Eat that frog!
That's just one of the five recommendations in a recent article by Khe Hy how to plan ahead for successful work days. He notes that most of us tend to start with intentions to be productive, but we quickly get derailed by the flood of emails and other tasks.
Hy rounds up five considerations from productivity experts for structuring your workday in ways that help you manage your time and energy better. Taking a few minutes to do this can help make your Monday—and each following day—get off on the right start.
1: What should you work on first?
If you're like most people, Hy writes, you probably have just one to-do list that collects all the different kinds of things you need to do. However, he notes that this can lead you to spend all of your attention on urgent tasks that contribute little to your overall mission. Instead, he recommends dividing your to-do list into things that are:
- Important and urgent;
- Important but not urgent;
- Urgent but not important; and
- Neither important nor urgent.
This way, you can make smarter decisions about how to process each type of task—such as delegating the less important ones.
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2: When do you focus best?
Hy suggests carving out time for uninterrupted sessions of intense, intellectual work. One advocate of this strategy is Cal Newport, a computer science professor at Georgetown University and productivity guru, who calls this "deep work." But for workers who don't have much control over their schedules, Hy recommends the Pomodoro method instead.
3: Is every meeting worth it?
Hy shares advice from Paul Graham, co-founder of startup incubator Y Combinator, who argues that there are two types of work schedules: manager schedules and maker schedules. People on manager schedules tend to change what they do each hour, as a natural result of spending much of their time in meetings. People on maker schedules tend to spend longer blocks of time working on creative tasks such as writing or programming.
Meetings can be particularly disruptive for people on maker schedules, because they get in the way of the uninterrupted stretches of time those individuals prefer. Hy recommends considering this before scheduling a meeting.
4: Are you energizing your team?
Leaders will see better results if they create an environment that energizes their team, Tony Schwartz and Jim Loehr argue in their book, The Power of Full Engagement. For example, Hy recommends building a culture and policies that support work-life balance, reduce stress, and emphasize your organization's mission.
5: What's the worst task on your to-do list?
Some tasks linger on our to-do lists because we dread them so much, Hy writes. Instead of putting them off, he recommends advice from productivity guru Brian Tracy: just eat the frog. Eat a frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you for the rest of the day, according to an old adage (often spuriously attributed to Mark Twain). Getting rid of your most unpleasant task first thing in the morning (or early in the week) will give you an extra boost of motivation, Hy writes (Hy, Quartz, 10/11).
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