2 Methods to Organize Workdays
Are you frequently rushing around trying to make it somewhere or catch a deadline? If you feel that you are constantly running late, unable to keep up with your obligations, then you should think of scrutinizing the way you go about planning your work and leveling up on your organization skills.
Without proper organization, you won't be able to enjoy a full and balanced day (and perhaps even lifestyle). You might also suffer from a lack of motivation and mood shifts. And that doesn't sound very appealing at all.
But, the question is, how do you improve your daily planning? With so many tips and tricks all over the Internet, it can be difficult to decide which ones are going to be effective. And, with all the stress during your day, you may find it hard to set out a good time for starting.
Don't worry, we got you covered. This article contains two great methods for planning your time, as well as tips to be organized and pointers on how to organize your day to be more productive. This can help you get started and lead you every step of the way!
How to Organize Your Day: Most Effective Methods
There are different approaches to organizing your day. We've taken two prominent approaches, one of which is very popular, too. Using both, you can manage your work hours, taking into perceptive your entire day.
Method #1: Getting Things Done (GTD)
- Feel overwhelmed by the number of tasks you need to follow?
- Worry about forgetting small details?
- Wear many hats in your job and life?
- Start many projects but have trouble finishing them?
Then you need to take a few pointers from David Allen, the creator of GTD, and learn how to organize your work tasks (and all other tasks) the right way!
The GTD task management system is based on a simple truth: the more tasks you have on your list, the more difficult it gets for you to decide what needs attention. This also throws the hype around to-do lists straight out of the window as they might force you to spend more time thinking about your tasks than doing them. As a result, you may end up being stressed out and overwhelmed.
Allen noticed that the human brain is much better at processing information than storing it and he put this essential detail into the GTD methodology, by which it should help you get rid of all the mental clutter and get things done on time. It involves setting up a workflow, and once you do that, you'll be able to identify the tasks you should be working on at any given moment, without worrying that you'll forget something.
The GTD method consists of five simple practices that will help you systemize the clutter in your brain and organize your day:
- Capture everything. In the vein of "I need to do this" or "This should happen at that time, whatever crosses your mind that's an action or requirement, capture it. If it escapes your notebook, it escapes your attention.
- Clarify. Work through everything you capture (just don't try to complete it just yet!) and plan the next steps. Decide what category does the item fit the best: is it a reference, project, or next action?
- Organize. Put everything where it belongs. Add important dates to your calendar, assign tasks to other people, and sort out your own.
- Review. Keep tabs on your lists and don't forget to revise and update them.
- Engage. Start working on tasks that matter the most!
GTD requires learning how to plan and organize upfront. But, it will definitely pay off in the long run. With this method, you'll never have to worry about missing a meeting or forgetting a deadline. Instead, you'll have all your tasks sorted out and you'll be able to prioritize your time properly.
Now, let's examine each practice in detail!
Step 1: Capture
The first and the most important step to GTD is to stop storing all the info and your daily tasks in your brain. Instead, capture and store all your to-dos, ideas, tasks in an "inbox" — a physical notebook or digital app, such as a planner, calendar, or a task management app.
By capturing your thoughts, you'll finally be able to decrease the mental clutter. Don't worry about organizing these tasks and items yet! We'll come to that in one of the following steps.
Tip: When you're just starting with GTD, it is recommended to write down anything that you might need to take care of in your future and store it in your inbox.
Step 2: Clarify
Now we come to the part where you learn how to organize your workday and sort everything out in your inbox. Go through each item in your inbox and apply one of the following methods to it:
- If the task takes less than 2 minutes, complete it immediately.
- If the task can be delegated, assign it to someone else.
- Write down the due date if the item needs to be completed at a specific date or time.
- If the task is complex, then identify the next action(s) and step(s) you need to take to move forward with it.
Always make sure to add as much information to your tasks as possible and make your tasks actionable.
