Updated: Aug 23, 2021
Would you believe me if I told you the only thing between you and the most productive day you’ve had is 30 minutes of time?
30 minutes is all it takes to transition you from feeling overwhelmed and stressed out to an engineer who has a plan to conquer their day. Keep reading to find out how you can take control over your day and get your most important priorities accomplished.
Get to work 30 min early (30 min till work)
I know you may have stress about going to work because you feel like you have so much to do and don’t know where to begin and that’s OK! Prepare yourself before the actual work begins by getting to your workstation 30 min early. This will allow you time to plan out your day without being rushed. You want to plan out the day first so you can have a plan established before the chaos of work ensures. By having a plan, you have a framework to judge potential activities against and you can create pockets of time to place things. You conform your work to you instead of you conforming to it. As Benjamin Franklin said once said, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” I am not going to let you fail.
2. Brain dump (30 min till work)
This step is where the majority of your time will be spent. One reason we can feel overwhelmed is because we really don't know what work we need to complete. We forget about a task and when we are reminded of it, it creates stress that can be negatively expressed in your work. One way to overcome this is to brain dump all work activities that need to be completed into one sheet of paper. This will give you are 30,000 ft view on everything that you need to complete.
When listing tasks, make sure they are listed in Next Action format. Next Action format is when the tasks are written in such a way that the name itself tells you what to do with it.
“Send emails” becomes “Send email to Tom about Project XYZ Update”.
“Schedule meeting” becomes “Send meeting invite to Committee for update on Charter”.
You want the task name to tell you want to do so you can go through them quickly without having to remember what to do.
3. Find your BIG 3 (10 min till work)
If everything is important, nothing is. Some of your tasks are more important to the job you perform than others and those are the ones you want to prioritize and ensure that they get the attention they deserve. Your Big 3 will be the tasks that you build the rest of your day around. Be certain that you select wisely and the tasks are worthy of a heightened level of attention.
If you are struggling to pick your Big 3, try this exercise:
Ask yourself, “If I could only get one task on this list accomplished today, what would it be?” and select the task that best fulfills this. Perform this exercise 2 additional time to finalize your Big 3.
Once you have made your selections, transfer your Big 3 to their own sheet of paper. You do this to not be overwhelmed by looking at the full list and to ensure that your focus stays on your current tasks.
4. Time Block (5 min till work)
Next, you are going to set up dedicated time to work on each of your Big 3 tasks. These are called time blocks. What gets scheduled, gets done and that's your goal.
Open your calendar application and set up 3, 30-90 min meetings with yourself. For the name of the meeting, place that task name. You do this to remind yourself of what you should be working on during that time and make others aware that you are working on a task that is essential to you.
You always want to work on your tasks in descending order of complexity. Your hardest task should be worked on first and your easiest task should be worked on last. The reason for this is your willpower is highest during the morning and will decrease as the day progresses. A decrease in willpower will significantly impact your ability to convince yourself to work on a task that you know is difficult.
A tip that I have is to schedule your first time block for the first 30-90 min of your day. The reason for this is, for most people, the first 30-90 min is spent eating breakfast, getting coffee, and speaking with coworkers. While others are doing this, your chances of being distracted with important things fall dramatically. Also once others are finally sitting down to work, you will have already made significant progress on your most important task for the day.
5. Respect your time and DO THE WORK!
All of this planning, prioritization and time blocking will be worthless if you don’t do the work when the time comes. In the same way that you wouldn’t show up late or be distracted in meeting your boss organizes, don't be late or distracted in the meeting you set for yourself.
Tips for working in time blocks
Set a timer on your phone for the time block duration. This will prevent you from checking your phone and potentially getting distracted.
Place your phone in Airplane or Do Not Disturb mode to silence distracting notifications
Turn off email notifications, pop-up or chimes.
Close your door or if you work in a cubicle, put on headphones. (Be sure to play music that will not distract you. If you bob your head to it, don’t listen to it)
If you work in a cubicle, you can also put up a sign that says, “Working to meet a deadline. Please do not disturb. I will be finished at XX:XX am/pm”
Give yourself at least 20 min between the end on your time block and your next activity. This will give you time to decompress.
By performing these 5 steps, you will not only have the most productive day in only 30 minutes, you will have a framework to capture everything you need to do and a method to ensure your most important tasks get completed. These steps may seem simple but they are a sure fire way to transition you from being stressed out and overwhelmed to an engineer who is productive and consistently producing quality work on time.
If you want more help or individualized attention on how to plan out your day and transition from being overwhelmed to productive, message me. I would love to help you!
Thank you for reading!