Why is it that one of the simplest, YET THE HARDEST, tasks is sticking to a schedule? We’re bombarded constantly with bright shiny objects that are always pulling us away from our most productive and important work, so it’s no wonder it’s always getting tossed out of the window!
It seems as though everyone is obsessed with creating and maintaining this “perfect” schedule, which allows for time to do absolutely everything, and then we’re surprised when it doesn’t go as planned. This is likely because we are always overscheduling ourselves and have a skewed view as to what can really get done in a day. We all have the same amount of minutes in a day, so why is it that some of us tend to get more done than others? Let’s take a bit of a closer look.
Unrealistic Time Expectations: some tasks just wind up taking longer than we anticipate, which eats into our next task’s time allotment. We feel this is one of the biggest time hijackers there is and there’s really no way to prevent it. Research can just sometimes take longer, or maybe it’s one of those tech days where NOTHING is working! Our tip for this hiccup: schedule some buffer time between your tasks in case something takes a bit longer. Or better yet, schedule some time 1-2 times per week to either complete unfinished tasks, or to complete ones that got bumped completely.
Multitasking: We’ve talked about this at length before and we’ll say it again – no one is good at multitasking and everything actually takes longer to complete when simultaneously actioning tasks. Creating your list of what needs to be done that day (and maybe a few “wants”!) will give you the visual of what needs to be done and allows you to run down the list and check things off one at a time.
Emails: If you are not actively responding/writing emails then close the window entirely and mute your inbox. Emails are the biggest freaking distractions and can derail your day in a matter of minutes. Better yet, silence the notification on all your other devices for email, too! Allow yourself to check emails at certain points during the day when you have the ability to zone in for 15-30 minutes and then get back to the real work. CHECKING YOUR EMAILS IS NOT THE MAIN FOCUS OF YOUR WORK!
Water Cooler Chat: Whether it’s a virtual or in-person “water cooler”, try not to allow chatting with co-workers, friends, etc. to hijack your day. While we all certainly need to vent and catch up with others (plus it’s nice to be able to do so in person again!), it’s so easy to just lose an hour almost instantly. Our suggestion so that you can truly enjoy this time, schedule time for a coffee (virtual or in-person!) and allow yourself that time, then you’ll feel refreshed and ready to get back to work!
There will always be days or weeks where scheduling is just more challenging; we find that this happens most in the summer or around holidays, so don’t be too hard on yourself. At the end of the day, all you can do is your best. And if you’re able to shift your schedule around a bit to accommodate for these interruptions, then by all means, do so! Shutting off the distractions and really focusing in on your work for a couple of hours will actually save you so much time in the long run. And if you’re able to, get some help for parts of the tasks so that they actually get completed sooner. Think of it like this: if the whole task is a puzzle, your focus are the outer edges to define the boundaries and others can help you complete the inside part. When you all work together with different perspectives, you wind up getting the puzzle done much quicker (and likely with a much higher quality end result!).