If you could expand a 24-hour day up to 30 hours when you needed to, you would, correct? Perhaps not every day, but definitely on those days where you can not seem to catch up to your emails, return all of your voicemails, or make your 4 p.m. project deadline. Having a few extra hours each day does not have to be a fantasy that you long for when 5 o’clock rolls around, but it can quickly become a reality if you can learn a few ways to optimize your time each day. Here are a few ways that you can do this.
Build the Right Routine
While this may seem like a no-brainer, you will be surprised by how easy it is to fall into a routine just because it is convenient for the moment. Maybe you are out of town at a work retreat for a week, and you decide that you will write in the evenings instead of first thing in the morning as you would typically do. But then you find yourself keeping up with this evening writing routine when you return home. The problem is that as your regular workdays are getting busier, and you are too tired to pump out the 2,000 words a day that you promised yourself you’d do.
Now does this mean that you should not change your routine as your schedule mandates? Of course not; however, it does mean that it helps to stay mindful of when you are breaking your routine because you need to, as oppose to when it just feels comfortable.
Form Habits That Tackle Procrastination
Sometimes it can be a challenge to get into the flow of your routine. Activities such as email checking, web surfing, reading the morning paper, and tidying up your workspace can all lead to substantial procrastination and suck hours from your day. Avoid getting sucked into an endless well of time-wasting by allowing yourself anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour every day for such activities. You can also try creating work habits around your current routine. For example, if you eat breakfast at the same time every morning, decide that once you have finished your meal, you will immediately head to your office to start working.
Gauge Productivity by the Work Completed
Productivity is often measured by how long it takes to complete a set of tasks and activities related to a given project or goal. But consider a new approach to how you determine your level of productivity for the day. Ask yourself, “What did I accomplish today?” Breaking your day down into the number of tasks completed instead of focusing mostly on time helps you become more result-focused and leaves you with a huge sense of accomplishment when you complete all of your productivity goals for the day. Create a simple “to-do” list and watch your work momentum changes as you hammer away at it.
Set a Stopping Time
If you are a workaholic, knowing when to step away from your desk for the day can be challenging. You may keep telling yourself, “I will reply to one more email” or “I will quit as soon as this presentation gets edited,” but habits like this can lead to the neglect of your other daily obligations, creating a whirlwind of scheduling conflicts. To break free of this habit, start by creating an explicit estimation of the time it will take you to complete your tasks and set a specific time to wrap them up. Giving yourself a strict day/time to complete activities will force you to prioritize your work and help you to focus on getting them done.
Be sure to give yourself at least a 15-minute break every few hours to avoid burning yourself out before the day is over. And if you have reached your productivity goals early, do not try to throw on more work, but move on to your next planned task.
Find Ways to Wind Down After Work
So now you have stuck to your stopping time, shut down the laptop, and even gave yourself a pat on the back for a job well done. But what if you’re still stuck in “work mode” and feel as though you can go another three hours? Just say no. Switching off your gears after extensive time spans of intent focus can be done by creating a post-work routine. Consider going for a walk in a nearby park after work, mellowing out with a new easy listening playlist, journaling, or even taking a power nap to re-charge. Anything that you can do to relax your mind (and body, if needed) will help you to transition into a more relaxed state of mind.
Keep in mind that a productive day can be anything you want it to be. Planning your days and creating strict routines can increase your daily productivity goals and time-management skills.