The Six Cs for a Well-structured Workday

February 12, 2020 Lianne Jacobs

As we know, the modern workplace isn’t always conducive to performing at our best.  Between the “ding” of a new email hitting your inbox, or the “brrring” of an upcoming meeting notification, who has time to actually get any work done?  We’ve compiled these six Cs to help you create a well-structured workday.

Create your to-do list

Studies have shown that unresolved tasks distract us but making a plan to accomplish these tasks helps alleviate this distraction [1].  One of the most important things you can do to pre-empt being overwhelmed by the enormity of your task list is to begin your day or week with a plan for how you’re going to accomplish everything on your plate.  Try following this Harvard Business Review guide to creating the most effective to-do list or downloading one of these apps [2].

Carve out focus time

Interruptions are constant throughout the day from a face-to-face cubicle drop by to emails.  Any interruption that disrupts concentration on a particular task can be detrimental to your ability to get through your burgeoning to-do list.

Carving out focus time on your calendar is one way to protect time needed for more involved work from interruption.  By blocking off time on your calendar, devoid of email and meeting distractions, you can ensure that those time slots don’t fill up with other meetings and requests.  When quiet is needed at all costs, headphones, reportedly used by 50% of people at work, can not only help mitigate ambient noise but also signal you are focusing [3].  Other strategies include finding a quiet area of the office, working in a small conference room, or opting to work remotely if that is an option.

Confirm your attendance is required

People attend up to 62 meetings each month [4] [5].  Not only are there more meetings than ever before, but these meetings are not always efficient.  In fact, 45% of workers say more efficient meetings would have the most positive impact on their abilities to innovate and problem solve [6].

One way to make meetings more efficient is to make sure that the appropriate individuals are in the room.  When nonessential people are expected to attend meetings, those individuals lose time where they could be getting their own work done, and often multitask during the meeting to focus on their own tasks, detracting from overall meeting engagement.  Google’s workplace experts recommend paring down your guest list by making sure everyone in the meeting has a good reason for being there and ensuring that all attendees know what is expected of them [6].

Check email in batches

The notification of a new email hitting your inbox acts as a trigger for many people, causing them to immediately stop whatever work they were doing to read the new message.

One way to more effectively manage your email inbox is to check it in batches throughout the day.  Rather than reacting to incoming email notifications, set designated times on your calendar for reading and responding to emails.  This strategy will allow more time to focus on work without the potential for a distraction, and will allow for more thoughtful review of emails, rather than an “I’ll deal with that later” approach.  When you sit down to your email with intent, you avoid any time wasted switching between tasks, and you don’t make the mistake of firing off an email before you’ve finished your thought or copying the wrong person [7].

(Dis) Connect with electronics, Connect with people.

Smartphones have made it easy for us to stay connected to work whether we’re on the train, standing in line at the grocery store, or laying in bed.  But just because we can be connected 24/7 doesn’t mean we should be.  If you must work after hours or on the weekends, delay sending emails until the recipient is back in the office to avoid interrupting their downtime [8].

According to the 2019 Britain’s Healthiest Workplace report, 56.4% of people suffer from at least one dimension of work-related stress, and 35.1% report having felt unwell as a consequence of work-related stress [9].  It is essential that we detach and give our minds and bodies a chance to recharge in order to prevent against burnout – spend time with friends and family or engage in self-care during your downtime.

Care about your health

Research has shown that health, lifestyle, and well-being factors – including weight, sleep, smoking, stress and depression – are critical components of workplace performance [10-17].  Taking care of one’s health is the foundation for living one’s best life, both at work and beyond.

How we structure our days is more important now than ever before.  Following the six Cs can help you create a well-structured day and improve your workplace behaviors for maximum efficiency. As Stephen Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and one of Time Magazine’s 25 Most Influential People said, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”

Lianne Jacobs, Product Analyst, has a master’s degree in public health from Yale University. She is the only indoor cycling instructor who can’t ride a bike. She enjoys traveling the world, laughing at her own jokes, and tricking her husband into eating baked goods made with hidden vegetables.

References

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[2] A. Rimm, “Taming the Epic To-Do List,” Harvard Business Review, 26 March 2018.
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[4] Digital Synopsis, “How Managers Are Killing Productivity With Useless Meetings That Cost $37 Billion/Year”.Digital Synopsis.
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