When you start scheduling tasks you may feel overwhelmed with an over-scheduled rigid plan. This guide will help you better schedule your day to maximize productivity whilst minimizing the likelihood of burnout.
I’ve been scheduling tasks into my day to varying degrees over the past few years. Some days were scheduled to the minute while others were left with a lot more breathing space. After some experimentation, I found a few techniques that help me increase my productivity effectively. These may not all work for you, but hopefully, some would resonate with your workflow.
Add time durations to your tasks
Looking at a long list of tasks can sometimes feel daunting. Adding durations to tasks provides more context on how busy you actually are. Having ten tasks on your to-do list can feel overwhelming. Knowing that each of these tasks will only take ten minutes can ease off that burden and provide you with more clarity into your day.
Predicting how long a task takes can be difficult. I find it helpful to always round up when I’m unsure. For example, if you expect a task to take 30-45 minutes you should schedule it in for 45 minutes. If you finish it in 30 minutes you can celebrate finishing it early, and if it takes up all 45 minutes then you’re still within your schedule! 🎉
Another benefit of adding durations to your tasks is that it helps when you schedule them into your day. Whether you schedule your day manually or use Sorted’s auto-schedule feature, durations help you plan your day more accurately.
Prepare for contingencies
Our day doesn’t always go as planned, and that’s okay. Planning for unexpected contingencies allows our schedule to adapt to changes in our day.
Sometimes a meeting goes a few minutes over schedule, a friend calls you out of the blue or you get hooked into a Twitter thread during lunch.
You can account for small interruptions to your schedule by including buffers between your tasks. Adding in even a 15-minute buffer between tasks can go a long way towards keeping you on track. You can do this yourself by scheduling tasks to start a few minutes after the previous one. Alternatively, if you use Sorted, auto-schedule can automatically add buffers between tasks for you.
Large changes are harder to plan for in advance. As a software developer, an urgent bug fix may be thrown my way unexpectedly. A 15-minute buffer between tasks just can’t account for such big changes.
For such occasions, you may need to reschedule your day. Fortunately, most apps make it easy to do that. In Sorted, you can use the Time Ruler to easily change the start time of multiple tasks at once. Just select all the tasks you’d like to reschedule and drag on the Time Ruler to change the start time. You can also use auto-schedule to reschedule your entire day.
If your day suddenly has too many tasks as a result of a large unexpected one, you can select multiple tasks and schedule them for tomorrow or any other day in the future.
If you find yourself having to reschedule due to large changes too often then you may be over-scheduling your day. In that case, it may be worth scheduling an hour or so into your day for large unexpected tasks. If nothing comes up then you can use that time to work through low priority tasks in your inbox.
Don’t feel guilty for rescheduling your day
Your schedule is there to serve you not to work against you. You’re more familiar with your day today than you were yesterday, so if you feel something needs to be moved around then move it around! Just make sure you’re hitting your targets and deadlines.
Keep your schedule realistic
When you first start scheduling your day, you notice that there are more hours in your day than you normally paid attention to. That’s great! But be careful not to fill up every minute of every day from the get-go. Start easy and gradually schedule more in as you learn more about yourself. An unrealistic schedule means you’re less likely to schedule your day tomorrow, and that’s not what we’re going for!
Make use of a backlog
Add new tasks into a backlog rather than entering them straight into today’s schedule. A backlog helps you keep a clear mind as you decide which tasks are most important to do as opposed to filling up your schedule with every task that pops up. I add all new tasks to a backlog then schedule the most important ones at the start of the day.
Bonus tip: do what works for you
I know I said I’ll be sharing five tips, but who doesn’t love a bonus? The most important lesson I can share is to do what works best for you. You’ll learn a lot from scheduling your day and you’ll find tips that suit your workflow. My only ask is that you share these tips with us on Twitter.
Marwan is an iOS developer with a passion towards running, building great apps, and tweeting your favourite memes.