Step 3: Organize
After writing down all your tasks and adding as much info as possible, it's time to sort them out. There are numerous ways to organize your tasks with the GTD method, but the most common one is using a combination of projects and labels, like in Todoist or Asana.
You need to separate items into one-off tasks and projects. According to the GTD philosophy, a project is any task that requires more steps to complete. Make sure to write down your next steps for each task and add a due date (if there is one). For example, in Asana, this step would be reflected in creating a task card and subtasks within it.
Step 4: Review
This step is quite self-explanatory. Set aside time each week to look over all your tasks, cross off everything you completed, add and organize new tasks, and identify next actions. Allen calls this step a "critical factor for success." Constant reviewing and updating of your tasks will ensure that you're not just getting things done. You're getting the right things done.
Step 5: Engage Step
This is the part when all the time you set aside for planning your work pays off. By this step, you should have developed a system full of actionable tasks that are organized into logical categories.
So when you start work, you won't find yourself wondering "What should I do next?". You took that thinking out of the picture by getting all your tasks on physical or digital paper and arranged them into an actionable plan. To top it off, you got rid of all the mental clutter that has been stressing you out.
6: Save and Share
After finishing a task, keep track of it and share the information with other teams. This will avoid silos in between teams, where all teams only focus on their tasks without having direct access to the other teams' progress. The creation of a knowledge base where everyone in the company can learn what you have been working on, the conclusion you have made, and the next steps will benefit everyone while helping you monitor the progression of your tasks.
Here are a few more tips to be organized and GTD tools that will help you get the hang of this method faster.
To get started with GTD you need to clarify and organize your tasks efficiently. The best way to do that is by making lists, either on paper or by using task management software on your phone or laptop. There are several types of lists you can make:
- The "in" list. This is the first, basic, messy list you make. Use it to capture thoughts and tasks as they occur to you. Feel free to jot down everything in a notebook or your smartphone. You can even have several "in" lists; e.g. one in a planner and one on your phone. Once you have all your tasks written down, start organizing them by priority.
- The "next actions" list. The "next actions" list should contain items that you should do as soon as possible. You can organize the items on this list based on their priority, due date, or maybe how soon you can get them done. Remember, you should always complete short tasks (those that take less than two minutes) immediately.
- The "waiting for" list. This list should be used for all the tasks you delegated to others or tasks that can't be completed yet because someone needs to do something else first. Here is one useful tip for this list. Always write down the current date when you write down the task. That way, you can email your coworkers and say something like "I'm still waiting for the report you said you'd finish soon. That was 18 days ago!"
- The "someday/maybe" list. This list is for all the projects that you want to realize someday, but they are not of great importance. You can write down items like "replace the ugly painting in the living room" or "start your own blog" on this list. Even though the tasks on this list are not of utmost importance, you should still review this list weekly, make sure you don't forget about these tasks, and start working on them when you have some time!
The calendar is great for all those tasks that are time and date sensitive. This way, you'll be able to prioritize your tasks better. The tasks that don't need to be done soon will stay on your "next actions" list, so you can deal with them later on. If you don't like keeping a calendar on your wall or desk, then you should try using Google Calendar to stay organized.
It's quite likely that you will have several "read [something]" tasks on one of your lists. A read/review folder will come in handy for such cases. It can be a physical or digital folder that will contain all the documents, papers, or books you need to read. The idea behind this folder is to always have this material available to you when you have a few minutes to kill while waiting for your food or at the doctor's office.
GTD is a productivity methodology that can transform your life from a chaotic mess into a balanced and fulfilled lifestyle. GTD will help you organize your work tasks as well as the rest of your day since this also affects how well you do your work.
Method #2: The Da Vinci Schedule
The Da Vinci Schedule is the second method that will help you learn how to plan and organize more efficiently. Developed by Adrian Iliopoulus, this method will allow you to create schedules that will make your life more purposeful, fun, and creative.
