Organize Your Time With The Building Blocks of Productivity
By Denise Landers

What lessons you can learn from small
children!  One day I was watching two
youngsters, ages 3 and 5, playing with
“bricks” constructed out of heavy cardboard.  The brick blocks came in three sizes:  a
10” x 16” rectangle, a 10” square, and the standard 3” x 10” brick size.  Over time they
spent hours creating structures.  

At the beginning there was no understanding of larger pieces providing a stronger
foundation for the smaller pieces and so things would come tumbling down without
using all of the bricks.  With lots of trial and error the children discovered that if they
started with the biggest size, they were more likely to be able to use all of the bricks.

An effective daily schedule can also be constructed with three types of blocks.  How
much you can pile on (your productivity) each day depends on how well you
organize your time.  

Large Blocks – Your Day’s Foundation

Make your day’s foundation an uninterrupted block of time when you can focus on
difficult, involved projects.  The ideal length is an hour and a half, approximately
twenty percent of an eight-hour day.  If you cannot possibly find that length of time,
try for an hour.  Even with 45 minutes of uninterrupted time you can get a significant
amount of work completed because you are not requiring twenty additional minutes
after each interruption to get back into the “flow.” As you develop this routine, aim
for the hour and a half each day.

During this time, do not answer every phone call.  Turn off your general email alerts.  
If you want to ensure that a certain person or message gets through immediately, set
up your software rules to notify you of that specific message.  When you can block
twenty percent of your time, you will accomplish about eighty percent of your work
for the day.

You recognize instinctively that having uninterrupted time is effective when you
arrive at work an hour early or stay for a couple of extra hours at the end of a day,
knowing you will get so much done in that quiet time.  Why not become more
productive by including that quiet time within your day instead of adding extra hours
in order to get the same amount of work done?

Medium Blocks (Grouping Blocks) -- Multi-Tasking Isn’t Always The Best Option

Group as many like activities as possible since you are four times more productive
when you can focus on one type of task rather than switching back and forth among
assorted tasks. Constant multi-tasking slows you down.  Activities that can be
grouped include returning non-urgent telephone calls, processing your email inbox,
filing, and reading.

The length of this session depends on the work.  If you average about five phone calls
at a time, you may only need to block out ten to fifteen minutes.  With email, you
might need to spend thirty minutes at a time.  Any of these can be repeated during the
day.  For instance, you might quickly check your email first thing in the morning for
ten minutes to handle urgent issues, then spend thirty minutes before lunch and thirty
minutes again later in the afternoon.  Stick to the amount of time that you have
originally allotted rather than letting it trail on.  That will keep you focused on the
task at hand and will increase your productivity. Move what you do not complete to
the next block of time.

Small Blocks – The New Items and Lower Priority Tasks To Be Handles

New items and lower priority tasks can be worked on between the other blocks.  
These might include requests for help from a colleague, quick answers to questions,
filling out forms, and other project components that did not fit into your major blocks,
but that you still have time to work on.

Structuring each day starts with locating a space for that large block, followed by
several medium blocks of grouped activities. Small blocks are then added.  If you do
the reverse, which means coming in to work and clearing out the small items before
you find a time for the most important work, you may wrap up the day without
handling your priorities.

Why spend extra hours in the evenings on work that you could have fit into the day
with the right construction of your schedule?

About the author: Denise Landers, productivity trainer, organizing specialist, author
Destination: Organization and owner of Key Organization Systems, Inc. has spent
years speaking, training, consulting, and coaching on the topics of time management
and effective workflow.  To find easy ways to prioritize, focus and improve your team
productivity, subscribe for free monthly articles on time management and organizing
topics at:
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