Productivity | Calendaring To-Dos

It’s no secret that I love task management (and task management tools!)  I use Todoist to manage my tasks during the week, and a weekend-only bullet journal to manage my weekend life and projects. But when my days at work got so fragmented with meetings that I was experiencing task-paralysis in the short gaps of time I had at my desk, I did something drastic:

I began scheduling my day down to the smallest increments, scheduling my to-dos into 15-minute-divisible ‘appointments.’

And it was AWESOME!

No more productivity paralysis + a serious sense of accomplishment + a high-level view of my day, responsibilities, deadlines, and expectations = productivity empowerment! 

Here’s how I did it: 

  1. I set my calendar to display in 15-minute increments (I use Outlook at work, but any calendar style would work for this.)
  2. I continued to record my tasks into my Todoist and assign them a due date, priority, etc., as applicable, as they came to my plate.
  3. At the end of each day, I looked to the next:
    1. I reviewed tomorrow’s calendar and made sure it was up to date.
    2. I reviewed my task list for tomorrow.  I mentally categorized my tasks into tiny, small, medium, and large work efforts.
    3. I Identified the open slots in my schedule and ‘penciled’ my tasks (remember: 15-minute increments!) into those gaps.
      1. Tiny tasks take less than 5 minutes. They are the only kind of task that can be scheduled two (or three, in a pinch) to a 15-minute slot.
      2. Small tasks should take about 15 minutes
      3. Medium = greater than 15 minutes
      4. Large = greater than 45 minutes

Pro-Tips (i.e. Things I learned the hard way)

  1. Schedule two or three 15-30 minute blocks of email time into your day. (More or less, depending on your specific circumstance. If I was writing full-time, I would schedule two blocks. But because my office job entails a lot of emails, I schedule three–one 30-minute block in the morning, and two 15-minute blocks in the afternoon.)
  2. Leave enough time for bathroom breaks. Small tasks that will only take 5 minutes are a great opportunity for this: the rest of the 15-minute block can be used for a potty/facebook/whatever break.)
  3. Leave enough time for task transition. Butting two hour-long tasks up against each other sounds like a good idea, but you need at least 10 minutes to transition your brain (if not your work space!) when the first task ends to allow you to tackle the next.

This was surprisingly easy to implement into my work, and the payoff was WAY more than the small amount of expended effort.  The best part is that if I run into a day that doesn’t require this kind of detail, I just don’t do it that day.  There’s no commitment–it’s just another tool for your productivity toolbox, ready and waiting when the going gets tough.

Is this something you do? Any tips to share?  Or, if you decide to give it a try, let me know how it goes!

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