Now that you have your prioritized to-do list, it’s time to plan out how you’ll complete it in the most efficient and effective way possible.
Time Box Your Tasks
Think about time as a flexible resource that expands or contracts based on the limits you set. What if your first task eats up more of your time than you expected? To prevent this from happening, you can plan a box of time for each task. Once you reach the end of that box, you’ll decide whether to continue by expanding the time limit, or put off finishing it for the next day.
For example, you might decide that the most important thing today is to finish writing copy for your landing page. So, you set aside two hours to do it in the morning. At the end of that two hours, you’re not quite done. You’ve gotten stuck in the details or refining the wording, and it’s going to take at least another hour.
You might look at the time and your list and decide to make finishing your copy as the first priority tomorrow, when your mind can focus with renewed energy. Then, proceed with the next item on your list.
Find Your Natural Rhythms
Each of us has times of day when we’re most productive. You may also have a certain time when you’re best at problem solving or communicating with others. Try to schedule tasks during these optimal times of day.
Maybe your most creative time of day is late morning. If so, schedule tasks like content creation for the hour or two before lunch. If you’re at your most social in the late afternoon, set this time for writing important emails or holding meetings.
Plan for Interruptions
No matter how well you plan, some things are likely to take longer than you thought. There may be interruptions or problems you hadn’t anticipated that you have to deal with right away. To allow for the unexpected, you have to pad your to-do list schedule with extra time blocks.
Even if things don’t take longer than expected, padding your schedule still has an advantage. You’ll be done with your work more quickly than you anticipated, which means you can finish your day sooner or get started on tomorrow’s tasks.
To plan for interruptions, try the following:
Overestimate: When setting time limits on the items on your list, overestimate the time it will take to complete them. Don’t schedule a morning or afternoon too tightly or you’ll be under constant pressure and will inevitably start running behind. And if you’re always running behind schedule, you’ll end up back on that treadmill of always trying to catch up.
Buffer: Add a buffer of time in your schedule between blocks of work. For example, if you’re dividing up your time into 2-hour blocks, schedule in a 20 to 30 minute buffer with no specific task in between each 2 hour block.
Plan for Catch-Up: Another idea is to schedule specific “catch-up time”, such as just before lunch or at the end of the day. And if you don’t need it, you can use this time to take a break.
Remember also that you can always put off an item until the next day if it’s going unexpectedly longer and you need a fresh mind to tackle it.
Batch Tasks for Better Efficiency
Sometimes, it’s not efficient to work on each task every day. Instead, you might take certain items and “batch” them by setting aside a longer block of time or even a full day to work on them.
For example, you might publish a weekly video or podcast. It takes time to set up equipment, record, edit, and produce the content each time. However, if you only have to set up everything once, you can save a significant amount of time. In this case, you might reserve Fridays for video production. Related tasks such as scripting and editing can be done then, or added to other days’ to-do lists.
If you have a large number of client calls to make, it might be better to schedule them on two separate mornings rather than trying to space them out day-by-day. This is also a good strategy for tasks where you need to get “in the zone” – where you need to prepare your mindset to tackle the task appropriately.
Use Project Management Tools
Any system for managing the tasks you have to do is fine as long as it works for you. But consider using a project management system to make keeping track of everything easier.
Project management systems include features such as:
- Interactive Calendars. You can manage your schedule easily and customize what’s included and how it displays.
- Multiple Project. With several projects, whether short or long-term, you can see where you are in each at a glance.
- Variety of Methods. These programs have to-do lists, time management, and other methods to help you plan.
- Built-In Tools. They have tools to help you with tasks that might be your weak points, like planning a budget.
- Shareability. Since they’re online, you can share with team members easily and access anywhere you have internet.
There are many free and premium programs. It’s best to try out free programs first. A simple free program may be just what you need.
If you’re considering paying for a premium project management program, don’t buy extras that you don’t need. Take advantage of free trials and make sure it’s right for you before you buy.
Some of the most highly-rated systems right now include:
Wrike – www.wrike.com
Trello – https://trello.com/
Basecamp – https://basecamp.com/
Asana – asana.com/
SmartSheet – https://www.smartsheet.com/
Don’t get too complicated with project management tools. Remember that the whole point is to make things easier. You may be able to get by just using an online calendar.
Getting Ready for Tomorrow
At the end of each day, look at your list and get ready for tomorrow. If there are tasks you didn’t get to today, put them on your list for tomorrow.
Ideally, you should plan out your entire week in advance to maximize your time. Then, at the end of each day, you’ll refine the next day’s schedule to take into account any changes needed or unexpected tasks that have come up.
About once a week, or at whatever pace works for you, review long-term projects and check in to see how you’re doing. Look at the system you’ve implemented and see whether it’s working or not. These systems are highly personalized and made perfect through trial and error, and constant revis
- Take the one item from your To-Do List that you decided was mostly likely to impact your income and list each task you need to do in order to complete it. Use your project management tool or a pencil and paper – whatever works for you.
- Next, take each task and choose a day and productive time of day to tackle it. Schedule it on your calendar, batching tasks where it makes sense to do several related things in one day or longer block of time.
- Plan the rest of your week based on the concepts and tips in the module, including any recurring daily tasks as well. For items that you’ll do in blocks, set aside that block of time on your calendar. Remember to:
- Overestimate how long a task will take
- Add buffer time between blocks
- Include free or catch-up time