#HowIWork: To Do Lists and Schedules.

woman working at a desk

I’ve always been a lists type of person. If I don’t have a list, I feel disorganised and end up performing terribly.  So, I’m always curious about how I can improve my work/life balance, or just be more productive during work hours.  I was talking to a friend about work productivity and she introduced me to the ‘How I Work’ podcast. If you’ve never heard of it, I highly recommend it.  Amantha, the host, invites some of the world’s most successful people to talk about how they manage work. Each episode is full of great insights and practical tips on how you can manage your day. On the same vein, I invited my co-workers to do the same. You’ll have probably seen write ups from them. We hope you’ll find our stories interesting, and perhaps helpful.

As mentioned in my intro; I’m a list kind of girl. Before I finish my workday, I usually have a list of things I need to do tomorrow. I manage this through an app called Habitica. If you’re into gamification, it basically treats your to-do lists like a quest. You gain points as you finish each task on your to do list.  Plus, if you want to create new habits or get rid of old habits, you can add them to your list and keep track of your progress. I highly recommend it.

Before Work Starts.

I usually wake up around 7am, hop into the shower, get dressed and make myself a cup of tea.

I then sit down with my Japanese textbooks and begin my language studies at about 7:45. I’ve been self-studying Japanese for about 2 years now. I hope to take JLPT N3 certification next year. JLPT is similar to the EILTS test for people who want to learn Japanese. I usually dedicate one hour every day to my language studies.

An image of a Japanese textbook. Studying Japanese in the mornings keep me productive.

I try to finish around 8:45am to give me enough time to prepare for the day. At 9:00 am, I’m officially on the clock.

The first thing I do is take my unread emails down to zero. This helps me keep track of any new to dos that pop up from my colleagues. Once I’ve replied to all my emails and updated my to do list, I feel ready to take the day on.

From emails, I move on to check on our social media platforms and make sure all messages are answered, check on the performance of our posts and note down any interesting developments.

Once work starts.

Once that’s all done, I move on to the things on my list. Today, I have a 1-to-1 meeting with my boss at 11:00. We usually have these meetings once a week to catch up with my progress and make decisions on any new processes that will be implemented going forward. We usually hold them on a Monday. I find it helps me be more productive because I can summarise any achievements and stumbling blocks from the previous week. John is great at being a sounding board. Get yourself a John, your life will become way more efficient!

Before this meeting, I’m going to do some market research and finish up the blog write ups I started yesterday. I’ll also look at updating our pages on job hunting sites, and on our website.

Around 12, I need to call Jess, our marketing intern, and check on her. She’s currently in charge of our content calendar so we’ll go through it together and discuss any adjustments that need to be made (if any).

My day will continue like that until I’ve gone through everything on my to do list.

Taking Breaks

Since my day is pretty streamlined, in terms of what to do when, I sometimes have trouble with taking breaks. I use my Fitbit for this. I got it a few years ago for training reasons but it’s come in handy for many other uses. I’ve got alarms for when I need to eat, and it automatically gives me prompts to move every hour. This is especially useful since I’m working from home.

Trying to be productive

One thing I found difficult about working from home when I first started, was concentrating. I’ve always been a person who works well in noisy environments. Even at university, I found working in my noisy library more productive than working in my quiet room. One thing that helps me work well is background noise.  I usually play recordings of thunderstorms or rain. YouTube has thousands, give them a try!

I work with a lot of different platforms and my job is a combination of real time action and planned lists. I can move between our website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and other platforms at least three times in one day. Unfortunately, I’m not naturally gifted at prioritising and multitasking.  Doing this can get a bit overwhelming. If I don’t manage them, they can easily become a drain on my time. One thing that helps me balance everything and not dedicate too much time on one activity at the expense of others, is using a time log. I try to track what I did during the day and how much time was spent on it. I then review my logs every couple of weeks. This helps me identify and control problem areas.

And that’s my approach to work. I don’t really have any lifehacks or clever tips. I try to be aware of my output and energy expenditure. If I identify any weaknesses to my approach, I try to adjust them without affecting my productivity and move on.

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