Work’s busy, but have you ever thought about reducing the level of work so that you have a couple of hours free for creative thought? If you’re on the go for the whole day, you don’t have time to think through your decisions and let those decisions sit for a while to ferment. If you don’t allow yourself the freedom to do anything but sit back and think, it harms your creativity, and you may be unable to complete the more important aspects of your work.
I have been involved with quite a few projects recently, always on the go from early morning til evening in meetings with co-workers and collaborators, and getting through the workload. Even though I produce work, I’m not always happy with my output as each project doesn’t get 100% of my attention.
Now, I wouldn’t say I am overwhelmed, but not taking time during the day to breathe and digest the information from these meetings and discussions means I am jumping from one context to another without giving new information time to embed. I have recently altered my work day to address this situation. Let me tell you how.
Timebox your day
You’ve probably heard of timeboxing, but if not, this is how I timebox my day. I leave 15 minutes between meetings to review the content, actions and decisions made during the session. If it is impossible due to scheduling, I will schedule 15 minutes for each meeting and have it on the block. So, if my calendar has four back-to-back meetings from 10 to 12, I will allocate an hour between 12:15 and 13:15 to do this activity.
Any actions I need to complete are then noted and prioritised in my task manager and on my calendar with the appropriate time blocked out. I use Google Calendar, so I will put in a
Focus Time entry, noting the task title, the project it belongs to, and any additional information I need to complete it.
Why does this help
If you work for a company with lots of projects and you’re involved in more than one, you will be context switching 1 a lot. Giving yourself the time to recap the meetings and let the information you’ve gained embed before moving to the next meeting is an essential tool to aid your productivity.
Have a Cut-off
You have to have a cut-off time for work. Working from home most days, I don’t need to commute. I allocate that time to do prep work and review what needs to be completed that day. At the end of the working day, I use that time to reflect on my achievements and what is outstanding that will need to be prioritised the next day.
I work for a company and for myself, so my working day can be long, but as I work on a computer for most of the day in both situations, I usually aim to complete the working day by 6 pm. I have to give my company eight hours per day, but as I can flex during the day, my schedule is mostly up to me. My workday starts between 6 and 9 am, but whatever time it starts, I aim to finish by 6 pm.
I often have ideas I want to work on past that time and find evenings particularly idea-rich. My personality tends to hyperfocus on an existing task, and it can mean that I’m still working on a mini project or new idea way into the early morning hours, but this is rare.
Since my day can flex for up to 12 hours, I allocate time within the day to do everything I need to do for work within 2-3 hour blocks.
Setting a cut-off works
It works for me because it means that work only absorbs some of my time. Outside of the cut-off time, I can spend time reading, writing or in some other pursuit that takes my mind away from my day-to-day.
Don’t work weekends
Well, it’s Sunday, and I’m technically working on writing this post. I don’t work most weekends, but even if I do, I make sure that there is at least one of the days that I leave time free to absolutely nothing2.
Don’t let work overload the rest of your life
Time for creativity is vital to continue to be productive, not only in your job but, most importantly, in your life and your family’s life. Using a few tools, I’ve improved mine; I hope these tips will help you be more productive and achieve a good work/life balance.