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There are days when I’m on my game and everything is clicking for me as a remote worker. I check off tasks in my task manager and everything is just humming along. Other days, I have disasters where emergencies pop up and throws off the entire day’s schedule. At the end of disastrous days, my to-do list has no completed check marks because I was putting out fires that comes with the day.
I read hundreds of blog posts searching for that one productivity trick that will handle any situation. But I soon realized that there was no “one” magical trick that will work in every situation. Some remote workers have complete control of their schedule. Others (such as workers who work on customer support) don’t have that luxury.
I have learned to switch my tactics depending on the situation.
Create a Today List of my 3 MITs (Most Important Task)
I choose two to three of my most important tasks from my task manager and work on them today. I write those 3 tasks on a sheet of paper or in my Bullet Journal. When I complete the 3 tasks, I can return back to my task manager and choose another 2-3 tasks. This is helpful on days where I don’t have complete control over my schedule. I might be on call and need to be ready to help with customer requests immediately. I can maintain my focus on my MITs by working on them in between small pockets of time when I am not dealing with customers.
Time-Blocking My Daily Schedule
Cal Newport schedules work for various tasks. If the task isn’t on the calendar, it probably won’t get done. Time-blocking works best for me when I have control over today’s schedule. I can plot out my 3 MITs into today’s schedule. I try to perform deep work during my golden hours when my focus is high and I can pay attention. I include buffer time between deep work to recharge by scheduling in some brain dead work in between the deep work. This takes the 3 MITs to another level because I am actually scheduling in time for them. I treat these time blocks as personal appointments that I can’t break. If I get interruptions, I’ll schedule my work around my 3 time blocks.
I do have to be careful about over-scheduling. I can plan the perfect schedule and watch it all fall apart by 9 am. Time blocking utterly fails for me during busy seasons such as the Christmas Holiday Shopping season. It works best during slow periods such as after the new year. I won’t have as many pressing demands on my personal schedule and I can return back to working on my personal projects.
Theming My Days
When I have a more structured week that has few interruptions, I can start theming my days as the Productivityist, Mike Vardy, likes to do.
Vardy suggests putting aside batches of work on certain days throughout the week. Every day has a specific purpose with similar groups of tasks are taken care of. I try to have most of my meetings, errands, and phone calls on Mondays instead of scattered throughout the week. I have Wednesdays set aside for administrative paperwork that needs to be completed before the end of the week. I also designate Thursdays for work on my advertising campaigns and on writing. I love my Tuesdays and Wednesdays open as buffer days to work on customer requests that starts to pile up through the week.
Eat That Frog
According to Brian Tracy, I should try to tackle work by taking one MIT (usually the most difficult one I’ve procrastinated on) and do it the first thing in the morning.
I pick this tactic when I know my day is in complete chaos. I might be focused on a client project deadline and won’t have a lot of free time throughout the day to focus on my personal projects. I reduce the 3 MITs down to 1 MIT and call this my “Frog for Today” 🐸. I wake up early and get started on my frog immediately after a light breakfast. I try to put in at least 30-60 minutes before I officially start my work day with the other emergencies that I need to work on for the rest of the day. As long as I can make progress for 30-60 minutes a day, I’ll be happy. If I can get my frog completed, I’ll feel a sense of victor before I throw myself into the daily chaos of constant interruptions and distractions.
Eating the frog has always been my fallback plan when I’m in high peak season. When time-blocking and daily is nearly impossible, I turn to “Eating My Frog to take forward steps before dealing with today’s demands.
I don’t subscribe to using just one of the four tactics I’ve described above. I use a different tactic depending on my schedule. Time-blocking and theming won’t work all the time. Life is too chaotic on some days or weeks. Choosing my 3 MITs or at least 1 frog to eat gives me a daily plan to work on.
What did you do to figure out your workload this week? Do you use time-blocking, daily theming, the 3 MITs, or the frog in your remote work? I’m always looking for other tools that helps me to go with ebb and flow of life when life suddenly accelerates from nice and peaceful to crazy chaotic. Hit the
Reply button and tell us what you do!
Your system is different from someone else’s, but there are a few principles you can keep in mind when trying to make it simple.
Justin got out of his normal routine, and now he’s evaluating just how complex his own productivity systems are for what he really needs them to do. It’s a journey of simplicity, an simplicity is hard.