Feeling exhausted or overwhelmed? Before you continue to burn the candle at both ends or frazzle out entirely, you might take a minute to see if there’s a better way to design your day. If you wear a lot of hats at work, trying an A/B schedule might save you time, stress, and energy.
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Haven’t heard of this strategy before? Here’s how it works: You examine your to-do list, identify the types of tasks you have or modes you need to work in, and then group similar things together so you can stay in the same mindset or stick with the same tools. Instead of constantly switching back and forth between different types of tasks and leaving most of them unfinished, you set aside specific times or days to dedicate to similar tasks or single projects. Imagine heading home feeling energetic and inspired, rather than too exhausted to even decide what you want to have for dinner. It sounds glorious, and it’s not too good to be true. Here’s what you can do to set yourself up for success.
1. Scope your current schedule. Get clear on where you are right now before you start making schedule changes. Check in with yourself to take stock and make note of the tasks you tackle each day, week, and month. Next, nail down how much you work and how often you communicate. Last, look to uncover where and when you work your best, along with what stresses you, drains your energy, or causes you to go off-course.
2. Set specific goals. Once you’ve had a chance to get real about what works and what doesn’t right now, you’ll be in solid shape to set a few productivity goals you hope you can achieve by altering your schedule. Not sure where to start? Here are a few ideas:
- “I want to save x hours of time per week”: You might try to save yourself from a time suck you know happens when you switch between different types of tasks. Get specific and see if you can save a number of hours per week by regularly sticking with the same type of work for a set block of time or a whole day.
- “I’d like to feel more energetic after work”: Do you head home feeling drained? If you’ve identified that switching hats each day makes you feel exhausted, foggy, or burnt out, try setting a goal that’s aligned with feeling good when you’re done with work. You can aim to have the energy for post-work social plans a few nights a week, or to hit an evening workout class you’re usually too tired for.
- “I want to feel more focused”: If you’ve been struggling to break through a creative rut, have recently experienced job boredom, or feel unable to get in the zone, your goal might be to count the number of times inspiration strikes in a day, week, or month. If calls and meetings pull your attention away, consider blocking an entire day for communication only.
3. Test your new tactics. Have your goals ready to go? Awesome! If you work with other people and your new schedule could affect them, let them know about your new approach and how it might change the way you collaborate. If you work solo, you’re set to hit the ground running.
4. Reflect on how you feel. If your schedule test goes well, you’ll find yourself with extra time, more energy, greater focus, feelings of inspiration, or restored creativity. Have you been able to close your computer for lunch? Are you sleeping well? Are you stressing about tasks? Do you feel exhausted? Your goal is to feel good at the end of each day, so be sure to schedule in things that keep you healthy, like short breaks, taking time for a balanced lunch, or even an on-site power nap.
5. Evaluate your work: The last step on the list is to pause and reflect on your professional output. Are you producing high-quality deliverables? Do you feel like your assignments, projects, or presentations are as good as they were before, or hopefully, better? Ideally, getting in the zone — and being able to stay there for a set amount of time — will help you produce your best work.
This article originally appeared on Brit + Co.
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