What Should I Do Today?| Planning a Successful Workday


In a fast-paced industry, managing time efficiently is a skill many architects and engineers must pick up quickly. Learning how to plan your day and set work priorities can increase productivity, decrease stress, and reduce the amount of overtime hours you are putting in.  Time management is more than jumping from task to task putting out fires. Here are a few tips to help you better manage your office time.

1. Have a Plan in Place Before You Start the Day. 

Planning and working are two separate tasks.  In order to effectively manage your time, you must have a plan in place before you begin your daily work. It doesn’t matter whether you plan the morning of, or the day before; figure out which you prefer and commit that time to planning.

2. Write it Down.
Checking boxes on your mental to-do list does not qualify as a plan. Grab your calendar, a notepad, or open a document on your computer—it’s important that your plan is written down somewhere. Putting your plan in writing will not only help you stick to your goals, but also help prevent disasters that arise from forgetting important tasks.

3. Prioritize Goal-Oriented Tasks.
Goal-oriented tasks are tasks that move us towards getting an objective accomplished.  Acknowledge which goal-oriented items on your to-do list have to be completed that day. These can be complete tasks or milestones that are part of a bigger picture.  Estimate how much time it will take to do each of these, and write that duration on your planning sheet.

4. Manage Workload on a Curve.
After assessing how much time each task will take, the next step is to decide the order in which you’ll complete the tasks.  One way to do this is to plan your day on a curve: start off with the easiest tasks in the morning, do the hardest projects between 10a.m. and 3p.m., and use the late afternoon to do housekeeping activities such as answering e-mail or returning phone calls. Or, if you know you suffer from the after-lunch slumps, aim to complete your most strenuous tasks in the first half of your day. 

5. Account for Overhead Time.
Few people are able to work for eight hours straight; even if they can it’s not healthy.  Always remember to include breaks in your workday plan. You’ll end up taking them anyway, so it makes sense to plan them on the front end.  One study suggests watching a short comical video during your break to release stress, which will make you more productive upon returning to work. 

6. Don’t Multitask.
While many people list multitasking as a skill, it actually decreases productivity. When working on multiple projects at once, you are more likely to become stressed, and the quality of your work suffers.  Devoting your time to a single task will ensure that you successfully complete each task to a higher standard in a shorter amount of time.

7.  Limit Email and Phone Distractions.
Dedicate set times to check emails and return phone calls.  If you don’t set aside specific time for this, daily distractions quickly take a toll.  Every time you choose to read a new message rather than continue working, you’re adding on time to the project at hand.  Before you know it, it is lunch time and you’ve gotten nothing accomplished. A good rule of thumb is to limit email distraction to every 20 minutes.

Using these steps to create a work plan will help make your day more efficient in no time.  If you found these tips valuable, be sure to check out more tips for the workplace from the leading engineering and construction staffing firm, RealStreet Staffing.  For more information on our recruiting and staffing services, contact us today.

After a string of failures trying to find the right person on our own, RealStreet came through for us. The first person they recommended was the person we’d been looking for all along. It doesn’t get better than that.

Joshua A. Woolley

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