This is a guest post by Jacob Valentien, PE
Do you feel like you have too much work and a too little week? Does your work sometimes spill into late nights or even weekends? Know that you are not alone and that throughout your career, you will often have to recalibrate your approach to optimize your workload. Obtaining a healthy balance is a very hard thing to obtain.
In one of my previous blog posts, I wrote about different ways to trigger flow state and to enhance productivity in the moment. Triggering the flow state is one thing, but knowing the best times to try to trigger it is probably the most important. Are you most productive in the mornings, after lunch, at the end of the day? It takes some self-awareness along with trial and error to figure this out, but it is important that you do.
This post provides three simple tips to organize your calendar around those flow state moments so that you can get the most out of your workweek.
Tip 1 – Block off Time on Your Calendar to Accomplish Tasks
For me, this is a non-negotiable method for organizing my work tasks. Most people utilize to-do lists, flagged emails, or sticky notes to organize their tasks, although I have found it rare for people to utilize their calendar for themselves. Using your prioritized to-do list, block off open spots in your calendar centered around your flow state moments. I find that reserving time for myself is one of the most valuable things I can do to get my work done.
I like to utilize Outlook’s color coding system for my work blocks so that they show differently on my calendar for everyone on my team. This allows them to recognize when I am working as compared to when I am in meetings, so it doesn’t necessarily block me off from the rest of the world but does provide some shelter from the regularly recurring distractions.
Tip 2 – Eat the Frog First
When you are going in to block time off on your calendar, take that prioritized list that we talked about and try to knock off that challenging task (the frog) first. Eating the frog first means that nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day, according to Mark Twain.
I find, and so will you, that after you knock out a couple of your biggest and most impactful tasks, then the rest of your workweek flows pretty smoothly.
Make sure to block off one of your flow state moments early in the week for the frog. For me, I find that if I can get locked in to work an hour before everyone else gets started, then I can jump-start my day, eat the frog, and build momentum before the world ramps up and the distractions come knocking on my door.
Tip 3 – Plan Your Personal Life Out in a Similar Fashion
My third tip might seem contrarian, but I believe that if you create a busy personal life around work and dedicate your time to work while at work, you can actually be way more productive in the standard workweek.
I like to plan networking happy hours, workouts, or even just chores at the house for right after work so that I am incentivized to tackle my work throughout the day and feel comfortable packing up and heading out at standard time.
Also, making sure to have weekend plans so that you have something to look forward to at the end of your productive week again forces productivity and efficiency in completing that never-ending to-do list.
In summary, use your calendar as a tool or other people will. Start each week with a cleaned-up to-do list and prioritized tasks, then use that to organize your calendar and workweek to reserve your work time in an efficient manner. Eat the frog during your flow state times and get it out of the way early in the week. Plan exciting things to do before and after work to incentivize yourself to be productive and efficient.
If you try these things and respect your time just like you respect meetings on your calendar, you will find more great workweeks in your future.
About the Author Jacob Valentien, PE
Jacob is a Senior Project Manager with Pacheco Koch Consulting Engineers, Inc. and has over 9 years of engineering experience in municipal infrastructure with a focus on water & wastewater treatment design and construction. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Texas and is a licensed Professional Engineer in the State of Texas. He has designed projects and managed teams on local and state public & private sector projects. Jacob is responsible for project management and delivery, business development in the public works sector in Central Texas, and client success. He previously completed the 2019-2020 Emerging Leaders program through ACEC Houston, has presented on topics such as pre-chlorinated pipe bursting to the Association of Water Board Directors, and has co-authored a technical article on Wastewater Treatment Plant Design. He also has developed curriculum, organized programming, and led project management and professional development training courses for his teams.
We would love to hear any questions you might have or stories you might share about how you use your calendar to make the most out of your workweek.
Please leave your comments, feedback or questions in the section below.
To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success