The main idea behind the "Da Vinci Schedule" is to learn how to:
- Be creative and enter flow every day.
- Not allow interruptions to ruin your flow.
- Stop procrastinating and get things done.
- Ensure you don't experience burnout.
- Properly balance work and play.
Did you know? It takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back on track once interrupted.
The Da Vinci Schedule can help you make sure that you're not overwhelmed by work as it curates your daily activities in a way where you have distinctive time for harder and easier tasks, but also enough time for relaxing activities every day.
How to Organize Your Day with the Da Vinci Schedule
Many people suggest you start planning your week on Monday but is it the best idea? The creator of the Da Vinci Schedule recommends starting planning on Sunday evening. As he pointed out, Monday is the equivalent of the early hours in the morning, but for the week. Our minds are always rested in the morning and can deliver greater productivity. The "early hours" for the week are Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. So, to take advantage of these days, you should plan your tasks on Sunday.
As Adrian points out, the trickiest part of planning is prioritizing. He recommends that you should be honest with yourself and carefully categorize tasks according to their importance and to the amount of work you need to do to complete them.
Here is how Adrian's daily and weekly schedule looks like.
Credit: Adrian Iliopoulus' Da Vinci Schedule
As you can see, every day consists of the same elements:
- Morning Routine
- Hardcore Deep Work
- Soft Deep Work
- Admin Work
Now, let's explain each one in more detail.
It's important to start every day right. Instead of sleeping in and rushing to work, come up with a routine that will help you wake up and do anything that pleases you — eat breakfast, drink coffee, or even go for a run. It is the little things that can make a significant difference in your day. You can also come up with a night routine that will help you relax before you go to bed. All successful people have a night routine, and so should you!
Deep work is divided into two categories — hard work and soft work. Hard work refers to all tasks that you find challenging, whereas soft work is all those tasks that are easier to carry out. Make sure to do deep hard work from Monday to Wednesday, and soft work on Thursday and Friday.
Admin work includes tasks such as replying to emails, scheduling and attending meetings, document organization, ordering supplies, etc. It is important to calculate how much time these tasks take to complete, so you can set aside time for them each day.
Exercising, Social, and Play
To prevent burnout, you need to set aside time every day so you can relax, spend time with your friends and family, and play. Play means doing all the activities that please you, from literally playing to watching movies or reading a book.
The Da Vinci Schedule is a bit different from the GTD method, as it encompasses the entire day and allows you to create a daily routine. However, this method doesn't tackle organizing tasks in much detail during your workday, which GTD does. So by combining the two methods you'll be able to create a system of organizing your entire day in a more balanced way, where you get things done in the time reserved for work and relax in a morning routine and playtime to ensure you don't burn out.
5 Simple Tips to Better Organize Your Workday
If you don't fancy the two methods, here is more advice on how to organize work tasks.
Take 5-10 minutes at the end of your workday to write in a journal and evaluate the day. There is so much going on in our heads that it's almost impossible to process and gather thoughts without some form of outlet. At the end of the workday, most want to run for the hills—and by doing so—bring their work and associated stresses home with them. A study by UCLA psychologists revealed that by verbalizing your feelings—whether you speak to someone or write them down—will help ensure any associated negative emotions are much less intense. So, instead of bringing any anger or stress home with you, leave it behind in your notepad.
On top of that, by writing down specific challenges you're facing, your subconscious mind will get to work on coming up with corrective solutions while you sleep at night so you can wake up fresh and motivated to tackle the day.
2. Plan ahead
Now that you've released all anger and frustration, you're in a position to plan the day ahead to increase the likelihood of it going smoothly. Take out another notepad (or use Clickup's digital Notepad feature) and write down your tasks for tomorrow in order of importance, and leave the office knowing your subconscious will take care of the rest and ensure you're way ahead of yourself when you arrive for work tomorrow.
If you are someone who relies on their computer to stay organized, then you can start your planning phase by using a daily free planner template. Simply customize it to your needs and save yourself a few hours to put into your other tasks.
