Gulf Insider’s 5 top ‘killer apps’ to take control of your work day.
- To-do lists are evil. Schedule everything – To-do lists by themselves are useless. They’re just the first step. You have to assign them time on your schedule. It makes you be realistic about what you can get done. It allows you to do tasks when it’s efficient.
Until it’s on your calendar and assigned an hour, it’s just a list of wishful thinking. Scheduling forces you to confront the reality of how much time you actually have and how long things will take. Now that you look at the whole picture you’re able to get something productive out of every free hour you have in your workday. You not only squeeze more work in but you’re able to put work into places where you can do it best.
Experts agree that if you don’t consider how long things take, you’re setting yourself up for failure. You need to have a plan, otherwise you’ll waste time. Assigning work to times reduces the urge to procrastinate. You are no longer deciding whether or not to work during a given period; the decision is already made.”
Research shows that it’s even a good idea to schedule what you do with your free time. It increases quality of life.
- Assume you’re going home at 5:30 – Work will fill the space it’s given. Give it 24/7 and guess what happens? You need boundaries if you want work/ life balance. But this also helps you work better because it forces you to be efficient.
By setting a deadline of 5:30 and then scheduling tasks you can get control over that hurricane of duties. Fix your ideal schedule, then work backwards to make everything fit — ruthlessly culling obligations, turning people down, becoming hard to reach, and shedding marginally useful tasks along the way. Make that fixed schedule a reality and it forces any number of really smart and useful in-the- moment productivity decisions.
- Make a plan for the entire week – You’ll never get ahead of the game by only looking at today. Lay out a plan for the week. Try to come up with the best thing to do with each day. Maybe you think it’s enough to run down the week’s duties in your head. Nope. Studies show writing things down makes you more likely to follow through. A good idea is to write it in an email and send it to yourself.
Research shows you spend your time more wisely when you follow a plan. Preliminary analysis from CEOs in India found that a firm’s sales increased as the CEO worked more hours. But more intriguingly, the correlation between CEO time use and output was driven entirely by hours spent in planned activities. Planning doesn’t have to mean that the hours are spent in meetings, though meetings with employees were correlated with higher sales; it’s just that CEO time is a limited and valuable resource, and planning how it should be allocated increases the chances that it’s spent in productive ways.
- Do very few things, but be awesome at them – You need to do fewer things. Everything is not essential. You say “yes” to more than you need to. Ask “What’s creating real value in my life?” And then eliminate as much of the rest as you can. You’re judged on what you do best so if you want to have as much success as possible you’re always better off doing fewer things but doing those things better. People say yes to too much. Say no to most things. Be ruthless about avoiding or purging tasks if you realize they’re not providing much value. Little annoying tasks drain the life out of you. So do less. And be amazing at those things.
- Less shallow work, focus on the deep stuff – All work is not created equal. We deal with two fundamentally different types of work, Shallow and Deep: Shallow work is little stuff like email, meetings, moving information around. Things that are not really using your talents. Deep work pushes your current abilities to their limits. It produces high value results and improves your skills. And what’s the problem? Most of us are “drowning in the shallows.”
People who are the most busy often are getting a lot less done of significance than the people who are able to stop by 5PM every day. That’s because the whole reason they need to work at night and on the weekends is because their work life has become full of just shallows. They’re responding to messages, moving information around and being a human network router. These things are very time consuming and very low value.
Nobody became CEO because they responded to more email or went to more meetings. Shallow work stops you from getting fired — but deep work is what gets you promoted. Give yourself big blocks of uninterrupted time to make things of value.
Work is really just craftsmanship. It’s just that what you’re crafting results and not carved wood, and the more you think about it like a craftsman, the happier and more satisfied you’ll be, not to mention more successful.