Planning the Working Day

Do you ever do a to-do list and not achieve what’s on it? Does your to-do list just get longer and longer? Do you spend hours working out a to-do list and then not have any time to do the tasks on it? Or perhaps you’ve given up on using one altogether! Before you can plan and organise your working day, it is necessary to think of what is to be done and set up some simple drills to help you do it more effectively. So here are the top 10 tips for planning your working day.

  1. Always use an ‘action book’. Have columns for ‘today’s date’, ‘task’ and ‘deadline’. If you are busy on the phone, or away from your desk, encourage other people to leave their requests in your book. This saves interruptions and it means their request is likely to be clear: no more wondering if you have their instructions right!
  2. Know how much of your average day is proactive (what you are in control of) and how much is reactive (unforeseen requests and crises that you have no control over). If you don’t know, consider doing a time log for two weeks to help you. Remember that you can only plan the proactive part of your day. But you do need to allow time during the day for all those reactive tasks that are likely to come in.
  3. Get your priorities and deadlines clear, and keep them in mind when you plan your day. Ask yourself why you are adding the task to the to-do list: is it because it must be done that day, or because you want to or feel you should do it?
  4. Learn to say ‘no’ to jobs that are not yours. Ask yourself if you are doing it because it’s your responsibility, or because you feel you can’t refuse to do it.
  5. Be strict with yourself and only plan the proactive time that, on average, you have available. So if your average day is a 50/50 split, and you work an eight-hour day, you can only plan four hours’ worth of work! To try to plan any more than this means you will either stay late to achieve it all or you will leave it until another day and run the risk of missing your deadline.
  6. Always write a to-do list the night before. This way you will be able to enjoy your evening without worrying about what you are supposed to be doing tomorrow. Also, you will be more productive as soon as you arrive in the morning, as you will know what needs to be done first and are more likely to get on and do it!
  7. Be realistic about what you put on your to-do list. If its deadline isn’t today, why is it on today’s to-do list? Sure, schedule in stages of a project or task to help you achieve the final result, but remember that if it’s on today’s list, then you are going to do it today.
  8. Are you a night owl or a lark? Plan to do the tasks that need your energy and creativity when you are at your best. So if your natural siesta time is two o’clock in the afternoon, then trying to focus on proofreading an important document will probably take you longer than when you are alert. For most people, mornings are the best time for concentrating on detailed tasks.
  9. Don’t do easy, nice jobs at the expense of important, more difficult ones. Prioritise your day’s deadlined tasks in order of importance to the clients, to your responsibilities and to the business.
  10. Group similar tasks to be done (such as phone calls) at the same time. This makes the process of completing the tasks easier, since you are in that mode. And do one job at a time!