If you’re a business owner, and haven’t ever known the grip of overwhelm, I probably won't believe you (but hit me up, because I need to know your secrets!). Between endless to-do lists and project deadlines, daily tasks can quickly pile up and get the better of us. There’s a reason we all love productivity hacks, isn’t it?
A large chunk of the work I do involves sharing my own experience with balancing work and ‘the rest of my life’, something I’m extremely passionate about. If you love what you do, something I assume all of you reading this do, it’s easy to go over the traditional bounds of work days and weekends.
Before you know it you’re working Tuesday night, Thursday night, all of Saturday and half a Sunday because if you don’t do the work, no one else will.
The trick, though, is to realise the importance of working smarter, not harder in managing the overwhelm of daily to-do lists. It’s never too early to start optimizing the hours you work. As a culture, we assign ‘worth’ to working 60+ hours because that means you’re a ‘serious hustler’, right?
That’s not a sustainable way of living, though. In my own experience, and that of those around me, I see just how important it is to know when to stop, as it is to know when to push harder.
One of the best ways I’ve found to get more done in less time without losing my mind is to theme my work days. I allot myself weekends (gasp!), I make sure that the hours I do work have definite purpose, and I keep inventory of the exact work I’m doing, the effect it has, and the progress I make.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO THEME YOUR DAYS?
In short, theming means giving each of your work day one particular theme - such as writing, course creation, client work, admin - and batching all related tasks within the relevant themed days.
The genius of theming lies in the fact that it provides clarity on ALL the tasks in your business that have got you busy week after week because you need to take stock of the tasks typical to your business.
In doing this, you’ll realise there are often overlaps or redundancies that can be better organized or done away with entirely, leaving you with more time to factor in other tasks or fun activities (super important!) you didn’t think you had time for.
To theme your days, you need to make a list of all the tasks that need doing, and find overlapping tasks and batch them together, so that you can handle them as one large chunk all at once on any given day(s).
Theming is the key to working smarter, not harder.
HOW TO THEME YOUR WORK DAYS?
I use theming along with another project management methodology called SCRUM, which involves considering a task or set of tasks as one project and working on it in a sprint of consecutive days, and focusing only on tasks related to that project.
For example, if your website needs work or you’re building a new website, following the SCRUM methodology would require that you focus only on your website for X number of days (let’s say, 15 days), and within that period, you will only do tasks that are related to building your website.
That’s the way I approach a project.
Now, to build a website, you need to accomplish certain tasks, for example, you need to write website content (such as an About page, a Contact page, descriptions for your services or products, and any other content specific to the website).
You might also want to get a head start on your blog and email list by writing a few posts and email newsletters before you launch your website. You also need to make graphics or take photographs for the website. Finally, you need to actually build the website.
So, if you were to theme your days for the next 15 days, you would batch overlapping tasks and organize the days per theme.
Looking at the (example) calendar below, I would combine all content writing – website, blog, email newsletter – on the first two days of the week under the theme ‘Writing’ and handle them together in bulk.
I would also batch any graphic design under the theme ‘Design’ in the middle of the week. Lastly, I’d reserve the final two days of the week for actually building the website.
WHY DOES IT WORK SO WELL?
By zeroing in on tasks that are of the same nature, whether that’s writing, design, or technical work, you help your brain drive all focus and energy to it, without having to worry about changing course and shifting your brain's energy and focus to tasks of a different nature.
Writing content is drastically different from the technical nature of actually building a website, for instance, and when you go from one to the other, it requires both time and massive energy for your brain to shift and adjust itself to the new task.
By theming your days, you can go all in on one kind of work without having to switch and juggle unrelated tasks the entire day. Also, since you know exactly what you need to work on, you will experience much more clarity, efficiency, and ease in how you approach the work that needs done.
Theming also helps you to see first-hand just how much time you have in a day, and how much you can get done if you focus on one sort of task. That awareness can cause real mental relief (I know it does for me), which translates into the quality of work you deliver.
So you can do more and better work for increased results in lesser time. If there was ever a productivity drug, this would be it.