How to Structure Your Day

Assigning time slots for the things that matter is the best way to keep your life in balance and your career moving.

How to Structure Your Day

At least in one respect, there is perfect equality among all of us: We all dispose of the same number of hours in a day. How we use them is what makes the difference between high and low achievers.

So how do you structure your day to get the most out of it? Consider these steps:

1. Know Your Priorities

Making the most of your day does not mean checking as many items off your to-do list as you can. It’s fine to create such a list to get all your required tasks out of your mind and on paper, but don’t turn your to-do list into a schedule. Your goal is meaningful productivity. Be clear on what your long-term goals and weekly objectives are. Every day, pick three tasks from your list that will have the most impact on reaching them.

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2. Start with Your Most Vital Task

When you start work, do whatever you consider most vital. Leave activities like responding to email until after you complete the day’s crucial tasks. Your ability to concentrate declines later in the day. Save that time for emails and for mundane tasks and chores.

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3. Carve out Focus Time

Carve out time to focus – and protect it fiercely. Close the door, put notifications on mute and use a website blocker to discourage yourself from checking social media. If you switch tasks often, your mind splits your attention in a way that reduces overall performance. You will get the most high-quality work done in deep, concentrated bursts.

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4. Schedule Downtime

Treat activities that give you energy or help you relax with as much importance as work-related commitments by putting them on your schedule. Resilient people know how to manage their energy. They oscillate between expending energy and recharging their batteries. Time taken for relationship building, relaxing and exercising isn’t time stolen from life’s necessities. It is one of life’s necessities.

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5. Put It All Together

There are many scheduling and time management systems out there that will allow you to implement the time management principles discussed above. If your answer to procrastination has been to neglect your health and relationships, you may want to give Neil Fiore’s Unschedule a try. If you feel constantly overwhelmed, Ryder Carroll’s Bullet Journal method will help you keep track of the moving parts of your life and sort out your goals. And if you want to get serious about engaging in daily deep work, use Cal Newport’s Time-Block Planner. As Newport told getAbstract, making sure every minute of your day has an assigned task does not put you in a straightjacket – quite the opposite:

It seems counterintuitive, but structure begets flexibility: The more structure you have around how work happens, the more flexibility you could have in terms of when and where that work happens.

Cal Newport
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