Our brains are hard-wired to cognitively work in one mode.
Is this you?
You stare at your screen, with a looming deadline of a strategy document to complete with your email open, responding to texts or IM, and potentially wondering why you can't get it done and feel so overwhelmed.
It's likely you're working in stress mode, paralysed by your to do list, achieving very little, and come 6pm, mightn't even have much recollection of what you actually achieved that day.
You can take back control by firstly organising your To Do List into Urgent, Important, Delegate and Do Later sections - and then, organising your schedule by when you are most effective.
Either you're doing 'Making' or 'Marking' tasks.
Regardless of industry, the majority of tasks fall into one of the following categories: Maker or Marker.
- Maker tasks require long, uninterrupted slots of time. Gigs like Video Editing, Design, Strategy and Copywriting often require deep thinking and are often done solo.
- Marker tasks are 'stop-start' gigs. Phone calls, meetings, emails, managing people, project management are all tasks which use a fast brain approach, requiring a team effort to get the job done.
You can't Maker and Marker at the same time. That's not a thing. When you attempt to do tasks which use different parts of the brain, at the same time - your brain goes into turbo and all of a sudden you can't do jack.
SCHEDULING YOUR YOUR DAY ACCORDING TO TASK TYPE CAN BE INCREDIBLY EFFICIENT AND EFFECTIVE.
They key is to work with your personality type + type of task to figure out a productivity schedule that works for you.
- Tasks: What tasks are you responsible for delivering? Do they require lots of stop-start 'marker' type tasks? Or, are they predominantly 'maker' tasks requiring deep thought? (Or both?)
- Environment: What way do you work the best? For example, do you prefer a loud, open planned office with lots of buzz? Or, do you prefer a quiet space with headphones to really zone out to deliver your work?
- Personality style: When are you most creative? When are you most efficient? They aren't always at the same times. In fact, studies have shown that we are at our most creative when we're fatigued; and most efficient when we're most awake. Consider when you are your most articulate. Most creative. Most patient. This is important to consider when looking at scheduling your day for maximum impact.
- Working style: What is your working style? Do you enjoy autonomy? Do you prefer working as part of a team? Do you like having a team around you or leading one?
Here's an example.
- My tasks: usually, I have both stop-start marker tasks to complete such as phone calls as well as maker tasks such as writing.
- My environment: I like noise! It's strangely calming to work in a busy cafe but not always with coworkers as I know I'll get distracted.
- Personality style: I'm a morning person and I like talking to people in the morning as I'm most alert then. So I try and schedule in meetings for the morning and writing for the afternoon.
- Working style: I prefer to work autonomously, and check in with a team to make sure I'm on track.
Create a schedule around your natural working style.
Now you are clear on what your working style is, you can go ahead and design your own schedule to maximise efficiency.
- Write down Monday - Sunday on a piece of paper, and assign each a column.
- Look at your to do list. What tasks can be 'batched' together into one 'type'? Create a list where those maker tasks and marker tasks can be easily assigned together.
- Look at your personality, environment and working styles checklist. Depending on whether you are a morning or afternoon person, schedule in your 'marker' or 'maker' tasks around this, together. If you're a morning person like I am, you'll likely prefer to manage your phone calls, meetings and emails all before midday where possible.
- Now look at your calendar working week. Is your day dictated by just 'going with the flow' and doing any old task that comes up first? No! It's dictated by deadlines. Take a look at what structure those deadlines have. Is there a weekly deadline that needs to have work delivered? Are you giving yourself adequate time during the week to make sure that deadline is adhered to, according to what time of the day you work best? Can you see pockets of time where you can slot in some of your 'batched' tasks in to achieve this? For example, can you see pockets around meetings on, say Mondays and Thursdays, where you might be able to escape the open planned office and spend two hours on your laptop making a dent in presentations, writing or strategy work for your weekly meeting?
When similar mental resources are being used, your brain is be able to cognitively deliver the highest value in the shortest amount of time.
By scheduling your week according to task type you’ll reduce your stress levels and rev up your productivity. Meaning you'll make you deadlines with higher quality work.
By batching your tasks at work, you'll be more productive, work with your personality type (instead of against it) and your creativity will soar.