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How to structure your day to maximise productivity

Monty Majeed
2nd Nov 2016
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Successful people are known to follow schedules, to-do lists and timetables to chart out their day and ensure maximum productivity. What these tools are helping them do is divide their time and energy among the different activities they need to get done and line them up in a way that is most conducive for work to be completed. A study conducted by Harvard Business Review says that mapping out your day in the morning helps alleviate stress and makes you more productive.

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Being productive means being able to work more efficiently and smartly and finish off tasks in less amount of time. Without proper planning, our work day and scheduled might get interrupted by a number of people and things, and according to a California University study, it takes a minimum of 25 minutes to get back to work after even trivial interruptions. So here are a few tips to keep in mind when you sit down to organise your work day to maximise productivity:

Have a morning routine

We have read about the morning routines of successful people, and most of them are technology-free and caffeine-free. Try not to reach out for coffee or your smartphone first thing in the morning. You could do some light exercises in the morning, go for a shower and follow this up with a light breakfast. Try to include some music in your mornings as it has been proven to be a productivity booster. Same goes for exercise, it keeps you energetic throughout the day, and research shows that the feel-good hormones the body releases will also keep you motivated. So decide on what works best for you and try to follow it every day till it becomes a habit.

Use your commute creatively

According to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, people with longer commutes were prone to higher blood pressure, bigger waistlines and poorer fitness than those who worked close to home. However, thanks to smartphones and tablets, we are able to make this time of our day useful through the many apps on offer. No, we don’t mean playing yet another level of Candy Crush. Instead, sort your inbox and reply to mails that don’t require too much thought and mark other important ones for review later. You could also listen to music or informative podcasts, or maybe catch up on a few extra minutes of sleep as well so that you feel refreshed by the time you get to work.

Schedule your day according to your energy

Many productivity experts or articles on the subject would advise you to wake up early in the day to increase the number of hours available to work or to complete one giant task at the beginning of the day so that you feel a sense of accomplishment to drive you through the whole day. However, remember that each person has a unique productivity level which is determined by a multitude of factors. So rather than trying to conform to the best-accepted standards of productivity, each of us need to figure out what works best for us. For instance, if you are not a morning person, there is no point in trying to do a big and important task early on in the morning as it will only tire you out and distract you. So schedule meetings and tasks depending on your energy level, and work on the most important tasks at the time that you are most productive in the day.

Take a long midday break

It is important to take regular breaks from work as it helps the brain refresh itself after continuous bouts of work. Research says that you shouldn’t work for more than one hour straight without a break. A long break in the middle of the day will allow you to disconnect from the activities in the first half and set you up for a more productive afternoon. If you do not want to take a break to eat, then take one to go for a walk or do something other than work. Try to leave your seat, stretch your body and maybe do a quick meditation break. All this will increase your focus and concentration when you get back to work.

Give yourself incentives for finishing tasks

Setting personal deadlines for work you have to get done is an effective way to increasing productivity, decreasing procrastination and improving performance, says a study by the MIT Sloan School of Management and INSEAD Business School. Once you finish this task on time, do not forget to give yourself a treat for doing so. The best way to kill two birds with a single stone is by working in what distracts you into your schedule as incentives. Suppose you get distracted by checking social media notifications or chatting with your co-workers, fix that as the treat for finishing a particular task on time.

The key to being productive is being realistic in your goals and minimising distractions. Observe your own energy levels and productivity patterns for a few days to know what works for you and try to structure your day accordingly for best results.

What are the hacks you fall back upon to organise your day to increase productivity? Let us know in the comments section below.

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