How do busy people plan efficient days?

When it comes to structuring your schedule, it is important to consider how you work best and to identify your end goals

We are all different – some of us prefer to break down large projects into smaller objectives, while others work better under pressure and may leave urgent tasks until the last minute. Let’s take a look at the practices used by very busy and successful business people and see how they can be used in your working life to organise yourself and others.

If you find yourself struggling to remember which tasks are urgent, it is time to put an organised schedule in place. While it is natural to add deadlines to your diary and systematically work through them, this leaves you little in the way of flexibility. If an unexpected event occurs or you are faced with a problem you need to rectify straight away, you risk a domino effect of missed deadlines as the new issue takes over.

For some, such as Pinterest head of engineering Li Fan, the way to rectify this is to schedule different tasks for different days. Her large group meetings are held on Mondays and one-on-ones on a Tuesday, while Wednesday and Thursday are left open for ad-hoc problems. HR issues such as interviews take place on Fridays.

This allows her to effectively manage her staff in person and enables her to catch up on unexpected problems. The result is a much more balanced working environment for her and her colleagues.

Instead of organising a working week, some find it more useful to plot out each day individually, scheduling rest periods between pressing pieces of work. Scientific studies suggest that humans expend energy for around 90 minutes and then show signs of fatigue.

By dividing your day into 90-minute working increments and adding a break after each segment, you can increase your productivity. This is known as the Pomodoro Technique. You can find timers on the internet that can plan your breaks for you.

An alternative strategy is to divide your day into ‘active’ and ‘inactive’ time. Let’s imagine your staff work for eight hours a day, with 30 minutes for lunch. While working for this period of time can be easily maintained in a static working day where no changes are likely to occur, it won’t cut it if you are in an ever-changing environment; instead, allotting ‘inactive’ time to rest and refresh or deal with suddenly-arising issues can be more helpful in the long term to prevent burn-out.

Some of the busiest minds choose to maximise any available time they have so their work doesn’t impede on their home life. Travel site CEO Emmanuel Arnaud purposefully travels to and from work by bicycle so that he can receive telephone calls while travelling; similarly, meetings are conducted over lunch to free up extra time.

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