How to Create a Daily Schedule to Manage Tasks
Admit it: it’s easier than ever before to get distracted and fall behind on everything you wanted to accomplish during your workday. With an endless amount of pings, notifications, messages, and video calls, not to mention the distractions presented by social media, smartphones, and other modern marvels, it can be extremely difficult to stay on track. There’s also the problem of multi-tasking, which sees far too many workers being pulled in several different directions simultaneously, resulting in a whole lot of nothing getting done.
One of the most effective ways to get past these hurdles is to effectively manage your time at work with a daily schedule. Creating a schedule is a great way to prioritize tasks, ensure that you’re always working towards something, and makes it easier to allocate time for all your daily goals, whether big or small. The more you follow your daily schedule, the more likely you are to create healthy habits that can turn you into a better, more productive employee.
Creating schedules is something that should be left up to individual employees. Rather than building daily schedules for staff directly (which will be seen as extreme micro-management), management should instead communicate the benefits of creating daily schedules, working with team members to establish and stick to daily routines that will improve productivity.
Schedules are a sadly underappreciated way to overcome the perils of context switching, multi-tasking, and the constant barrage of distractions presented by the modern workplace, allowing you to increase productivity by staying on task and being able to anticipate what each day of your week is going to look like.
Understand why daily scheduling is so effective
An eight hour workday might sound like a lot, but the truth is that there’s only so much that can be done. Daily scheduling allows you to focus on what matters most and avoid wasting time during those precious hours.
A schedule provides you with a roadmap you can follow up to the minute to achieve goals and see projects and tasks through to the very end. This means you’ll be able to avoid the stress that comes with uncertainty, helping you become a happier, healthier and more effective employee where boundaries are clearer, and work/life balance is more tangible.
Know what needs to be done and how long it’ll take
You can’t create a daily schedule if you don’t even know what you need to accomplish in the first place. Before you get started on creating and sticking to a schedule, list out everything that needs to be done over the next week, two weeks, or month. There will likely be a mixture of large tasks and projects which demand more time and concentration and lower commitment tasks like meetings, responding to emails, making calls, checking social media channels, etc.
It’s here where you should define your goals and the “why” of your daily schedules - this will give you something to work towards as well as establish why daily scheduling is such an important part of achieving those goals. Defining “what” and “why” will make it much easier to find your “how,” providing you with the motivation and know-how to get the job done and stick to your schedule.
Once you’ve listed out what needs to be accomplished, estimate how long each task will take you - this will allow you to create a realistic daily schedule and avoid an unrealistic one. This makes it easier to work towards your goals in a way that makes sense while also accounting for the many unknowns which can creep up during the course of the day. Be realistic when estimating times.
Only you know how long a task will realistically take you, so avoid being over-optimistic or estimating times using ideal conditions. Overestimating your ability to complete tasks within a certain time frame can lead to your entire schedule crumbling, increasing your chances of missing hard deadlines and letting your team members down.
Structure your daily schedule to maximize productivity
You are aware of when you are most productive. For some people, it’s the morning, and for others it’s late afternoon. Establish a sort of “productivity curve” which your days will likely follow - most people will be most productive early on in their day, with productivity peaking before lunchtime and picking back up towards the end of the day.
Whether this applies to you or you find yourself working more productively during different parts of the day, you’ll need to structure your daily schedule to ensure that you can maximize your productivity. This means placing tasks with high importance that require more concentration and effort during your peak productivity hours.
Structuring your day ensures that you’ll be able to focus on the most important part of your day during hours in which you’re typically most productive, allowing you to focus on less important or less resource intensive work after those hours of peak productivity have ended. Save things like meetings, calls, and responding to emails for hours in which you’re typically less focused, and try to take breaks in between your peak hours or when you feel like you’re hitting a wall.
Block off time for important tasks
Just because you’ve created a daily schedule, doesn’t mean your work is over. For the most important tasks (which ideally fall in your peak productivity hours), it’s highly recommended that you block off time in which you’re unavailable for meetings, calls, and other things that can wait until after you’ve accomplished your daily goals. These things, while very important for fostering a healthy and open environment, are common workplace distractions which should be attended to once you’ve accomplished what you need to accomplish.
