How to Schedule Your Work Day to Maximize Your Free Time

How to Schedule Your Work Day to Maximize Your Free Time

Do you every wake up and think that you either: 1) totally know how your day will go, or 2) you’ll just ‘wing it’? Chances are, you’re either completely person #1 or person #2.

Personally, I love going to bed the night before knowing 100% how the next day will go for me. Of course, things come up and plans change, but that isn’t the regular trend.

Today, I have 7 tips to help you maximize your day so you can be closer and closer to person #1.

1. Evaluate how you spend your time

Before you even get to building more free time into your day, you need to evaluate how you spend your time. A good way to do this is to you ask yourself a few questions:

What activities get you the most results, whether business, home, or personal?

What things make you happiest?

What helps you advance towards your goals?

Where can you cut your time waste? Or rather, where are you ‘busy’ and can’t admit that you’re actually zoning out on an endless Facebook or Instagram scroll?  Time those activities and you will quickly realize how much precious time you are wasting that can be re-allocated to something else. (If your goal is to read more, keep a book in the car and reach for that instead of the smartphone!)

What are the most important things in your business, personal, and/or home life? Focus on bringing those things into your day. I’m not saying it will be easy right off the bat — but with patience, dedication, and practice eventually it will become easy.

2. Work to priorities, not to-dos

A priority list if different than a to-do list. We think to-do lists are what help us accomplish the day’s tasks. In reality, we need to use a priority system to put those to-dos in order of importance AND time spent.

A good way to think of it is this: a daily priority list is based off of your mission and your goals so important tasks and items always go first. A to-do list is more time based. “Cool, I have an hour to start laundry while washing the veggies from the supermarket.” That’s great and all, but it also invites procrastination.

Working on the things that will help you accomplish your big goals, and not the little things, will help you feel accomplished day to day.

3. Reduce meetings & meeting times

Unproductive meetings are a fantastic example of a time waster.

If you must attend a meeting of any kind that may not actually be essential, ask for an agenda. Then determine if it will be detrimental if you don’t attend.  If not, spend that travel and meeting time doing something that is more worthwhile — your family, project, etc.

Once you ask for the agenda, you can also ask or determine why the meeting leader called it in the first place. Try to streamline your meeting so you can bank up that time for something way more worth it. Believe me, everyone will still survive.

4. Plan by the day, not the week

It seems counterintuitive, but planning by the day and not the week is more conducive to time well spent. Because let’s be honest: life happens everyday.

You never know when school will be canceled, or your car will break down, or a family member will pop in for a visit.

The saying “there’s always something” exists for a reason. I recommend planning each day in the morning (or, ideally, the night before). You can always write down your main tasks and appointments for the week in a longer list… and then assign those tasks to a day at the beginning of that day.

5. Do task bursts with Pomodoro technique

The Pomodoro Technique is a time-management method that uses a timer to break your work down into intervals. Generally, these intervals are 25 minutes long, depending on your personal work style and energy. There are apps and websites that can also help you with this technique and keep you on track.

Instead of thinking of all the things you need to get done in 24 hours, think of what you must get done in the next 25 minutes, and then the next. The pressure is on and it helps sharpen your focus and eliminate procrastination.

That said, I’m not the biggest fan of the Pomodoro technique myself.

I recommend trying it but not forcing it. Research has shown that it takes 23 minutes to get back into your focused work zone after being distracted. With that in mind, how might you feel if you were interrupted by your time every 25 minutes? As soon as you’ve gotten into your deep work, you’re pulled back out for a break!

My suggestion is to take a coffee or tea break and walk around a bit once you’ve hit a natural stopping point in your task or when you’ve completed it. Don’t create distractions for yourself because you THINK you’re supposed to be taking a break every 25 minutes.

6. Batch your work… and give up on the idea of multi-tasking

Batching tasks is one of my favorite way to bank up time. Think about it — if you have to set up the sewing machine every single time you need to sew something and get everything ready and unpacked and clear the table off and then pack it all back up… if you do this twice a week that prep and break down time piles up fast! But if you decide to setup and break down the sewing machine only ONCE a week, you will very easily set aside time you could be doing on something else.

Like batching, monotasking can improve your productivity by putting the focus on one task at a time. Monotasking can help you avoid burnout because your brain is less tired from switching back and forth.

7. Be more aware of your technology usage

Please don’t ignore this last tip. Even though a small distraction may only take five minutes, five minutes for five days is twenty five minutes. And over the course of a month that’s over and hour and a half. Think about what a year of five minute distractions adds up to!

Technology is often the source of our five-minute distractions. Whether it’s an email, text, voicemail, or a game… we lived without it in the 90s, and we can still live without it now. Make new rules for yourself! Check out our recent article on using technology more effectively for some more advice here.

What’s your favorite way to schedule your work day so you can maximize your time? Share in the comments below!

Also, be sure to join us at inkWELL Press Productivity Co., our free, supportive online community where we discuss all things productivity, time management, goal setting and more.

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Tonya Dalton
Tonya Dalton