There are a number of tactics to help you shape your day in the most efficient way.
Many experienced managers prefer to use some quiet time in the evening in order to plan the next day.
This method, known as Ivy Lee Method, has the advantage of removing the barrier to action in the morning. Indeed, for many people, the act of deciding what to work on already is a lot of effort, known as “decision fatigue”.
By taking the decisions in the evening, you start the next day without having to decide anything. All that remains is to work on the items you have prioritized.
A lot of entrepreneurs praise the effectiveness of this methodology when it comes to their ability to perform every day.
Most people when they decide what to work on today tend to draw a list of 5 to 10 items.
Even though drawing a list has the benefit of prioritizing your work items, most people end the day with many untouched items on their hands. In other words, day after day, you tend to pick a lot more than you can chew.
This behavior is easily explainable: you project yourself in a state of success (all the tasks have been accomplished) more than drawing a list that is realistic with the resources at your disposal (e.g time). What is interesting is that even at the daily level, we easily overestimate our ability to accomplish things.
The authors of the book Make Time advertize a different approach: instead of listing 5-10 items, pick the single most important task in your list.
Let us assume that you can only complete a single task during the day. Which one would you pick so that, at the end of the day, you still feel good about the progress you have made?
This tactic is effective because by reducing the number of items to a single one, it becomes easier to act upon it. Because your brain can more easily frame the duration and requirements for its completion, you feel like the end is not that far, which in turn increases motivation and helps achieve a state of concentration.
Eat the Frog is another tactic which is aligned with the Highlight methodology in the sense that it focuses on a single item at a time.
This method promotes taking the single most challenging task from your daily list and to work on it first thing in the morning.
The effectiveness of this tactic comes from the fact that your energy level is high in the morning. Consequently, you should use it for intensive high-cognition tasks, the tasks that require a fair bit on concentration.
Next time your start the day with some time on your hands, instead of checking your emails or browsing social media, pick the most important task and get started!
Eat the Frog and Highlight work very well also because of the dopamine released in your brain as a result. Once the task gets completed, you will feel like you have won already. The rest of the day is all bonus and you can enjoy it, maybe even complete a few boring tasks that you would have left on the side for days otherwise. Being in a roll, maybe it is worth keeping at it and making it a perfect day by completing those annoying tasks as well...
This is also why some people work out in the morning. You feel like you have already done something amazing even though it is just the morning. The rest of the day can only get better.
The issue with the above techniques is that you need to have a few hours in the first place in order to even consider focusing on something.
We already covered the time blocking technique which is not made easy to implement with the most popular calendaring tools but which most modern calendars do support.
In addition to products that could make your crazy schedule more manageable through time blocking while taking into account your time preferences, many people make use of other techniques like the Pomodoro technique.
If finding time to concentrate is hard during the day, consider waking up earlier, even going to the office before everybody else arrives. The time where nobody is around will be particularly appropriate for concentrating given that there will be less distractions.
Just restrain yourself from checking emails or visiting social media websites.