It might not seem like adding one more task to your list of to-dos would actually boost your productivity, but tracking your time for a week can help you achieve long-term efficiency that will make you the envy of co-workers and colleagues…or at least help you function better and get things done with less stress and less effort.
While it’s true that there are loads of environmental and personal variables that can impact productivity, everyone has their own unique productivity schedule—they tend to be more productive at certain times of day, and on certain days of the week. Figuring out your productivity cycle, then scheduling your tasks accordingly, can help you make the most of your time and get more done without working longer hours or feeling like you’re always sprinting.
Measuring Your Productivity
It all starts with getting an accurate assessment of your productivity as it waxes and wanes throughout your day and workweek. There are some software tools out there you can try to use, but you can also keep it simple and just take an hourly assessment of what you accomplished. So you get to work at 9am, and a 9:55 you take a quick break and jot down everything you’ve accomplished. Repeat at 10:55, 11:55, and so on.
You can probably get away with doing this every two hours instead of hourly, but be as specific as you can with the breakdown. Did you answer five client emails, write 1,000 words, review a 10-page report from a colleague, and spend 15 minutes browsing Facebook? Write it all down, and try to keep your output consistent with what it would normally be (tracking your time like this can make you extra-aware of your “wasted” minutes and encourage you to limit them, but those effects tend to be temporary—for this to be meaningful in the long-term, acknowledge those times when you’re twiddling your thumbs on a brief mental vacation).
Putting Your Measurements to Work
Once you have at least a week’s worth of data to chew through, figure out when it is you’re accomplishing the most, and start scheduling your most effort-intensive tasks for that day/time. If there’s an important task that will nonetheless leave you vulnerable to distractions, tackle it during your most focused and productive periods to ensure it gets done quickly and properly. Shorter and less essential tasks, or easy-yet-boring tasks like minor bookkeeping (and even scheduling) can be scheduled for less productive periods—and the sense of accomplishment will help keep your motivation high.
If your general workday or week is consistent enough, try scheduling the same tasks at the same time each day/week using whatever calendar or organizing app you like. Get yourself set up for maximum productivity then keep that pace a-rolling. You’ll be surprised how much easier it is to accomplish more just by shifting around the timing of your tasks.