An hour, a day, or even a week can seem like an insignificant amount of time, but they all add up. The small steps and tiny habits we engage in comprise our lives, so it’s important to be very mindful and strategic with our time.
However, working faster and not wasting time isn’t the only thing we must master to achieve our goals. Sometimes, we need to refine how we manage our energy.
The secret sauce to making the most of your week is to avoid “context switching.” This means sticking with one activity as much as possible before moving on to something else. Our brains are not wired to multitask.
As much as you hate to admit it, writing that report and that email at the same time is way less efficient than doing both tasks separately.
That gap of processing time during which your mind is switching gears between all the tasks you have going at once is what is referred to as context switching. And this idea of context switching during your workday can also be applied to two unrelated back-to-back tasks. Your mind has to adjust if these two tasks are vastly different from one another, and it’s as if you are multitasking even if you’re doing these two unrelated tasks separately.
The solution to this issue is to create a plan for your week that minimizes the amount of context switching you have to do. Let’s break down your schedule by week, day, and hour to see how you can have the best work week yet!
The Weekly View
First, let’s look at your week and plan out each day.
At DotConnect, we love planning our week with “Themed Days.” This involves structuring your week so that each day has an overarching theme or focus. This minimizes the amount of context switching you do at your job.
For example, Mondays can become your marketing days. Tuesdays can be client meeting days, while Wednesdays might be spent doing research. You might then switch back to client meetings on Thursdays.
You get the picture! Choose whatever themes will work best for you and your responsibilities. The most important idea here is that you spend your day avoiding context switching between two vastly different tasks.
You can also design your workdays based on what makes you feel good! If you love being creative, plan to do that work on Fridays so you can coast into the weekend. If getting the most difficult stuff out of the way is important to you, try doing that on Tuesdays — it might be too much for a Monday.
This way of structuring your week not only makes things easier on your mind, but it will also boost your productivity as a result!
So, as you plan your week, think about what themes you’d like to give your days. When you have that set, it’s time to break your week down even further.
The Daily View
Now let’s take those themed days and break them down even further.
Go through your week and take note of what you have scheduled. If you can, make sure you have meetings and events organized so that they take place on the appropriate theme day.
It’s ok if it isn’t perfect — try not to put too much pressure on yourself because stress is a real productivity killer.
Next, break up your day-by-time blocking. Even within a themed day, it’s possible to context switch to your own detriment.
Let’s say it’s marketing day. If you start by tackling emails, switch to Instagram marketing, continue with a blog post, switch back to writing emails, and finish with more Instagram marketing, you are switching contexts too much.
We suggest creating a daily flow or a routine of sorts that you can follow and stick to. Within that daily flow, make sure your tasks flow in a logical order. Avoid context switching as often as you possibly can.
Once your overarching time blocks are planned out, it’s time to plan how you’re going to use those blocks.
The Hourly View
We’re going to get really micro here — how do you want to spend your hours?
Try to be thoughtful at this stage, but not obsessive. Micromanaging your every move down to the minute creates unnecessary stress, and you want to leave yourself some breathing room. Otherwise, you might find yourself rebelling against your own plans!
You can give yourself some parameters like 30 minutes for emails, 15 minutes for calendaring, and so on.
To make time blocking even easier, we highly, HIGHLY recommend trying out the Pomodoro Technique. Developed by Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodoro Technique is a way to jumpstart productivity and focus throughout your workday.
It involves scheduling your day with blocks of time — such as 25 minutes — in which you do your work. After each of these “Pomodoros,” you can take a 5-minute break. After 4 Pomodoros, you take a 30-minute break. If you want to learn more, check out this article.
This technique is especially useful if you’re someone who gets easily distracted or has difficulty finding focus. It keeps you on track because you are working in chunks of defined lengths of time, rather than attempting your to-do list on an open-ended timeframe.
A good place to start is by dividing your day into half-hour chunks, where 25 minutes of that half-hour are spent working, and 5 minutes are spent on a break. So, from 9:00 am to 9:25 am, you work on your Slack team check-ins. From 9:30 – 9:55, you answer emails. From 10:00-10:25 am and from 10:30-10:55 am, you are doing market research, and so on.
Another tip that helps you focus is putting your phone in the other room during your work blocks. During breaks, you’re free to check what you’ve missed on Instagram.
Remember to avoid context switching as much as possible even during your short work sessions, and do not skimp on longer breaks. Your brain actually needs rest and relaxation to perform well over time, so you will be a lot more effective if you take lunch breaks, go for a walk, and take care of your well-being on all levels — mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical.
More Tips to Stay Motivated
In addition to structuring your work time, we highly encourage you to develop some routines that bring stability, peace of mind, and fun into your life.
Routines are especially helpful because you don’t have to think about them, yet you reap the benefits. When you’re working hard, you want to conserve as much mental energy as possible. Decision fatigue in your personal life can leak energy and make your professional life more challenging.
For example, set Mondays as gym days so you know you’re getting your exercise in, but you’re not having to debate whether or not you should. Since exercise is one of the best stress busters and mood boosters, you really want that to be a regular part of your routine.
If Wednesdays are typically tough for you, make those evenings special. Schedule weekly mid-week happy hours, go to yoga with a friend or have those days be your at-home spa day. It will give you something to look forward to.
All routines are stabilizing, which is what our bodies, minds, and emotions need. A regular morning routine of meditation, visualization, and journaling plus a few minutes of stretching will make your day go more smoothly.
A regular evening routine might consist of a delicious pre-bed herbal tea, your favorite binge-worthy show, or reading in bed without screens. You might also consider writing down your big picture goal before bed on a daily basis to keep them top of mind. This way, you can keep your priorities straight when you feel distractions tugging at you.
Finally, meditation is one of the best ways to clear your mind and reset your perspective. Otherwise, it gets clogged with all sorts of things — some great, some not so great. Just like you need to take out the trash every day, you need to empty your mind too.
With all of these tips, don’t forget to experiment and have fun!
How DotConnect Can Help You Be More Successful
Work doesn’t have to be an endless grind — if you use your time and energy wisely, it can be a lot of fun!
That said, you need to have discipline. Minimizing mental overwhelm through taking control of your schedule can make you more effective and successful. That means you get more of the juicy stuff — the accolades from others and the internal satisfaction from work well done.
Having a team that works like a well-oiled machine will make a huge difference in your ability to succeed. That starts with hiring the right people. Filling roles with a sense of urgency and mindfulness will ultimately save you time and energy in the long run. DotConnect is here to help you do just that.
Are you looking for an amazingly motivated team? We’d love to help you! We’ve paired driven, ambitious professionals with impactful businesses like NFL, DirectTV, and Snapchat, and we can do the same for you!.
If you’re a job-seeker looking for your dream team don’t hesitate to reach out!