Working 9 to 5? Maximise productivity with these tips
Working nine to five can consume more than your 36-hour work week's worth of time. Commuting, planning, juggling tasks and handling mental strain can take up hours on either side of your shift, and by the time you've gotten home and eaten dinner, you may feel as though you've hit your daily energy quota!
Organising your life around your job can be tricky, but coming at it with a plan can help you make the most of each day. Consider these organisational tips to help optimise your work/life balance.
Learn your chronotype
Chronotypes are the science of our natural rhythms of alertness, focus and sleepiness. Related to your circadian rhythm, which influences when you feel drowsy, fall asleep and wake up, your chronotype impacts the time of day you're most productive.
The four main chronotypes are inspired by the sleep habits of four animals: lions, wolves, dolphins and bears. The bear chronotype makes up just under half the population and are the most suited to 9 to 5 work due to their 10 am to 2 pm peak focus time. Find a quiz to help you learn your chronotype and understand the times of day you can expect to be the most focused.
Organise your day around your body's rhythm
Once you know which hours suit you best for deeper thinking, try to knock out your big tasks during these hours. Plan your work day to include focused time, admin time, lighter tasks, organisation and planning time, and of course – breaks.
Enter each day with a plan
If you're at your peak in the morning and rise early, you may prefer to prep for each day before work. If you don't have much time in the mornings, help yourself out the night before by planning the basics, such as:
- The next day's outfit. Check the weather, consider your environment, and lay out your clothes for the morning.
- Meals. Prepare what you can for your lunch the night before. If you're planning to make a sandwich, put your bread and dry ingredients together in a bag or container, and have your fridge items ready to grab at the front of the fridge. Leaving a note next to your keys or wallet to get your fridge items can help you avoid forgetting! Bulk cooking freezer-friendly meals makes this even easier.
Use a different browser for personal internet use and business use. This way, time-waster platforms won't be auto-logged in, eliminating that temptation (or auto-pilot desire) to log in and aimlessly scroll. This could also help you keep those lines sharp between personal and professional life. You won't be distracted by your cousin's holiday pics on Instagram while you're working, and you won't be thinking about checking work emails while catching up on your cousin's holiday pics after dinner.
To be distracted is to be human. Our brains are hardwired to shift focus to the most immediate threat to survive, so becoming distracted can feel good and safe sometimes. Practise catching your attention wandering, acknowledge the distraction and decide whether it's helpful to see it through or if you need to shift yourself back to the initial task.
Acknowledging unhelpful or distracting thoughts is part of moving through them. This is a form of mindfulness, and it can help you feel more present in life overall.
Breaks are part of work. Let's say that again...
Breaks are PART of work.
You cannot remain productive for 7.6 hours straight – you will likely burn out, or the quality of your work will diminish severely due to a lack of stimulation and brain food.
Always step away from your desk for a lunch break, and take smaller breaks throughout the day for stretching, walking, eating and if you're a computer-worker, to give your eyes a break from the screen.
Make time to move. Movement during even your quick breaks can help re-invigorate your focus – things like walking, stretching, or a few quick lunges can go a long way to break up the day and keep your use of time more efficient overall.
Small, achievable chunks
Setting realistic goals helps you stay on track and feel accomplished. Break down tasks into small achievable chunks that you can easily complete.
If you have one week to write 5000 words, block out your week by scheduling 2 500-word chunks in your most focused times each day. Or, skip a day and block out your most productive hour of the next day to tackle 1000 at a time. Or, schedule 200 in the morning, 200 before lunch, and 100 after lunch.
Find what flows best for you (smaller chunks or fewer larger chunks) and schedule work sessions on your calendar up until your due date to ensure that if you hit your marks, you'll have it done on time.
Clean and tidy
Tidy space, tidy mind. Keep your workspace clean with a weekly wipe-down (remember to pick everything up and clean underneath) and a daily declutter.
Even if your software is as soft as pen and paper, having your tasks, deadlines and priorities localised can help you juggle tasks. Consider a Kanban board or physical calendar. If you work in a team, invest in an online communication and planning platform.
Organise your organising
Yep! If you can, schedule in time to organise your upcoming days. You could also try allowing 10 minutes before knock-off time to create a list of actionables for the following day.
Push back on tasks you can't add to your plate, whether it's an extra work requirement you simply won't have done on time or a trip to the movies you've been invited to, but you'd rather stay home to do laundry and eat a good meal.
Say yes to opportunities that excite you. People with more on their plate are often more organised than those with more open books. If you have to make time to complete an errand or get some time to yourself amidst a busy schedule, you’ll make the time. If you have all the time in the world to do something, it may never make its way up the priority list.
No such thing as perfect
These tips may help you feel less overwhelmed and more on top of your work-life balance, but you may not always get them right! Do your best not to let the idea of what you ‘should be doing’ add to your stress.
Sometimes you may run out of time to bulk cook, and you will order lunch for that third day in a row – enjoy your meal! You can always try again tomorrow. You might forget to leave time to tidy your space because you’re distracted or focused – oh well! It’s your space, and when the urge to neaten up does strike, you can take a break then to sort it out.
One more suggestion for maximising productivity and keeping some balance in your life: be kind to yourself, don’t expect perfection and practise prioritising what makes you happy. If it ever feels like a little bit too much, reach for RESCUE Remedy® for natural emotional support, and speak to the people you trust and professionals for some guidance.