I hear this question from friends all the time. Deciding how to structure our time and steward our resources is top of mind for all of us.
We’re working longer, but not always smarter.
Scheduling your work day depends on lots of factors. If you work in an office, home office, what type of work you do, etc..
No matter what field you are in and what type of business you do, there are three habits that will help you have the best day possible.
1. Do the things that have the most impact.
Look at everything you need to accomplish in your work day first thing in the morning. Find the three most important things and get those things done first. Sure, some other tasks may be easier and let you mark it off your checklist quickly, but stay focused on the three important tasks first each day.
2. Stay focused to avoid wasting your time.
Staying focused is key to having a great day. For me, that means my notifications are off during certain hours of the work day. Another way many people lose precious time during the work day is through checking email every hour can also be a big distraction. When you are working on a project and need to stay focused your email can wait a few hours.
3. Schedule short breaks throughout the work day.
This one is so counterintuitive, you may be tempted to roll your eyes, skim over it and never think of it again. (How do I know this? I used to do the same thing!)
We can only stay focused on a single task for about 90-120 minutes at a time.
Physiologist Nathan Kleitman, a groundbreaking sleep researcher, first coined what he called the “basic rest-activity cycle”: the 90-minute cycles during which you progress through the five stages of sleep. Kleitman found the 90-minute pattern in our days, too, as we move from higher to lower alertness–the ultradian rhythm.
Have you noticed how you have certain times of day where you operate at peak performance and other times you seem to be phoning it in? Ultradian Rhythm at work!
Our brains are meant to have breaks.
We can only focus on a single task for a limited amount of time before our focus and work suffers. When we take a break, we are allowing our brains to process.
The brain gradually stops registering a sight, sound or feeling if that stimulus remains constant over time. For example, most people are not aware of the sensation of clothing touching their skin. The body becomes “habituated” to the feeling and the stimulus no longer registers in any meaningful way in the brain.
Taking a break from the task at hand allows our brains to make breakthroughs in our work.
Want to remember more and be more creative? Take short breaks during your work day.
Your brain needs time to be away from the computer screen. In my opinion, checking Facebook does not *really* count as a break, neither does checking your email. Why? Those things are too closely tied to your work because you are still staring at the screen.
Try going outside for a few minutes, do some stretches, chat with a friend for five minutes or say a prayer. Disengage and get out of the normal ‘head space’ that your brain is in during the work day, and come back refreshed and more creative.