A day consists of 24 hours which is available to everyone without discrimination. Everyone has the chance to experience a maximum productivity day, However, what distinguishes successful people from unsuccessful people is how they utilise this very important resource. Successful people know that a very productive day consists of a good mix of spiritual, mental and physical activities.
Do today what others won’t, so tomorrow you can do what others can’t.Jerry Rice
Most of us on a typical day wake up after 6 am, rush around to sort out various house chores. We then prepare ourselves and rush out of the house for work. At the end of the day, we rush back home. That cycle leads to frustration and stress, resulting in low performance and eventually failure.
Jim Rohn defined failure as “a few errors in judgement repeated every day”, and success as “a few simple disciplines practised every day”. The following are therefore eight simple ways to help you structure your day for maximum productivity. And get you out of the usual rat race and its negative consequences, into the realm of high performers.
8 Simple Strategies to Structure Your Day for Maximum Productivity
- Wake-up Early
Benjamin Franklin is quoted to have said: “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”. Successful people are very often early risers. This paves the way and helps them to accomplish more during the day.
If you were to get up just one hour earlier each morning, you will gain 15 days in a year (ie half of a month). This quiet time can be used to meditate and connect with your creator. It can also be used to do strategic thinking, organize or do something undisturbed.
Great works of art and novels got written in the early hours of the day. So, if you have a masterpiece waiting to unfold, maybe rising an hour earlier might unlock the secret.
- Organize and execute around priorities
In an attempt to be productive, most people often tend to have a lot on their to-do list. This makes them feel overwhelmed, exhausted and frustrated. Others spent most of their time attending to urgent matters.
In the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey wrote, “Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.” He indicated that the two factors that define an activity are urgent and important.
Urgent means it requires immediate attention. It’s “Now!”. Urgent things act on us. Examples include some phone calls, emails, meetings etc. that we can’t resist the temptation of attending to. Important, on the other hand, has to do with results. We buy a book that we know can make a difference in our lives, yet put off reading it time and again. Mainly because we “just can’t squeeze it in” between opening the mail, filling the gas tank, and watching the program on TV.
If something is important, it contributes to your mission, your values and your high priority or long term goals. Hence to have a productive day organize your schedule each day to spend the majority of it doing things that are important rather than urgent.
- Schedule the mundane tasks, too.
It is important to also schedule the urgent but not so important task for the day. These include checking email, returning some phone calls, updating your company’s SharePoint (Dropbox) and social media. These “little” things as we observed earlier can really eat into your productive time.
Hence, setting aside designated hours each day where you focus on these things is important. They can be done in the afternoons when your energy is beginning to dip. And again, before you leave the office or close for the day if you work from home. This will save you lots of time to focus on your priorities for the day. In fact, 3 pm has been found to be the best time for meetings.
- Get lots of exercises
Exercise is one of those high-leveraging activities that most of us don’t do consistently. Largely because it is not urgent. And because we don’t do it, sooner or later we find ourselves dealing with the health problems and crisis that come as a natural result of our neglect. Most of us think that we don’t have enough time to exercise. This happens because we often don’t have it on our priority list. As a result, we get tired easily, become slow at work and performance dips.
However, one study showed that workday exercise, not only improves well-being but participants noted a 72% improvement in time management. Workload also completed on days when they exercised. It is therefore important to schedule a time for exercise. About half an hour in the morning is all you need to get fired up for the day.
- You are what you eat when it comes to productivity
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that “adequate nutrition can raise your productivity levels by 20% on average. You’ll be better able to focus and accomplish tasks when you’ve eaten properly. If you eat a healthy diet, your glucose levels will level off, and you will be alert throughout the day. If you eat poorly, you will experience spurts of productivity and periods of struggling to stay alert and creative in your everyday tasks. Some people don’t do well because they don’t eat well.
A study published in the book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, written by influential psychologist Roy F. Baumeister, is a great illustration of this concept. Researchers told children to skip breakfast before coming to school. Half the children were randomly selected to eat a nutritious breakfast while at school and the rest were given nothing to eat.
The results were incredible. Those who had eaten breakfast had fewer behavioural problems and higher learning patterns than those who had not. When those who had not had breakfast were given a snack, their success improved as well.
We are just like those kids. Eating and eating right will be the key to our utter success or dismal failure in the workplace. Hence, schedule times for right eating within the day.
- Focus on one thing at a time until finished.
Work calmly and joyously on whatever is in hand. Many of us claim to be good at multitasking, but that’s a myth. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that productivity decreased by 40% when people tried to do two or more things at once.
Although we can do some things at the same time – for example, walking and talking on the phone – what we can’t do is effectively focus on two tasks at the same time. This means that frequently when we think we are multitasking, we are actually juggling two or more tasks. We also switch focus from one to the other just as a computer does.
Research has shown that, for humans, such task-switching exacts a time penalty. As it takes time to move from one task and then refocus on another.
This time cost may be small in the case of relatively simple tasks, but it increases greatly when the task you are returning to is more complex. It is therefore important to focus on your prioritized activities and accomplish them one after the other.
- Schedule time to sharpen thy saw
As life gets busier, reading quickly moves down on our priority list. The daily reading habits of most of us are centred on tweets, Facebook updates, WhatsApp messages, and at best technical reports at work. We hardly read books that inform and expand our minds to enhancing productivity.
In the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey wrote, “the person who doesn’t read is no better than the person who can’t read.”
Numerous studies have proven that leaders are readers. It is also reported that the average CEO reads 5 books a month. These are typically the people who work about 60 to 70 hours a week, and yet they make it a priority to read.
It is therefore important to schedule times within the day, say 30 minutes a day at least (or 3.5 hours a week) on reading something related to your specific field/career. Read books on personal development. Read self-help books. Some people prefer to do this just before bedtime.
Each book comes with ideas on improving your productivity, your career, and definitely your personal life. Let’s say with that 30 minutes of reading you gain one new idea a day. That’s 365 new ideas a year. Those ideas will help you perform your tasks better, more efficiently & effectively.
- Review your day’s work and plan for the following day.
At the end of each day, it is important to review progress on your high-priority activity, and then plan for the following day.
A productive life is well within the reach of each of us. We can live each day feeling accomplished and fulfilled. We just need to start practising these simple strategies every day. Sticking to these simple disciplines and routines will help us to become very productive and live the life we truly desire and deserve.
Things which matter most must not be at the mercy of things which matter least.Goethe