Join Todd Dewett for an in-depth discussion in this video Structuring your day, part of Working Remotely (2015).
- Step one for successful remote work is to set up a thoughtful plan for the structure of your day. I want you to think about two specific things. Using your calendar correctly to organize your work and understanding how to structure work within one working day. Let's start with organizing your work into an effective work schedule. Too often it's easy to spend 30 seconds browsing in your head over the tasks and projects you're responsible for. Maybe you think about which one thing will be due next week and choose to focus your workday on that task.
That's a common approach and it's a bad idea. Here's what I want you to do: Start with a yearly calendar, whether on paper or computer. Now, month by month, write down exactly when each major independent task or project is due. These are your targets. And it's now time to use them to plan backwards. For each piece of work you put on the calendar you have to work back towards today, adding entries on your calendar for each of the major milestones you must complete along the way.
Each milestone, of course, can be broken down into smaller, individual steps. When approached this way, with just a few minutes of planning, your calendar can be used to precisely document how you'll get all of your work done on time. With your general work schedule in place on your calendar you begin your work day with a quick review. I'm only talking about two to three minutes to look over the next few months of milestones and due dates. When you do this you're going to see multiple items you need to focus on today.
In addition, you also have normal recurring daily tasks you're responsible for. Maybe it's managing a weekly conference call or generating and distributing certain reports. Okay, so now you're looking at the five or six things you should be focused on today. But where do you start? To figure out how to prioritize the tasks for your day, ask yourself these questions. First, which tasks absolutely have to be done. For example, think about the conference call I just mentioned.
Some things are not negotiable. So look at your daily calendar and make sure they're scheduled. What remains is your discretionary time for the day. So here's the next question. What if anything is behind schedule? If you have a project that's slipping it may need additional attention and a higher priority. Next, what's the most important work in front of you? Sometimes the sheer importance of a project suggests it should go first even if other deadlines are tighter.
Finally, where do you expect the most challenges? If some of your work involves interactions with processes or people known to you to be difficult, you might schedule the work sooner to offset possible delays down the line. Structuring your day thoughtfully is essential and it only takes a few minutes. Follow the advice and questions we just covered and you'll understand what your calendar should look like and exactly how your day should be prioritized.