Employee workplace burnout is reportedly on the rise and there is lots being said about what to do about it. What happens if there's a simpler option?
Why you need a schedule blueprint to maximize productivity
Increase your productivity when working from home or in the office with a schedule blueprint. Discover what it is, its benefits, and how to get started.
This blog was originally posted on wndyr.com.
It’s time to admit an unfortunate truth: creating a productive work schedule is a huge challenge for HR, managers, and employees themselves.
However, many free productivity hacks can help you achieve focused work, and one of them is a weekly blueprint. Like an old school planner - it’s a schedule consisting of pockets of time blocked off for particular task types. But before we delve into the ins and outs of a blueprint, let’s uncover why you need one.
In most in-person work environments, employees only work for approximately two hours and 23 minutes each day. This implies that they’re unproductive for most of the day, wasting a daily five hours and 37 minutes of company time and employer money.
Now, before you jump to any serious conclusions in regards to what might seem like an unproductive workforce, you should first examine whether your employees have been empowered to be productive with the right tools and structure in place.
To gain more perspective on this shocking statistic, employees rarely get the time to delve into deep work. In fact, they’re interrupted every three minutes and five seconds by so called “productivity tools”:
- Slack, Trello, and other digital notifications
- Check-ins with their manager
- Last-minute administrative or low-priority task requests
- And all the other white noise that comes with a fast-paced workplace.
These constant sources of distraction force them to refocus often, which takes at least 23 minutes (it’s just human nature).
And this scenario doesn’t take into account any additional distressors such as overwhelming workloads, personal issues, and/or lack of human connection in remote work environments. For some, being overwhelmed by work tasks will spring them to action, while others will become distressed and stop working altogether.
Some common reasons why employees become overwhelmed at work include:
- Having several assignments to complete at once
- Meeting tight deadlines
- Receiving too few resources to properly handle their responsibilities
- Accepting too many tasks from supervisors and other employees
- Understanding very little about a certain assignment
- Feeling unsure about their work performance and how they can improve
- And finally, not handling their schedule and time well
However, no matter your experience, position, or goal at your current organization, time is of the essence. Defining an organized, realistic work schedule is key. And blueprinting your schedule is a great productivity hack that will help you set accurate deadlines, improve task prioritization and maintain clear boundaries.
What is a schedule blueprint?
Your weekly blueprint is a high level view of times and types of work you want to do during your week. It helps you to schedule your time in a meaningful way and allows you to focus on areas of value during your day when your energy and focus are at their peak.
For many, the easiest way to create a weekly blueprint is as an overlay of your digital calendar. Below is a perfect example of this. As you can see, this employee has blocked off pockets of time for different focus areas and color-coordinated them accordingly. While coloring your blueprint is a supplemental step, it gives you a sense of your week at a quick glance.
Let’s quickly break down how color has been used in this schedule blueprint. The employee has used the color:
Blue: to make room for personal time, such as a lunch break, exercise & family time.
Purple: to prompt them on where to further plan or schedule work. For instance, Tuesday is this employee’s “people focus” time, so any smaller requests that come up over a sprint or during the week will be scheduled during this block.
Green: to categorize meetings.
Yellow: to block off time for personal appointments.
Please note that schedule blueprints can be as rigid or as flexible as you want. Some people resist using them because they worry that it will be too regimental. However, the exact opposite is true. The blueprint structure gives you the freedom to focus where your attention is due, allowing you to prioritize your work and manage your time. Without a blueprint structure, time tends to control you instead of you controlling it.
So while some will choose to keep their blueprint regimented for longer, others will change it on a weekly or even daily basis. Choose which works best for you; you can always change your method later as your work and goals evolve.
4 Ways to blueprint your schedule to be most productive
One thing we love about a weekly blueprint is that it helps you set healthy work-life boundaries, especially if you are working from home. This is, of course, highly relevant in today’s business climate, with 69% of employees experiencing burnout symptoms while working remotely due to the pandemic.
It also creates a company culture where work is transparent. Your coworkers, managers, HR, and even leadership can see your schedule and the thought process behind it, which makes it open for input. This reinforces a strong, iterative work process.
But how can you get the most from your weekly blueprint? Let’s cover some core principles you should take onboard to enhance this productivity hack.
1. Understand when you're the most productive
You know yourself the times throughout the day when you feel most productive and energized. Schedule your most important, time-consuming, and challenging items for these times. Making this adjustment can greatly improve your mental health, job performance, and reputation at work because it ensures that you know how to make time for the work that matters.
You can then shift lower-value tasks like meetings, admin, and day-to-day communication to other times.
For reference, the most successful people in the world schedule high-focus, high-value work earlier in the day. Doing this ensures you're more alert when you need to be and less likely to procrastinate. It also sets the tone for your entire day with a small success and the knowledge that you’re making headway in a project.
2. Complete one task at a time
If you have several clients, bosses, or upcoming deadlines, you’re likely struggling to balance them equally. And you’ll be tempted to multitask.
However, when possible, try to avoid cluttering your brain by focusing on one task at a time, and execute this with your blueprint. If you're working on a larger project, you can break it down into smaller parts, so it’s reasonable for you to complete the entire task before moving on to another item.
You should also group like tasks together so you can remain in the right mindset and focus to complete them. Doing this helps you maintain momentum because you can bypass the adjustment period of having to switch from one type of skill to another.
3. Maintain a healthy work-life blend
Now for the most intuitive but elusive schedule tip: don’t make setting your personal time an afterthought! It’s hard to complete strong work when you’re overwhelmed, exhausted, and not taking care of yourself.
So make time to:
- Get eight hours of sleep every night
- Engage in your favorite hobby
- Spend time with friends and family
- Or rest with a good movie or TV show.
First and foremost, establish the timezone you’re working in on google calendar and make sure that the rest of your team is aware of it. This way, your coworkers and managers can see the start and end times of your workday, and will be less likely to contact you or schedule untimely meetings. Doing this helps them respect your time, which is crucial in a global and remote team.
As for your workday, know that although it doesn’t feel intuitive, sometimes the best way to remain productive is to stop working and give your brain a break. When you do return to work, you’ll often find that you’re re-energized and feeling more positive and motivated to complete a task.
4. Limit yourself from distractions
Even when in a remote work environment, there are often elements around you that can be distracting, causing you to spend less time on an important project. Maybe you’re receiving a constant stream of Slack and Trello notifications, or perhaps you have multiple managers asking you for status updates at the same time.
Although you should remain an active and responsive team member, remember to advocate for yourself and limit distractions when it's impacting your productivity. You can use your weekly blueprint to remind yourself that you need to focus on an essential work item, and reset expectations and boundaries with your fellow employees. You can also set a status on your company's business communication tools, letting others know you're currently busy.
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