Time management - How to structure your (working) day
It's often the case that we cannot tick all the boxes at the end of our working day/week. As a result, we are dissatisfied, stressed and less motivated. Fortunately, this can be easily remedied with a little time management and structure.
Why a daily structure makes sense
A day last 24hours. This is a fact that you and no one can change. Therefore, it makes sense to use this time effectively by having a proper daily structure.
Why is this important?
- You work more productively
- You achieve your goals more efficiently.
- You can enjoy your free time better.
- You lower your stress level.
- You stay in control of your life and have more free time.
- You ware happier and therefore more self-determined and self-confident.
A structured working day with well thought-out time management ultimately helps you to prevent entering the much-cited hamster wheel in the first place. By the way, establishing a daily structure with routines in private and professional life can also relieve the psyche.
Where do I stand and where do I want to go?
We all need motivation to work successfully. For some people it’s the monthly salary, for others the holidays or the prospect of a promotion.
To achieve your goals, you need structure, but first you should identify exactly where you want to go.
Answering the following checklist can help you:
- Where do I currently stand?
- What do I want to achieve in my job?
- What do I want to achieve in my life?
- What goals do I have with my family/my partner?
- What goals do I have for my free time? (hobbies etc.)
- What do I stand for?
- Where are my strengths and where are my weaknesses?
You can also use the 10-10-10 model. You can ask yourself the following:
- What will be the consequences of my decision in 10 days?
- What will be the consequences in 10 months?
- What will be the consequences in 10 years?
An example: If I start studying alongside my job now, I won't start in 10 days, I'll take my first exams in 10 months, and I'll have a better-paid job in 10 years.
These questions will help you create a rough structure for your future actions. For time management, it’s better to proceed in small steps.
Work with priorities
First get an overview of which tasks you want to complete in a week. Then think about what you want to have achieved at the end of the day. One possible method for this is the classic to-do list. Write down all the tasks for the week and then distribute them over the days of the week or you ca also use some specific digital tools. There are many different apps to help you in making to-do lists.
Todoist, for example, is a digital to-do list that can be integrated into existing calendars.
Those who already use Microsoft's Office suite in their company can use Microsoft To Do.
There are many other to-do list tools that with different functions that can help you in your daily work. Most companies offer a free trial period but we advise you to simply try out different tools in order to use the one that best suits your own requirements.
Disadvantage of the method: You must be able to realistically assess yourself and your capacities. Otherwise frustration can quickly arise.
Advantage of the method: It can be implemented very easily, and can also be adapted and supplemented quickly.
The so-called "Eisenhower method" helps to prioritise to-dos. With the so-called "Eisenhower matrix", tasks are classified according to four categories. The matrix is divided into "important", "unimportant" and on the other axis into "urgent" and "not urgent".
For this purpose, create a coordinate system for each task, which may look like this:
Tasks that are not urgent and not important can be moved to the bottom of the priority list. Important but not urgent tasks should already be written in your calendar. The important and urgent tasks should be on the top of your list.
ALPEN: a method to better plan your day
The ALPEN method is a time management technique that allows you to prioritise tasks for the day. It is a good idea to always use this method on the evening before the next working day.
ALPEN stands for:
- A – To-do list of all planned Activities, tasks and meetings: Write down everything that needs to be done the next day. This can be meetings, presentations as well as phone calls. The to-do list can also include tasks from the previous day that you were unable to complete.
- L – Estimating Length of time: Then estimate the time you need for each task.
- P - Plan buffer time: Plan up to 40 percent of your working day with breaks. This way you can recharge your resources in between and you will be more productive. Breaks include drinking coffee as well as a short walk in the fresh air.
- E – Establishing prioritised decisions: Here you can apply the Eisenhower principle, for example, and prioritise your daily tasks.
- N – Noting down level of success: In the evening, check which tasks you have completed and postpone unfinished tasks until the next day, if they are still relevant. Cross off the completed ones on your list.
Here's how you can add structure to your day
Besides time management methods, there are also very practical tips to bring more structure into your day.
- Plan for consequences: Always think about a "plan B" if something does not go as planned. For example, if you don't manage to go jogging today, you should at least plan to go jogging again on another day.
You can do the same with your projects. This way you not only create a buffer, but also reduce stress if a task is not completed on time.
- Prepare your day: To make your working day easier and to have a buffer of time, you can, for example, prepare food for the office the day before. And it's best to prepare everything you need for the next day.
- Create routines: Routines help us to do things without a lot of thought. For example, if you manage to go for a run three times a week as a routine, you will find it increasingly easy to stick to this schedule. You can also use routines at work, e.g. by reserving only a certain amount of time for reading and answering emails. The advantage of routines: you will become faster and faster at it over time.
- Always plan with breaks: No matter which time management method you use, without breaks you quickly risk overwork. Our bodies as well as our minds need regular time-outs. Researchers recommend working in 90-minute blocks, for example. Another possibility would be the "Pomodoro technique".
Time management and structure make us more productive, but also healthier.
Those who use their time in a structured way can increase their productivity. At the same time, rituals and time management methods help us to become more resilient and thus live healthier with less stress.
For any other advice from our expert consultants, please contact us!