Would you like to learn a different way to structure your day? One of the most common questions I get asked is, how can I structure my day to get everything done? A big question I’m sure you’ll agree. To answer it we need to look at what types of tasks we must complete daily and when is the right time to do them.
Before you can structure your day, it’s important to recognise that all your tasks will fit into one of the following four categories. You can then look at the times of day when your energy levels are at their highest and lowest and structure your day accordingly.
Look at your tasks differently.
Instead of thinking about tasks based on importance and urgency consider them based on the effort it will take you to complete the task, and the impact that the task will have once completed.
Low Effort/High Impact Tasks
These tasks are your quick wins, many of these tasks may well be perceived as being high effort and may possibly cause you to procrastinate. However, once started they take very little effort and can be completed very quickly.
Try to do as many of these as you can daily, but without compromising the bigger picture.
High Effort/High Impact Tasks
These are your big project tasks, and usually take up the bulk of your day. They take a lot of effort but give you a great sense of satisfaction when they’re completed.
You must block out time to concentrate on these tasks, make sure you break down tasks into smaller chunks and give yourself goals and deadlines that must be met. Do you have things on your task list that must be done first because other things are dependent on them? If so mark these as a priority.
Low Effort/Low Impact Tasks
These types of tasks are known as filler tasks and can usually be completed in about 15-30 minutes. The first thing you must do with these tasks is ask yourself if they’re necessary? If the answer is yes, then ask if you need to be the person who does them?
Filler tasks can be used to give yourself a break from bigger tasks, or if you feel that you’re not getting anywhere. Completing a few filler tasks will give you some success and momentum during those times of the day when your energy levels aren’t at their highest.
High Effort/Low Impact Tasks
These are the worst types of tasks and are classed as hard slogs. You should ask yourself the same questions as above, is there anyone you could delegate this task to who would benefit from the experience. Who could do it faster or would enjoy it more than you?
If you absolutely must do this type of task, find a way to break it into smaller tasks. Use the Pomodoro technique to make progress, whilst having regular breaks. Get super focused to complete it and get it of your list and really reward yourself when it’s completed.
Structure your day around your energy cycles
Many people describe themselves as being either early morning people (Larks) or late night people (Owls). In truth, these types of people make up a very small percentage of the population. Most people are in fact Hummingbirds. Neither one or the other.
Whether you realize it or not, you have times of the day that you’re more or less productive. These differ from one person to another, but everyone has their highs and lows. These are known as your natural emery cycles and it’s important to discover them and use them to your advantage.
You may already be aware of your energy cycles, but if not it’s easy to do.
How to identify your energy cycles
Grab a notebook and decide on a regular time of day to check in with yourself. It needs to be done for key parts of the day, First thing, Mid-Morning, midday, mid Afternoon, Evening, night etc. Give yourself an honest rating, say on a scale of 1-5, where 1 is blah and 5 is awesome, as to how you feel. Have some fun with it.
Bringing it all together
Once you recognise when you’re at your most and least energetic during the day, you can start to structure your day around the four types of tasks mentioned above. For example, a larkish hummingbird is someone who starts the day slowly and is at their most energetic around mid-morning and they also have a lift in the afternoon. For a Larkish Hummingbird who starts at 08:30, the structure of their day may follow the following pattern:
- 08:30 – 10:00 – Quick Win and Filler Tasks
- 10:00 – 13:00 – Big Project Tasks
- 13:00 – 13:30 – Lunch
- 13:30 – 14:00 – Quick Win and Filler Tasks
- 14:00 – 16:30 – Big Project or Hard Slog Tasks
- 16:30 – 17:00 – Planning and Writing to-do list for the next day
The above is only an outline to make a point. The underlying message is that you must concentrate on completing your high effort/high Impact tasks when you’re at your most energetic. However, the other tasks also need to be completed and so they’re fitted around your high effort/high impact tasks.
When you start to think about your energy levels and start to structure your day, realise that whilst you may need to spend much of your time on big projects or tasks. It’s also worth spending time identifying your quick wins and considering when you will do them to maximise your productivity during the day.
What do your energy cycles look like?
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Till next Time
Mike Gardner is The Time Doctor