Productivity & Scheduling

There are many great ideas and techniques for planning a productive day and working schedule. Click the links below to aid in your research of finding the perfect one(s) for you.

Try these ideas by themselves or synthesize them with other ideas to come up with the best solution that works for you.

Techniques

Interstitial Journaling

Track your work progress by keeping notes in a journal (digital or paper) whenever you switch from one project to another.

  • Include:
    • Date/Time
    • The task you’ve just completed and any thoughts you may still have about that project
    • The task you’re about to begin, including the first basic step you need to do to get started
  • This clears your mind from your last task so you don’t have lingering thoughts about that project and can therefore focus on the next task more fully.
  • It also strategizes a game plan to complete your next task more efficiently.
  • Use complete sentences when journaling about your tasks.
  • Feel free to write more than the three minimum points listed above, like a running to-do list, times that you procrastinated and why, or things that didn’t go as well as you’d hoped.
  • Interstitial journaling plays nicely with the other scheduling tactics listed below.

The Pomodoro Technique

Work in 25-minute intervals, separated by a timer and short break.

  • Choose a task you’d like to complete that deserves your undivided attention.
  • Set a timer for 25 minutes and commit to working on that task without interruption.
  • Give the task your full attention for 25 minutes. If during that time you realize another task that you need to complete, write it down.
  • When the timer rings, draw a checkmark onto a piece of paper.
  • Take a short 3-5 minute break and do something not work-related. Yea! Mini reward!
  • Repeat the above steps until you have four checkmarks, then enjoy a longer 20-30 minute break. YEA!! 
  • Continue working productively by repeating this sequence until you feel satisfied with your workday.

Time Blocking

Turn your to-do list(s) into a daily plan with tasks scheduled in shorter blocks of 5-30ish minutes.

  • First, become aware of how long it takes you to complete various tasks by keeping timed and detailed notes throughout your workday.
  • Refer to your calendar and task lists.
    • Determine which tasks must be scheduled at a certain time or by a certain deadline.
    • Break big projects into smaller steps to be scheduled over multiple blocks/days/weeks.
    • Outsource and delegate where permissible.
  • Next, estimate how long each task will take.
    • Remember Parkinson’s Law, a proverb reasoning that a task will expand to fill the time allotted to completing it even if it could be done in less time.
    • However, try to not be too optimistic when estimating.
  • Organize your day into tiny chunks, each one assigned with a predetermined task or activity.
    • Allot small portions of time for interruptions and catch up work.
    • Consider your energy levels at various times of the day when determining where to schedule various types of projects, e.g.:
      • schedule items requiring more brain power early in the day, 
      • projects needing less focus are scheduled after lunch.
    •  Don’t forget to schedule in breaks, walks, lunch, etc.
  • Plan your schedule the night or week before.
  • You don’t have to block your entire day – even one block period of focused attention can be helpful in making your day more productive.
  • Follow your schedule as best you can and revise it to work even better for you.

Block Scheduling

  • Create longer blocks of time within your schedule of 1-4 hours each.
  • Arrange blocks to fit into your existing schedule – morning routine, commute to work, while kids are at school/napping, after school/work, bedtime, sleep, etc.
  • Each block has its own to-do list of related items.
  • Group like tasks (like errands) into one block.
  • Set a timer to warn you when to begin switching to the next block and when each block officially ends.
  • Keep the blocks relatively similar from day(s) to day(s) in a way that makes sense for your activities.
  • Unlike time blocking, you are not micromanaging your day by the minute but rather grouping all tasks into a larger period of time when they will get done.
  • Focus only on the block that you are in currently e.g. no work during the morning block and no phone distractions during the work block.
  • Label the blocks and tasks where you will allow yourself to be on your phone or YouTube (e.g. while working out) and put it away when you know you shouldn’t be on it.
  • Each block has its own theme so that when things come up, you know which block to put them in so they will get done.
  • Don’t forget to schedule a block for sleeping!
  • Plan. Block. Act. Revise.

Work Cycles

Additional Resources

Books

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss

308 pages of Ferriss explaining how he reduces and delegates tasks while maximizing efficiency to get more done in less time. For more details, check out this brief summary.