In general, I’ve found that I'm most efficient if I follow a strict schedule that I create for myself ahead of time. If I can say “I’m doing X for one hour at 10am each day” then I’m much more likely to do that task when 10am rolls around. My MSc advisor, Dan Mennill, was the one who pushed writing for 1-2 hours first thing each morning. I started that habit again during AcWriMo last November. Since then, I’ve expanded my schedule to include snacks, coding, and other things.
My current morning schedule is as follows. I have it all programmed in Google Calendar and I receive pop-up notifications 2 minutes before the start of each event. During my two stretch breaks, I do about 2 minutes of yoga just to prevent sitting for too long, and to force my brain to take a break. 'bfast' is breakfast, and 'hot beverage' means tea, hot chocolate, or sometimes coffee. At 9am, I try to make a (healthy) snack plate for myself so that I don't have any excuses to leave my desk once I've started coding. Oh, and the colours make sense too: yellow is reading, purple is writing, blue is fitness, orange is code, green is typically food- related, red is administrative and email type stuff, and green and turquoise are various meetings.
The night before, I’ll update individual events to mention particular projects so that I don’t waste time asking myself what I should work on during a given “write” or “code” time slot.
I tend to keep my afternoon more flexible, which is why I’ll schedule it just before lunch to account for any unexpected events or tasks.
Setting a rigid schedule has several benefits for me.
- I don’t waste time wondering what to do next.
- I don’t procrastinate as much because I’m not surprised by events and I know what needs to be done at given times.
- I’m less likely to search for distractions if I know I only need to work on X for 30-60 minutes.
- If I can complete a task within the time slot I’ve given myself (during administrative tasks, for example), I tend to work very quickly.
Given all of these advantages, I think optimal efficiency would be achieved if I could always identify specific incremental tasks and their associated times to completion. However, that’s way easier said than done. I’m going to keep trying, though!
Are you a routine-lover or routine-hater? What does your schedule look like?
What are your strategies for estimating how much time to allocate for a given task?