I’ve been a business owner for eight years, and during that time I’ve realized that the more work I was able to get done during the day, the more time I would have at the end of the day to to not work or to spend time with family, friends or going to church events. And time at the end of the day allows me to recharge for the next day. I have been on a steady practice of trying to improve my work habits since then. If I can get more work done done in the time allotted and get better work done in the time allotted, it’s going to lead to wins. If I am able to get one more productive hour out of the week, that adds up considerably over the course of the year.

So here are some thoughts, some framework that I’ve discovered that works really well for me and might work really well for you. So one use micro scheduling. Block out the entire day and 30 minutes time entries to budget your time. Instead of being constantly reactive or not having a plan, budget your time out based on your priorities. Each day my day is scheduled out to at least 30 minutes windows to work on different items.

It allows me to tell my time what I’m going to work on instead of trying to deal with whatever seems the most urgent. Urgent is not always important. The second component of that is planning your day the day before. Since I use micro scheduling, some people call it time blocking. I have to know what I’m going to do in those time blocks.

Every day before I shut down for the day, I go over my to do list and my appointment calendar and use that to plan how my time should be allotted for the next day. For me, this covers from when I wake up in the morning to when I go to bed at night, but also build time breaks into your week unless something weird happens. When I am done at work in the evening, usually between 430 and 530, I am done at work until the next morning. I stop looking at emails and I pay attention to where I’m at and who I am with, which is usually my family. If you do not take breaks, you’re going to minimize your effectiveness when you’re on the clock.

The human mind can only work for so long before it gets diminishing returns. If you have a chance to build a break into your day, that can help as well. Lunch is a great way to work this in. I can mentally tell when I’ve been running hard all day without a break versus when I get a chance to take a break in the middle of the day. You can tell it at night how your brain feels and how you are able to interact with others.

At the end of the day, when I’m planning my schedule, I also set out three big targets. What are the three things I need to do to count this day as a success today? One of those was recording this podcast. This also helps me to shape the day. Does my entire plan work out the way I plan it?

Not always. Fires happen, distractions happen. But with three big targets, it allows me to have a focal point for the work of the day. Consequently, I usually book time for those earlier in the morning so that I can have a better chance of accomplishing them on that schedule. It is also important to leave margin in that time blocked schedule.

If you overbook that time, you will find yourself with not enough time to deal with any distractions or fires that show up throughout the day. I actually book time for email, checking on my calendar so that I can keep that activity focused, and I even book time to plan my next day and manage my to do list. Now, speaking of email email has a tendency to take over our lives. Instead of being a tool vigilant, email checks cause us to be overreactive. My advice?

Turn off email notifications on your phone and on your desktop, and I would even take it a step further hide your inboxes. Make it more difficult to see what email is coming in so that you can stay mentally focused on what you’re currently working on. Focus is a hugely valuable commodity that our modern world seeks actively to weaken. Hiding inboxes allows you to still search for an old email, to find notes on a meeting that you’re working on, or compose an email as part of a current project without going down the rabbit hole of the latest issues deposited into your inbox. While we’re talking about distractions, let’s also turn off all non critical notifications on our phones.

What’s critical? It’s different for everybody, but for me, things like security systems, website downtime monitors, bank notifications, and calendar events. I take this a step further and silence all incoming calls and texts unless that person is on a very, very short list of people like my team or my wife. When I’m really getting into deep work blocks of time, my phone will go to the other side of the room to prevent me from picking it up and checking it all the time. Additionally, with Focus modes on Apple Now, I have even more focused mode that’s Do Not Disturb, that blocks out everything and everyone except for security alarms and my wife.

But I also have a personal mode time that blocks out my work team so they won’t unintentionally bother me during my time off. Our team uses Slack to communicate internally. This is a great tool, but with nine team members and four interns and lots of open projects, it can be a very noisy place when I’m working on projects. I am now closing Slack for about an hour at a time. This minimizes notifications and distractions, but I also check it once an hour on my breaks for my project to make sure that the team has what they need to be successful.

Music can be helpful, but I find typical music to be really exhausting or distracting over time. I would recommend Focused music or something like Lo Fi Beats to listen to while you work. It can help block out background noises and help your brain focus on the thing that you’re working on. I sometimes also pair this with rainymood.com to help drown out the background noise from my work from home life. I also use a Pomodoro timer to work for 48 minutes on, ten minutes off.

This tool is built into my browser. Since most of our work is done through browsers, it is called Strict Workflow. This serves two ends. One, it helps me work on something for 48 minutes. Sometimes I’m not in the mood to work, but if I can force myself to start the timer, it really does help me start the ball rolling and start working.

And then two, it gives me little breaks that allow me to have a better run through the course of my day. Those little breaks help rejuvenate me for the next 48 minutes. Block finally, an overarching comment. Think critically about how you work. Do you work better in the mornings?

Do you work better in the afternoons? If so, how can you maximize that time? Maybe work on shifting more meetings to one half of the day so that you can have more of your productive time to get things done. Maybe you get to work an hour early and get more time in before everybody else is there. Think critically about where your distractions are coming from on any given day and see if there are ways to mitigate those.

Think critically about what it means to have a successful workday. What do you really need to accomplish or make progress on? And keep that in mind. Framing what success looks like can help you have a better start to tomorrow. If you found anything helpful in this episode, text it to a friend.

=If you have any additional questions, shoot me an email. Thanks for listening to the Content Machine podcast from Adelsburger Marketing.

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