Thursday 12 June 2014 9:31 pm

Boost efficiency with a weekly plan

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Ride the Tuesday productivity surge and use the 80/20 rule for a better working week

We are what we repeatedly do,” said Aristotle; excellence is a habit, not an act. It’s common to think of productivity as purely a function of on-task effort, but successful chief executives and political leaders often rely more on a meticulous weekly structure than elbow grease to get things done. Productivity coach Neen James, who runs mentoring programmes for female business leaders, argues that having a “systematised” weekly structure can even be more important than focusing on daily plans: “No week is ever the same, but you might be surprised that, when you create boundaries or structure for your week, you can achieve an enormous amount.” Here are some tips for making your own weekly plan.

We’ve all experienced the Friday productivity dip, and according to a survey of over 300 human resource managers by staffing firm Accountemps, Tuesday is the best day for getting things done. Around 33 per cent said that productivity markedly improved on a Tuesday, compared to 27 per cent for Wednesday and 14 per cent for Monday. Accountemps senior staffing manager Vitaly Melnik suggests that “you’ve got your head focused after the weekend is over; you’ve caught up on everything; and you can do your regular work schedule most effectively. Then, after the hump of the Wednesday, come Thursday and Friday, and you’re already thinking about the weekend.”

Clearing the day of meetings, long lunches and other distractions can help leverage the power of Tuesdays, while prioritising a good night’s sleep on Monday will make sure you don’t miss the productivity surge.

Email, mobile phones, and the internet have made it easier for the priorities of others to intrude on our days. And this perpetual connectivity is far from conducive to on-task efficiency. But scheduling strict blocks of time for high-priority pieces of work, and letting your colleagues know when you plan on being uncontactable, can help manage such distractions.

Timo Kiander, who runs the Productive Superdad blog for entrepreneurs, recommends using the Pareto 80/20 Principle as a rule of thumb when deciding how much of your week to time-block. In many cases, around 20 per cent of a company’s customers account for 80 per cent of revenue. Kiander reasons that similar ratios apply to an individual’s working hours and their output; he advises time-blocking the most important 20 per cent of tasks in a week.

No one can work flat-out all week, but James argues that some people’s plans suggest they’re in denial of this. She stresses the importance of setting aside some down time each day.“This might include exercise, meditation, quiet time, reading, self development, or all of the above.”

Arianna Huffington famously introduced nap rooms at the Huffington Post, while the chief executives of Vodafone, Ericsson, Disney, Xerox and Citigroup all reportedly schedule in time every day for some early-morning exercise.

It’s human nature to want to optimise things, but Tony Stubblebine, creator of productivity app Lift, argues that setting your sights too high could kill your weekly plan prematurely. Rather than booking in hours at the gym, followed by a marathon email session, go for achievability: the best laid plans are often the simplest.

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