Rare is the worker who enters the office on a Monday and doesn’t feel overwhelmed by the sheer weight of the to-do list. Let’s face it, some weeks are just so packed with projects that it can make your head explode - but it doesn’t have to be that way.
One way to survive these weeks is to be proactive, rather than reactive, and ensure everything gets done. Planning and routine are your keys to survival. Here are some tips to plan your work week more efficiently.
One task at a time It can be tempting to try and multitask to get a handle on your workload. Scientific studies, however, have shown this actually drains the brain of energy as you switch between tasks. When you are interrupted, it takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds on average to return to your original activity, according to Gloria Mark, a professor at the University of California.
Instead, try and stick to one task at a time. Plan the week ahead by blocking out time slots in your calendar. That could be setting aside an hour each morning dedicated to emails, afternoons for meetings, or defined hours to work on that new project. Then, be disciplined. But do allow for some flexibility – say around 25-30% of your time – for the really urgent requests.
Group tasks together As travelling to meetings can be a waste of time, try to group all your external meetings into the same afternoon. That way you won’t spend too much time going back and forth to the office.
As far as possible, try to separate your slots for meetings from the hours actually spent at your desk working. It not only saves time, but also will boost your concentration, as you are not constantly getting interrupted. Learn the art of managing meetings in order to get your work week more organised. The less scattered your schedule, the more time you have to get stuff done.
Own your email Without realising it, you can be so engrossed emailing or communicating with others that the entire day passes by. Worse, your to-do list probably just got longer. It is very easy to get consumed by emails and worry about the little number creeping up, or email notifications constantly interrupting your flow of thought.
To do email well, you must stop doing it – at least, all the time. As mentioned above, set aside clear periods to deal with emails during the day, such as one hour in the morning, one hour after lunch and an hour before the end of the day. Use that time to answer important queries, or delegate tasks to relevant teams. You can reduce the amount of time you spend on emails by ditching some of these pointless phrases, too. If the matter is urgent, the person will call you. Remember: if you’re emailing all day, you’re not getting anything worthwhile done.
Friday recap If you know the following week will be hectic, use the end of Friday to reflect on the week just gone, jot down looming deadlines and note the important things scheduled to take place. Fridays are usually calmer, allowing you to prioritise tasks with a clear head – then you can hit the ground running on Monday morning, fresh after the weekend.