For example, try blocking off the first few hours of your day and encouraging team members to hold meetings, chats, brainstorming sessions, and calls until later in the day when you (and your colleagues) have already achieved peak productivity. This would ensure that everybody stays on the same page without eating into those critical (and fleeting) productive hours of the day.
By blocking off time for important tasks and short meetings, you can stay in a creative and focused state until you finish what needs to be done. This makes it easier to change your mindset into a more administrative one for later in the day when you’re attending to tasks with lower value. Start with the most important task first, move up to the second most important task, then the third, and so on - this will help identify when you can stop blocking time off and become available for meetings, calls and other administrative tasks.
Account for the unknown
Like taxes, inconveniences are an inevitability. When creating your daily schedule, remember that life often gets in the way. Rather than sticking unflinchingly to your schedule in the face of these unknowns, use your daily schedule to make yourself more productive in the absence of these things. You should always take the time to tend to emergencies that will crop up - the key is to use your schedule to get back into the groove once you’ve finished putting out these fires. Building in time for interruptions also helps you to view your schedule as a guide rather than as a rigid rulebook.
Just like you would have a financial nest egg for security, your daily work schedule should allow for “discretionary” time. Build in “discretionary time” buffers to manage rush projects or anything else that may take you more time than you’ve allotted for. It might happen during your most productive hours, or maybe during that hour or two you blocked off for meetings and emails, but it’ll never feel “convenient.” Do what you have to do and use your daily schedule as a jumping off point for when you’re able to get back to work after sorting out the distractions, emergencies or inconveniences that have presented themselves.
How much time do you need for this? Probably more than you think. Your discretionary time buffer should be about 25% of your day. While that may seem like too much, think about how many interruptions you have regularly - that may not even be enough if you look at it critically. If 25% isn’t enough discretionary time, you may want to look at ways to cut down distractions and emergencies, with the help of a manager where needed.
Calendaring and scheduling tools
Managers can support employees in creating effective daily schedules by providing them with the tools and technology solutions needed to do the job, and training on how to use them. For more in-depth information that can help employees create productivity-optimizing schedules, management can use actionable productivity insights provided by Prodoscore.
You can make use of either Google Calendar or Outlook Calendar to plan out your day. Both allow you to add tasks to your calendar rather than events and plot them out on your calendar, which is the proper way to do your daily scheduling. While adding a task as an event can work, it can lead to some confusion between your “task” events and actual events such as meetings.
If you really want to get into the weeds of calendaring your day, there are apps like Calendar which offer functionality over and above the calendars included with Google Workspace and Microsoft Office 365. It also offers a way to connect calendars from multiple applications and email accounts in one place, making it a must-have for people who are juggling multiple Microsoft, Google, and/or Apple accounts.
Calendar also offers excellent tips for creating a daily schedule. Task management apps such as Asana and Trello also have calendaring built in, and may be better if you want to enter more details about the tasks you are doing everyday. Asana, Trello, and similar apps also have excellent visibility for management into what each team member is doing at any given time.
Similarly, Prodoscore allows management to gain unparalleled visibility into how employees are spending their time, breaking down the most (and least) productive hours of the day for each member of the team, which apps are being used effectively, how engaged they are in their work, and who is at risk of becoming burnt out or disengaged. This contextualized data can be provided to employees to help shape schedules that work to promote productivity and empower employees to work in a way that makes sense for them.
Managers can also use Prodoscore to view how daily schedules are impacting the performances of employees - are these schedules empowering team members to work at their most productive, are certain schedules just not realistic, are team members being faced with too many distractions? Prodoscore makes it easier than ever before to answer these questions and finally understand how employees are working, what can drive them to becoming more productive and effective employees, and what you can do to help them achieve their very best.
To find out more about how Prodoscore can help you and your team achieve their full productivity potential, reach out to us today.