ways to improve your workday routine in terms of being more productive is to hire a productivity coach. A productivity coach will analyze your work day and find things that are causing bottlenecks and delays and help you fix them through automation, elimination, or outsourcing.
Follow the Directions – There are numerous productivity books for various industries. You can purchase a book that someone wrote and then simply follow the directions, throwing your own schedule out the window for a time.
Flip Your Schedule – You may want to try switching your schedule up after you’ve analyzed it. Try making it the opposite of what you have always done to find out how that feels. Maybe you’re used to putting your clients first if you’re a freelancer. What would happen if you put you first?
Try a Morning Productivity Routine – Even if you’re a night owl, there is something to be said about all the research suggesting that people with good morning routines get more done and see better results. Put your top three most important tasks in the morning, first thing.
Use Project Management Tools – Most project management tools can be used by businesses with freelancers or businesses with only a sole practitioner, whether you’re client-based or not. A project management tool will help you get organized, stay organized, and get things done in a timely manner.
Be Honest – As you are determining ways to improve your workday structure, it’s imperative that you’re honest with yourself. If you are never going to get up at 5 am, don’t even try the flipping the schedule so that you have to get up in the morning. You’re not going to do it. That’s okay, there are other ways to be successful.
Be Willing to be Uncomfortable – As you’re working toward improving your workday routine if you’re willing to be uncomfortable and even fail, you will likely find the best workday routine for you faster that is more productive with a higher payoff than if you did not even try.
Sometimes if you step away from how you always do things for a bit and get out of your routine, so you can see where there’s room for improvement, it can make all the difference. Getting someone else’s perspective can also help tremendously. Additionally, documenting your routine will help you better see the problems in it so that you can fix it.
Are You Aware of Your More Productive Parts of the Day?
Every person has their own internal clock that causes them to be more productive at various times of the day. Some people are morning people, some are night people. Some are a combination of the two. One awesome aspect of working for yourself is that you can optimize the most productive times of your day to do the hardest work when you’re able to best focus.
One of the best things you can do is to figure out when those productive parts of the day are for you. Don’t assume that you know. For example, if you were raised by a night owl, you might think you’re a night owl just because you have always done things like your parent did. Or if you think you’re a morning person – maybe you just do things that way because that’s the way the world works?
The best thing you can do is test out your assumptions. If you think you’re a morning person, why do you think that? If you think you’re a night owl, why do you think that? Also, keep in mind that in some cases, you may have to work at times that don’t seem most productive for your internal clock right now. Perhaps you have kids in school and need to work during that time. So, we’ll also talk about how to really use your internal clock to get the most out of your day.
How Do You Feel When You Wake Up? – Does it take you some time to fully wake up? If so, you don’t want to start scheduling yourself to be seriously on the go first thing in the morning. You may be better off scheduling your morning to involve eating breakfast, working out, and showering before you start your day.
How Fast Do You Fall Asleep? – When you go to bed at night, do you have trouble falling asleep if you try to go to bed at a normal time? For example, most people should sleep 8 hours a night or so. If you go to bed at 11:30 PM and get up at 8 AM, are you falling asleep quickly?
When Do You Tend to Focus Best? – Think about the days that went the best in terms of being productive. What times do you focus best? Do you focus best after breakfast, before lunch, after lunch, in the evening after dinner? When do you focus best? Try keeping track of your work with a timer so that you can figure this out using the data.
What Time of Day Do You Feel Sleepy? – There is typically a time of day that you notice you feel as if you’re dragging or even falling asleep. For some people, this is from 10 to Noon and for others, it’s 2 PM to 3 PM.
How Do Breaks Affect Your Productivity? – For some people, if they have tired times during the day, they take a short five to ten-minute break and it helps. For example, if you take a coffee break, or a water break, a walking break, or eat a snack, how does that affect your productivity?
How Do Your Colleagues See You? – One way to find out when you’re most productive is to ask your colleagues. If you don’t have any, ask your family. Ask them if they see you as a morning or night person and when they think you get the most work done.
Whatever time you realize you’re most productive is when you should maximize your schedule. Most people find that they do better if they get more breaks. One thing to think about is that most people have 90-minute cycles in their brain. If you schedule each of your work sessions to be 90 minutes long, you’ll find that you get more done.
Get Familiar with the Pomodoro Method?
One thing I’d like to see you try this week is the Pomodoro Method. You can read more about the Pomodoro Method by getting this book. The Pomodoro Technique: The Essential Guide to Be More Productive, Efficient and Get Things Done by Justin Reynolds to learn more about this method, but you can implement it from what you read in this post.
Originally this method was created by Francesco Cirillo in the late 80’s. Basically, the method requires that you set a timer and break down the work you do each day into 25-minute intervals, taking a short break between each task. This is how it works.
Choose Your Task – You should have tasks scheduled and be able to estimate how many 25-minute intervals (or Pomodoros) it will take for you to do it. If you think it will take 4 Pomodoros to get something done, remember that you’re going to take a five-minute break between Pomodoros when you put this in your calendar.
Set Your Timer – When you sit down to work, make sure you’re ready to work on the task before you set the timer. Have the app open that you’ll work with or get signed into the program or whatever you need to do so that when you start the timer, you are really working on the task.
Do the Task – Once you start the timer, you cannot do anything but that one task. No multitasking or checking email while you’re supposed to be posting social media posts. No answering the telephone while you’re writing that blog post. If you get interrupted, it doesn’t count.
Stop When the Timer Goes Off – When your timer goes off, even if you’re not done with the task, you stop. Usually, people make a check mark on some paper or note that they completed one Pomodoro during that time frame.
Take a Short 5 Minute Break – When the alarm goes off, you want to take a five-minute break. Get up and walk around, do some stretches, go to the bathroom, get a drink. Check your social media if you must. Keep the break no more than five minutes and no less than three minutes.
Do it Again – After the break, if you are not done with the task, begin the timer again and complete another Pomodoro.
After Three to Four Pomodoros (25-minute increments), Take a 30-Minute Break – If it’s a particularly long task, take a longer break after four Pomodoros or if you really need one after three. It’s up to you on this one.
If you complete the task and have time left in the Pomodoro, use that time for deeper learning and re-checking your task rather than ending the time. If your time is interrupted for some reason, then it doesn’t count, and you must start over.
The idea behind this is to help you focus better on each task that you’re doing. By completing a Pomodoro you’re committing to doing a task for 25 minutes, starting new Pomodoros until the task is done and continuing with the task even when you are done to finish the cycle. This is supposed to help you learn to focus 100 percent on a task.
Some people say that you should use a kitchen timer, the old-fashioned kind that you wind up – sometimes called an “egg timer” – because your mind will begin to associate the act of winding up the timer with focusing on the task and the ringing of the alarm with getting a break and refreshing your mind. However, there are timers you can use that work on your computer and your smartphones, like Tomato Timer and others.
Commit to trying this for a week to find out how it affects your productivity. You may find that you focus more and are able to get into flow faster on your tasks. You may find that you can notice more your most productive times based on how fast you’re getting your tasks completed, too.