How to schedule your business day for maximum productivity
Love to achieve more every working day? Here’s how to plan your business day for maximum productivity, hour by hour.
We’ve all had those days when we just feel bleurgh. We may have spent six or eight hours at our desk, but we’ve not got much to show for it. Indeed, we may as well have taken the day off for all the progress we’ve made on our business.
Conversely, we’ve also had those days when we’ve powered through on a wave of energy. We’ve worked productively on tasks that collectively have moved our business forward. And we finish the day on a satisfying high, knowing we’re streets ahead of where we started that morning.
So how can we make sure we have more of the second type of day, and avoid the first one? It all comes down, like many things, to planning and intention.
How to schedule your business day for maximum productivity
Rather than leaving your working day down to luck or your prevailing energy level, you can take simple steps to ensure that you stand a pretty good chance of having an amazingly productive day every working day.
So, if you run your own business, here’s some advice on how to schedule your working day for maximum productivity.
Early morning exercise has been recommended by most health experts as a great way to kick start your day – if you have the time, energy and opportunity!
A morning aerobic session has been linked to increased mental alertness throughout the day, as your brain apparently receives more oxygen. Early morning workouts can also give you a surge of energy to embark on your daily activities, plus keep you physically fit.
If you don’t have the opportunity to get to the gym first thing in the morning, you could try to get out for a short run, or do some indoor yoga (or work out to a fitness video).
It may feel hard to get the motivation to start but trust us, once you start noticing the benefits from regular morning exercise, even if it’s just a couple of times a week, it will soon start to get easier.
07.00: Freshen up
One you’ve finished/recovered from your morning workout, get ready for work. (If you’re a mum, this time slot will also inevitably involve dressing or cajoling children into their clothes too.)
07.40: Eat a healthy breakfast
Your breakfast will need to fuel you through the school run and commute to your office (or back home again) and then through a busy morning. So eat well!
Personally we love any breakfast that involves eggs and wholemeal toast. These healthy breakfast jars from Linda Barker are delicious too.
08.00: Prepare to go out
If you have school or nursery-age kids, this is probably the time you’re heading out for your school run. Make sure you drive carefully and keep everyone safe!
09.00: Plan your day
Get a head start on your day by planning your activities carefully. Personally we love using a Success List to ensure we’re working productively on the tasks that will take our business forward.
When you’ve finished your Success List you’ll have a list of tasks you need to complete for the day ahead.
09.10: Start work!
Once your Success List (or whatever planning system you use) is ready you can start work. If you find yourself procrastinating or struggling to get going, there are a few tips and tools you can use:
- Do a day’s work in just 90 minutes using focus blocks
- Try this simple technique to overcome procrastination
- Five tips to avoid the social media time suck
As an overall strategy for working productively, this simple system works well:
- Rank your daily tasks according to priority.
- Write an action plan for each activity.
- Add a time frame to each action plan to complete it.
Action plans and time frames are important when you have no one but yourself to supervise you, and can help to forestall the possibility of procrastination and instil work discipline.
Without some kind of planned work strategy you risk spending your time on easy or more pleasurable tasks, at the expense of those that will genuinely ensure you make productive progress. So find one that works for you and use it!
12.30: Take a lunch break
As tempting as it is to work through lunch, especially if you need to end your work day early for the school run, make sure you take a break. Your body needs food, and your mind needs some breathing space.
So get out from behind your desk and spend even just a short time in the outside world. Walk around a park or even just the block. Look at the sky, the world about you. Take deep breaths. Stretch your legs. And don’t forget to eat.
Your body and mind will reward you with a more energised, productive afternoon and much clearer thinking.
13.30: Increase your visibility
After lunch, the atmosphere at most workplaces tends to be relaxed. It’s also a great time to be creative (especially if you’ve taken a break from your desk), so if you have any marketing or PR tasks on your list, plan them for after lunch.
Other good tasks to plan for this time are social media, customer care, emails and even working on your business plan.
15.00: Take a break
It’s quite common to find yourself in a full-on energy slump mid-afternoon. But before you reach for the chocolate biscuits or grab a coffee, take a short break. Take this opportunity to post a letter, get a household task done (if you work from home) or even just run up and down a couple of flights of stairs.
And if you still feel drowsy, drink a large glass of water to hydrate yourself and eat a piece of fruit or handful of nuts.
If you have school age children, this may well be the end of your official working day anyway, and you could be heading out the door for the school run now.
16.00: Wind up
If you’re still at your desk, you’re now in the final lap of your working day. If you’ve planned your day well, most of your tasks should now be complete.
Look for any activities which might not have been adequately done or issues not fully addressed. If you can finish them now, do so. If they need further action or thought, add them to tomorrow’s task list – or schedule for later.
Make sure that everything that was on your list for today has already been completed, or is scheduled to be dealt with at a later date.
16.30: Take stock of what you did and plan ahead
There are few things more satisfying in life than a day well spent. And an easy way to get that sense of satisfaction from your work day is to write a Done List. So before you leave the office or your home workspace today, write a quick list of everything you have achieved.
There’s one more thing you need to do before you go – and that’s getting a head start on your task list for tomorrow. So start taking stock of the uncompleted tasks you have moved over to tomorrow, and add any other jobs or goals that come to mind, ready to order into a Success List when you start work tomorrow.
17.00: Tidy your desk and leave work
If you haven’t already finished work for the school run, you’re now probably packing up, or preparing to. Take five minutes to tidy your desk and switch everything off before you go – it’s much nicer to start a day’s work with a clean and tidy desk.
If you have any scraps of paper or notes, file or throw them, and transfer any important messages to the appropriate place.
18.00: Home routine
If you’re a parent, 6pm no longer means meeting your mates or colleagues in your favourite bar for happy hour drinks. Instead, it’s much more likely to include preparing dinner, overseeing homework and the start of your regular evening routine.
Don’t be tempted to try and blur the lines of work and home, though. All too often we mistake ‘work-life balance’ as a life where you can successfully do both at once. But it’s much healthier instead to have defined times in your day for each, and clear boundaries between the two.
So when you’re at home with your kids you’re really with them, giving them your undivided attention. And likewise, when you are working you can devote your entire focus to your work.
Trying to prepare dinner, do the ironing and oversee homework while checking and sending emails is a recipe for stress and silly mistakes – trust us!
20.00: Briefly catch up on business – then relax!
If you have been wise about planning your day (remember your Success List?) you shouldn’t need to work once your children are in bed as a rule. But if something urgent has come up, or you’ve had a brilliant idea, take care of it now.
Then switch off from work. Watch TV with your partner, go out to meet friends, go to the gym, or read a book. Do something that helps you unwind and puts a smile on your face.
A life that’s just packed with work and family duties isn’t sustainable and won’t shape you into the happy mother and creative business owner you aspire to be.
21.30: Go to sleep
Whatever time you usually go to bed (obviously 9:30pm is just a suggestion!), make sure you genuinely switch off. Turn off your phone or laptop and practice good ‘sleep hygiene’ (habits that increase your chances of a good night’s sleep).
If your children aren’t great sleepers, make sure you read up on tips to help them sleep well too – after all, if they do, you’re much more likely to.
With a good night’s sleep you’ll be much better prepared to get up in the morning and do it all over again!
Lori Wade is a freelance content writer who is interested in a wide range of spheres from education and online marketing to entrepreneurship. She is also an aspiring tutor striving to bring education to another level like we all do. You can find Lori on Twitter or Google+.