It’s always interesting to see how things become “normal” — for instance, since the Industrial Revolution, everybody’s pretty much just accepted that an 8 hour day (with one break in the middle) is how we should work.
But actually, behaviour and performance research shows that as humans, we do better when we don’t push straight through the day. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, you’re much more likely to get more done in less time (not to mention feel better) if you divide your day. Try it out with these techniques:
Pomodoro and similar systems
As humans, we’re really only able to give great, concentrated attention to something in short bursts. So instead of trying to buckle down to one task for hours on end, instead; try breaking your day up into small chunks that are better suited for your natural attention span. There are loads of methods for doing this, but the Pomodoro method of 25 minutes on, 5 minutes off, is one of the most popular.
Follow your energy
We all go through cycles of energy throughout the day, so if you can divide your day according to these peaks and troughs, you can often be much more productive. This is of course easier if you work for yourself, or at a place with flexible start times (like Clear Books), but even if you’re in a more traditional work setting there are loads of things you can do to match your tasks with your energy at any given time. For instance, if you know that you always hit a slump around 4PM, then plan to do stuff that doesn’t require a lot of brainpower then, like paperwork, and save the high intensity stuff for another time during the day.
While you’re following your energy patterns, why not batch tasks to get even more done? Batching tasks is a method of working in which you take things that you would normally do repeatedly over an extended period of time, such as writing blog posts, catching up on industry papers, or even cooking, and instead do them in concentrated batches.
So for instance, if you have to write one blog post every week, instead of actually writing one post per week, you could write four at the beginning of the month. On a more micro scale, you could batch tasks throughout your day, like answering emails in two pre-determined batches rather than ad hoc. This lets you get into the flow of doing these tasks without interruptions, which means you’ll be able to work faster and get more done.
Have clear boundaries
Finally, make sure that you create clear boundaries to mark the beginning and the end of the different parts of your day. Physical cues are great for this — for instance, if you’re going to work in short increments, you could get a glass of water every time you set your timer. Both those physical actions at the beginning of that increment will clue your brain in that it’s time to get focused. Similarly, it’s good to create cues like this as you switch from one type of activity to another, whether that’s switching from high energy work to low energy work, or from work time to home time.
How do you divide your day? Tell us in the comments below!