Checking off to-do lists can be helpful. As can setting guidelines to avoid slacking off. But the fact of the matter is that the structure of your day has a lot to do with your success. In fact, very successful people tend to structure their days similarly because the brain tends to function better at certain points during the day, no matter what you’re working on.
Here’s a closer look at how to structure your day for success.
1. Include some routine, but don’t over schedule.
You don’t have to plan out every inch of your day, but it is helpful to start your day with a daily routine so your brain doesn’t have to waste Energy figuring out what to do during every portion of the day. For example, starting your day with meditation, exercise, and a good breakfast is not only inherently good for focusing your mind, it also means that your mind can run on auto-pilot instead of dissecting how you’ll most productively spend your morning.
2. Don’t put off the most difficult tasks.
The first three hours of the workday are considered the most productive. That’s when you should be doing tasks that require the most focus and fine tuning. It’s not a good time to answer emails, look at social media, or scroll through Twitter because you end up wasting these golden hours.
“Typically, we have a window of about three hours where we’re really, really focused. We’re able to have some strong contributions in terms of planning, in terms of thinking, in terms of speaking well,” Ron Friedman, Ph.D., author of The Best Place to Work said to the Harvard Review. “And if we end up squandering those first three hours reacting to other people’s priorities for us, which is ultimately what voice mail, or email is, is a list of other people’s requests for our time, that ends up using up our best hours and we’re not quite as effective as we could be.”
3. Take breaks.
In the afternoon especially, we typically have around 90 to 120 minutes of focus before we start to lag. It’s best to take breaks every few hours to ensure you’re not wasting your focus. Get up and walk around, grab a snack, or sneak a little shut-eye. Breaks aren’t about laziness, rather, they’re about ensuring that you’re always putting your best foot forward.
4. Be aware of the 3 p.m. energy drop off.
So yeah, it’s a real thing. Our energy does begin to drop off around 3 p.m. because the hormone melatonin is naturally released into the brain. You can’t help it. It’s just what happens. So instead of judging yourself for being lazy everyday in the late afternoon, this is a great time to Schedule easier, less important tasks. Respond to emails, catch up on social media, layout your calendar, play administrative catch-up. Whatever has to be done but doesn’t take loads of brain power, is a good fit during the 3 p.m. drop off.
5. Learn to shut it off.
Have you ever had one of those days that was so busy that the next day you just couldn’t recover? It’s not all in your head. In order to return to work refreshed and ready to go each day, you really need to learn to shut it off. According to the Harvard Business Review, it’s all about managing your energy correctly. It’s a finite resource and once you’ve gone past it, your work has diminishing returns. Leave your smart phone in another room and force yourself to avoid checking emails and responding to coworkers until your workday resumes.
6. Structure your day to avoid self-destructive habits.
If you have one too many beers when you go out with your buddies on a Wednesday night, this can take away from your productivity the next day. Maybe you’d rather schedule a Wednesday night yoga class or group run to blow off some steam. If you end up staying up too late on work nights because you’re addicted to “Game of Thrones”, it might be worth getting rid of HBO so you can’t watch it. We all have habits that take away from our productivity and by taking an aerial view of what these habits are, you can begin to change the root of the problem.
What’s your secret to success? We want to know. Drop us a line via Twitter @EcoSalon.
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