But when the rubber meets the road, are you spending your time effectively on tasks that matter?
You have heard it many times—you need to manage your time and schedule your day effectively.
But creating a daily schedule is more than just slapping blocks of time on your calendar and then hoping for the best.
The good news is that you can use various methods to schedule your day. Let’s explore how they work and see which one is right for you.
Why Should You Have a Daily Schedule?
Productivity doesn’t “just happen.” Be deliberate about how you spend your time and what you focus on.
A daily schedule gives you the structure to control your day. When you stick to a plan and support it with affecting scheduling techniques (which we’ll show you below,) you can focus on doing meaningful work and get closer to your goal.
The predictability of a daily schedule helps reduce stress and decision fatigue. You shouldn’t have to spend any bandwidth to decide or anticipate what to do next, so you can focus your mental energy on what matters.
How to Schedule Your Day Effectively
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of scheduling methods, let’s take a step back to see how you should determine what goes into your daily schedule and make it work for you:
Define your why: Not every task is fun, but if you can articulate how it helps reach your goals, you can find the internal motivation to get it done.
Set your priorities: As the saying goes, “if you don’t set your priorities, someone else will set them for you.” To take control of your day, you need to prioritize what matters.
Estimate how much time each task will take: Accurate estimationsgive you a realistic view of how much you can fit into a day and accomplish what you set out to do.
Work smarter: Systems and processes can help you accomplish more in less time by minimizing decision fatigues and dependence on willpower.
6 Scheduling Techniques To Get Things Done
You have figured out what you need to do, determined how long each task will take, and set up a system to boost productivity. It’s time to schedule your day. Here’s how:
1. The Time Blocking Method
This method is the most straightforward way to schedule tasks if you know what to do and when to accomplish them. Simply plan out your day in advance by assigning a time slot on your calendar for each task.
But there’s more to this approach than just adding calendar entries. Assign proactive blocks to focus on critical tasks you want to accomplish and reactive blocks to accommodate requests and interruptions, such as answering messages or having impromptu meetings.
Time blocking gives you a well-defined structure to eliminate as much uncertainty as possible. Meanwhile, assigning a specific amount of time to complete each task can help you stay focused on every activity and catch yourself when you start falling behind.
2. The Most Important Task (MIT) Method
This technique is best when you need to finish critical tasks. You can use it in conjunction with the time-blocking method by assigning the first few hours of the day for the most important tasks as proactive blocks.
Instead of trying to get everything done on an endless to-do list, identify 1-3 of your most important tasks and focus on them relentlessly until they’re done. Of course, you can do more than 1-3 things in a day, but not until you have taken care of the MITs!
This method can help you make meaningful progress toward your goal no matter what each day has in stock for you. You can eliminate distractions effectively by knowing that you’re spending your time on meaningful work.
3. The Pomodoro Technique
This approach involves scheduling uninterrupted periods of short but highly productive bursts followed by short breaks. You break down tasks into manageable pieces and tackle each in 25-minute intervals.
After chunking down a task, set a timer to 25 minutes. Work on one piece until the timer goes off and take a 5-minute break. For every 4 sessions, take a longer break (e.g., 15 to 30 minutes.)
The potential downside of this technique is that the sessions must be uninterrupted. If you need to interact with others throughout the day, it may be challenging to accommodate these continuous sessions.
4. 90-Minute Focus Sessions
This method taps into the concept of ultradian rhythm, which dictates how our energy cycles in a 24-hour period. It helps you work with the natural energy peaks and troughs you experience throughout the day, so you can tackle demanding work when you have the most energy.
Work intensively through a 90-minute session and then break for 20 to 30 minutes. The rest periods are essential for improving performance and keeping your energy at its peak.
Tune into the natural rhythm of your body, which may or may not be exactly 90 minutes. Monitor your energy level throughout the day for a few weeks to understand your cycle so you can schedule the most important work during your peak performance hours.
5. Polyphasic Sleep Method
This unusual scheduling approach involves breaking up your sleep into multiple short chunks so you sleep fewer hours overall while increasing productivity. Some people may only take 20-minute naps, while others may have one longer sleep session supplemented with naps.
However, it’s hard for many people to maintain this schedule. For instance, it’s challenging to sync it with a typical family schedule. Also, missing scheduled sleep sessions can significantly throw you off your sleep schedule and impact your energy and focus.
But if you’re one of those few people who have a body clock that can handle such a sleep pattern and can make this method work for other areas of your life, you could gain as many as 4 extra hours each day—or 28 hours of productive time a week!
6. The Circadian Rhythm Technique
We operate according to a 24-hour cycle that regulates the body’s sleep-wake pattern and affects our energy level, mental state, and behaviors.
Most people reach peak concentration around 10 am and experience a drop in energy level between 1 pm to 3 pm. Then, they get a second wind before winding down at around 9 pm.
You can make the most of your high-energy hours by scheduling your MIT between 10 am and 1 pm. Work on tasks that don’t require as much focus (e.g., responding to emails) between 1 pm and 3 pm. Then, catch that second wind by finishing up what you plan to accomplish for the day. These afternoon hours are also suitable for exercise.
Making Your Daily Schedule Work For You
There are many scheduling methods—some are straightforward while others may seem borderline crazy. Meanwhile, some people may work best in short, intense bursts while others fare better with longer sessions.
Creating an effective daily schedule is all about finding the right approach that works for you. This often means mixing and matching the different methods and experimenting with various combinations to find your groove.
There’s no one right way to schedule your day. So how do you know if you’re doing so effectively?
You need a system and process to measure where you spend your time and how much you accomplish. You can then evaluate if you’re indeed focusing on the most impactful tasks to improve time management.
Once you have the data, you can make informed decisions on which scheduling methods work best for you. You can also gain insights into your worst distractions and become more mindful in avoiding them.
You can also see how much time you spend on each work item and when you’re most productive on which types of tasks to refine your approach and inform future planning.
The Foundation of Effective Time Management For Developers
Effective time management starts with understanding the relationship between time and effort (e.g., story points.)
We created 7pace to help developers track how they spend their time where they work (e.g., on Azure DevOps and GitHub) without the extra step of entering time into a separate software as an afterthought.
Since you own your data, you can track all your work and progress in one place over time—whether you’re working as a freelancer, for different companies, or on your own projects—to gain a holistic view of how you, as a developer, spend your time.
You can also pull real-time reports and check progress anytime to ensure that you’re on track. Otherwise, you can pivot quickly and adjust your daily schedule to focus on critical tasks.