It sounds boring, but we promise that structure, schedule, and systems will help you make the most of your efforts. There is something about consistency that is soothing. Plus, if you aren’t always thinking about what to do next or what you might be forgetting, your mind is freed up to more creative thoughts.
Structure, Schedule, and Systems: Part 1 – Structure
Do you find yourself rushing every morning, racing around like crazy to make yourself presentable for work, and trying to get the family and yourself out the door on time? Putting a little structure around those morning activities can prevent you from starting every day with heart-racing, frantic activity.
Start by jotting down what has to happen and who has to do it. Then, put a fairly accurate time estimate to each of those activities. Now, does it fit in your time window? If not, you need to either do some of those activities the evening before or get up earlier.
If you start the day with frantic energy, you’ve run out of energy before you even begin. Plus, you aren’t able to enjoy life with those you share it with. You’re too rushed to have a conversation with your son about how nervous he is to present his first book report to his class.
Put some structure into your morning in order to let the important things in. Some suggestions are to choose your outfit(s) the night before. (This is especially important if you have teenagers.) Make sure you know what everyone is having for breakfast. Preset the coffeepot. If people are taking their lunches, make them the night before – or make sure everyone has lunch money. And most importantly, make sure you take some time to do what makes you feel better – sipping that cup of coffee while you read or taking a quick jog around the neighborhood.
Putting some structure around your mornings can truly aid in your productivity throughout the day.
Structure, Schedule, and Systems: Part 2 – Schedule
Now that you’ve gotten yourself to work with a clear and relaxed mind, you should be ready to hit the ground running. Check-in here: Do you have a to-do list you’re working from, or do you start every day trying to figure out what you need to do first?
If you are starting every day without a working to-do list, in priority order, you are missing out on prime working time. Every morning gives you an opportunity to look at things with the most refreshed and energetic mind. If you waste that time figuring out what to do, you “start” your day late, and you’re already behind.
Work out that schedule the day before as the last thing you do before you go home. Make sure you look at your calendar and your priorities to build that to-do list. Also, be sure you are considering your best working habits. For example, be sure you are putting more creative tasks where your mind is most creative. I am more of a “get things done and out of the way” person in the morning, leaving the afternoon for writing or brainstorming. Others work the exact opposite way. Either way, you have to do both types of things; just build your to-do list to work best with how you work best.
Here’s another thing, don’t forget to take breaks and lunch. Walk around and stretch! Put those things on your calendar if you need a reminder. Use your calendar to make appointments with yourself to block out time to work on a specific project, write code, or work on marketing plans.
We highly recommend blocking time on your calendar to protect your time. We offer a one-hour calendar blocking course to get you started.
Structure, Schedule, and Systems: Part 3 – Systems
Another way to work toward a more productive year is to get your systems in place. You know all those things that you do over and over again – and always forget a step? Those things need a system. The other types of systems you need are for those things you want to do the same way over and over again, but you don’t do often enough to remember the steps.
Here are some systems almost everyone should have in place:
- Starting a New Project
These are examples of things that you want to do very consistently. The activities demonstrate who you are, and they’re how people perceive you. For example, part of your sales process can be educating your prospect on what it is like to work with you, ensuring a better fit. Another example is making sure all employees have the same experience and know the same things about the company – and also that Teri actually got her computer and Steve actually knows how to get into his email. Those things make for better employee satisfaction.
Having these systems in place, also allows you to go on vacation and hand the reigns over to a trusted team member, letting your company and team continue to make money while you lay on the beach. The value of that ability is immeasurable.
Freeing your mind not to have to think about the details and consistently following checklists, systems, and processes lets you focus on more productive tasks as well. Structure, schedule, and systems can truly make you more productive, more effective, and less stressed.
For more self-guided resources, visit our complete guide to successful small business operations.