It’s Sunday afternoon. The weekend is drawing to a close, and inevitably, your thoughts drift to the work week ahead.
Sound familiar? It definitely does to us. We work in a fast-paced, multi-national industry where the landscape changes all the time. We have ambitious targets, full schedules and projects to deliver. And we know you do too.
We’re always looking at ways we can improve productivity on an individual, team, management and business level. That’s why we want you to take a small amount of time, no more than an hour on a Sunday afternoon, to get ready for the work week. By putting in an hour now, you’ll save much more in the week ahead, allowing you to make better use of your time and be more productive.
Not only this, but by the end of the hour you’ll know your schedule and capacity for the week. These won’t be set in stone because we can guarantee that each week will bring the unexpected. But they will be great guidelines for you and allow you to visualize your work.
So make yourself a coffee, find somewhere comfortable and sit down to prepare for the week ahead.
Your first task is to plan and prioritize. Write down everything you need to do in the coming week - whether it’s small tasks, regular meetings or big projects. There are a range of tools out there to help you do this, from an old fashioned notebook to apps like Trello, Wunderlist, Evernote or a simple text editor.
After you have your list, assign a time value to each task you have. If you have a team meeting on a Monday morning you know how much time this usually takes. For some tasks you’ll have to make an snap estimate and it’s best to be aware that tasks usually take us longer than we think they do. Once you’re finished, add up the amount of hours you estimate your work will take.
Your next job is to prioritise your tasks. There will be certain tasks on your list that are out of your control like meetings or calls you have to make, it’s down to you to prioritise the rest. If you’re using an app you can drag and drop your tasks in descending order or if you’re using the pen and paper approach you can number them.
By the end of this process you should know everything you have to do in the coming week. It might seem like a lot but it is possible to be as effective in 35 hours as you are in 80.
Your next step is to create your schedule. There’s is an art to scheduling effectively. This applies to us all individually but it’s also true for big business as Starbucks found out in 2014. For your own individual schedule, use a calendar. From Google Calendar to iCal, there are many different ones to choose from. Find something you’re used to, you’re happy with and you can work effectively with.
Your first job is to block out the time when you know you have to be doing something; these are your meetings, your phone calls and any appointments you have. Once this time is blocked out, you then know how much you have left to complete the tasks on your list.
Go back to your priority list and then start to block out time for each job you need to do. One of the keys to this is to add time margins in between different jobs and not create a complete ‘back-to-back’ schedule. This will give you time to grab a coffee and answer your emails. You’ll also be able to see what you are hoping to achieve through the week and when you hope to achieve it by, this will allow you to communicate more effectively to all relevant stakeholders as to when they can expect something to be done.
Another tip is to start with the hardest job first. We all have a tendency to put off the most difficult things we have to do but if you get them done early in the week it means the rest of your week will be much more productive as they won’t be hanging over you.
By creating your own schedule, you’ll be able to see how long your tasks are going to take and how much time you have to work with. It will also keep you focused and ‘on task,’ helping you to be more productive and efficient.
OK, it might not be possible to stick to your schedule 100% of the time because things change and there will also be an element of the unexpected in each week. But keep your discipline and try and stick to the schedule you set yourself. You can also try tracking the time each task takes you and comparing this to the time you estimated it would take. Build in time to review the previous week and you’ll get a much clearer picture of how long tasks are taking you and where your time is being spent.
Optimizing the use of time is one of the biggest challenges faced by businesses and their employees. Time really is money and using time more effectively can not only save costs but it can also boost revenue. This is what we do to help businesses across Europe. Talk to one of our experts to see how we can do the same for you.