Challenges and distractions will always arise so be realistic in your goals—and if you fall short—don't beat yourself up. Just make sure to bump it to the top of tomorrow's list.
3. Declutter your workspace
A cluttered workspace = a cluttered mind. If your desk is a mess, how can you expect your workday to flow without unwelcome distractions? Organize your desk similar to how you would like to organize your mind: free from clutter and distractions.
Same goes for your desktop. Keep your desktop clutter-free to easily work your way through your tasks including your email.
Organizing your workspace will organize your mind and keep stress levels low. Check out these simple tips on how to organize your day at work.
4. Don't multi-task
According to a study by the University of California Irvine, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to a task once you've taken your concentration away from it. So, when you set out to complete a task, be sure to free yourself from all distractions. That means no social media, email, internet, etc. until the task is complete or the allotted time to work on it has passed. Use a timer, and start off with one hour of uninterrupted work. If the ambient noise is too much, play some music to wash away distractions and help you focus. Tell your colleagues what you're doing and ask them not to disturb you unless it can't wait.
5. Trust the 80-20 rule
Most of what we do is not that important, but because it's easier, and can provide us with that instant hit of dopamine, we have a tendency to spend too much time on simple tasks while procrastinating on the more demanding, important ones. This creates an unnecessary struggle. By tackling the more important stuff first, when it comes to completing the other less meaningful tasks, you will be able to do so with a greater sense of accomplishment and contentment.
6. Manage your email
Email is a messy business, and like many other tasks is rarely urgent. Take time to organize yours so when you do go in there, everything is running efficiently and organized in terms of importance. Email desktop clients like Mailbird (Windows) or Airmail (Mac) are great tools for this and come in handy especially for people that have to manage multiple email accounts.
By applying these simple tips to better organize your day at work, you will experience a range of benefits to help ensure you leave your work at work, get out on time, and sleep at night. Unless tasks are of the utmost importance, don't take your work home with you. That time to decompress, have fun, and do what you love is just as important as the time required to pay the bills. You will most likely meet resistance from yourself starting out, but if you stick to this, in time, you will see your productivity and quality of work go up as well as your quality of life. A win-win for everybody.
Did you like this post? Check out the second part "7 Tips on how to reduce stress" and please share it with your (stressed) friends.
About the Author:
Nicky Cullen is a writer and anxiety coach. Having suffered from anxiety, panic attacks, and depression for a decade: he uses his experience to teach his clients the solutions he wishes somebody taught him 15 years ago. You can learn more by clicking here.
What is the best way to organize your day?
The best way to organize your day is to write down all your tasks, write an action plan for each task, and keep your planner updated. Make sure to sort the tasks by priority and include due dates so you never miss a deadline or an important meeting.
How can I organize my day at home?
The best way to organize your day at home is to come to plan ahead, write a to-do list, and sort your tasks by priority. Write down an action plan for each item on your list. Also, make sure to include time for relaxation in your daily plan to prevent burnout.
How do you keep your daily schedule organized?
To keep your daily schedule organized, you should do the following:1. Plan your day(s) and daily tasks in advance.2. Organize your tasks by priority and difficulty.3. Complete tasks that require less than 2 minutes immediately.4. Use a planner or an app to stay on top of your schedule.5. Use your time wisely and tackle large tasks first thing in the morning.6. Jot down plans and appointments immediately.7. Try out GTD and the Da Vinci Schedule to boost your organizational skills.
How do I schedule my day?
Here is how to schedule your day efficiently and make the most out of it:- Start your day with a morning ritual, instead of sleeping in.- Plan your day and your tasks ahead.- Write down all your tasks and sort them by priority.- Use a planner or an app to stay on top of your schedule.- Try applying the 52-17 rule to boost your productivity.- Use your time wisely and tackle large tasks first thing in the morning.- Set aside time for relaxation at the end of the day.