ArchiwumFebruary 2015

6 rules to plan a productive day


There are many good practices for managing your calendar. There are also several good practices for scheduling meetings in the most efficient way. I know many of them and I still make simple mistakes. This post is partially written to remind myself about them, but I hope you will find it useful too!

There are days when my calendar looks like the one below – meetings all day, without any breaks.

Too many meetings…


When I see something like this, I know I’ve failed to follow my own rules. You may ask what is wrong with a schedule like this – there’s even time for lunch! ;) There are a number of things that make this bad planning:

  • There is no time to grab a coffee, go to the toilet, or eat a snack during the day – the whole time is occupied by meetings.
  • If meetings are in different meeting rooms on different floors, I have no chance of being there on time.
  • There is no time scheduled for processing emails, returning calls, etc.
  • There is no time to simply rest and catch my breath.

I bet that at least some of you have such days. I’ve noticed that I’ve had many of them recently. As a reminder for myself and for you, I am listing a few rules to remember when scheduling your day:

  1. Remember work you have to do and plan it in your calendar – Answering e-mails, writing reports, doing research. If you know you have to do such things during the day and you are constantly being invited to the meetings, then put such events in your calendar. Call it work, research, communication, etc. That way you will have time to do it.
  2. Schedule time needed to prepare for a meeting – Some time ago, in the post about  meetings, I wrote what to do to prepare for a meeting. There is a number, not a small one, of things to do before a meeting. These preparations take some time, and it is smart to plan that time in advance.
  3. Schedule time needed to process notes from a meeting – usually you take notes during meetings. Taking notes makes the most sense when you process them afterwards.
    1. You should scan your notes looking for action points to add to your ToDo list.
    2. If you take handwritten notes, you may want to digitize them.
    3. If you store notes in applications like Evernote or OneNote, you should plan time for putting them in the right notebooks, tagging them, and adding dates and other information.
  4. Plan time for lunch and breaks – If you have a lunch break, put it in your calendar. That way you will have time for it and no one will invite you to the another meeting at that time.
  5. Put events for travel, working from home, etc. in the calendar – If you know that you won’t be in the office for awhile, then that information should be in your calendar. You will avoid being invited to meetings that you aren’t able to join.
  6. Leave the first 2 hours of each day empty in your calendar – Spend the first two hours on processing your todo list, planning your day, and doing your MITs. Don’t plan any meetings then.

If I remember these 5 simple rules, my day at work is usually more productive and much calmer. It’s so easy to forget about them, though. If we plan our days while keeping these rules in mind, we can leave the office much less tired.

Do these rules make sense for you? Do you find them useful? