HOW I'M CHANGING MY WORKING DAY - Part 2
Another way of assessing a successful working day....
Hi again, readers!
Doesn’t a week go by so quickly? It’s Tuesday afternoon again and I’m sat here writing the newsletter. How are you all? Keeping well, I hope, and smashing your month!
In this issue, I’m talking about how to structure your working day (part 2), but that’s only if you have the luxury of being able to decide how you work each day. I think, these days, there is a degree of flexibility of what is done and when, even if you work for a highly structured (and possibly stricter) organisation, and as long as a particular task is done adequately by its deadline, then no questions are asked. I hope so, anyway…
So, what element of wisdom am I imparting this week? Well, it’s how to decide whether you’ve had a successful and productive day or not.
Previously, I’ve had some coaching from business coach, Andy Guile, who is a specialist small business coach and a master when it comes to time management and work planning. In one of our many sessions, he advised before I actually start work, I list all the tasks that I have to do each day. And, in true Andy style, he advised I never list more than 5 tasks at any one time!
There’s a perfectly good reason for this. There is scientific evidence that states that the human brain can only hold the instruction for five actions at any one time. Any more than this and the brain becomes overwhelmed.
So, when I sit down to work the first thing I do is to empty my head of the tasks I need to do each day and load them onto a very basic mind map like the one in the photo below:
See, I said it was a simple mind map, but it serves a purpose and I make sure I never put more than 5 tasks on my map at any one time. And if I finish the 5 tasks within my working day (which happens now and again), I start again with a new mind map.
Note how I’ve included my gym session in there. I know it’s not a work task, but it’s important to my working day and doing a gym session in the middle of the day (or whenever I can squeeze it in) means I can work longer and more productively - so it’s worth taking that time out of my working hours. See last weeks newsletter for more details on that.
Another hack I’ve adopted I think I obtained from James Clear’s book Atomic Habits. The premise of this book is that you make great improvements from undertaking minute, tiny actions daily. Although these tiny actions won’t make a huge difference immediately, done daily (mainly weekdays) over time, they mount up to the major changes and improvements that you want to see. This book is full of great hacks and if you haven’t read it, I’d advise getting a copy and having a read.
So, what’s this hack, then? Well, it’s how you decide you’re going to judge your working day. Usually, we congratulate ourselves on the hours we’ve worked rather than what we’ve achieved. I flip that and, rather than counting the number of hours that I’ve worked, I count the tasks that I’ve achieved.
When I sit down to draw my mind map for the day, I list all that I need to do that day. And if it’s more than 5 tasks, the less important tasks get added to a “reserve list” and if I finish one of the tasks sooner and can add more to the mind map, then I add one from the reserve list.
As anyone who normally makes lists can tell you, crossing off a completed task feels soooo rewarding, doesn’t it? And, did you know, that by using this method (crossing off something you’ve achieved) you give your brain a squirt of dopamine. Which is one of the “feel good” hormones.
For this reason, I’ve become a master at adding the tiniest of tasks to my mind map, knowing I will complete them easily, and thereby giving myself a bit of a boost each time. And, because you’re getting an uplift each time, it becomes a bit addictive. Which is a total win-win situation. You feel good and you fly through your To-Do list without any of the usual angst.
And, at the end of a working day, I switch off my computer in rather a smug mood, knowing that I’ve completed what I set out to do (and probably more) and I can enjoy my evening without worrying about what I haven’t done etc.
I hope that’s helped you in planning your day. It might be that you already have a proven, successful way of working. If so, I’d love to hear about it (there’s always room for more ideas). You can get in touch by replying to this newsletter.
In the meantime, that’s it from me for another issue. Thanks for reading and staying the course - it means a lot.
Take care until next issue