It’s easy to trick yourself into thinking there’s never enough time to get things done – especially the most important things in your life. But the most successful people and teams do find the time. They do something that most other people don’t: They know how to work their week.
Block your time
Set aside blocks of time in your calendar to work on your goal. This could be a set time every day, fixed times during each week, or times that vary each week.
This applies to your team goals and individual goals as well, so encourage team members to block time in their calendars as well. Work together to choose times that suit everybody, and respect those times.
This means you no longer have permission to wander over and interrupt people whenever you feel like it. You wouldn’t interrupt them in a meeting, so give them the same respect when they are working on their goals. Of course, this isn’t a hard and fast rule. If something is urgent, very important, or really needs their input, of course you might need to interrupt them. But make that the exception, not the rule.
Know your energy platform
Some people are early birds; others are night owls. Know what works best for you, and dedicate your best working time to your goals.
Be careful not to schedule important work when your energy is low – especially at the end of your day. Despite your best intentions, you probably won’t be as effective. Research has shown, for example, that hospital workers became more careless about hand hygiene near the end of their shift , and we might even be more inclined to make unethical decisions later in the day!
Another reason for doing the work early is to ensure it gets done. For example, when I was a member of the public speaking group Toastmasters, our club was full of busy professionals. Our meetings were early in the morning, which meant more people attended because they fit it into their day before everything else.
Work in sprints
If you set aside large blocks of uninterrupted time, it’s difficult to be completely productive during that time. In our world of constant interruptions and distractions, we find it hard to sit still – let alone work productively – for any decent amount of time.
Instead of fighting this, allow for it by working in “sprints”. You work intensively for a burst of time and then take a break. Then you work again for a burst and take another break. And so on.
This is the principle behind the Pomodoro Technique, which suggests bursts of 25 minutes followed by 5-minute breaks. It means you only get 50 productive minutes out of every hour, but those 5-minute breaks refresh you for the next burst.
This 25-5 split isn’t necessarily the best option for everybody. Other research suggests it’s better to work for 52 minutes and then take a 17-minute break . You might find something else that works better for you (I find that 40-minute sprints with 8-minute breaks work best for me).
Encourage your team members to use this technique as well, and create a culture that promotes it (don’t let them interrupt others who are working, and don’t get stressed when you see them “goofing off” during their breaks). This not only helps their focus and attention; some research says employees feel more valued when their managers encourage them to take breaks .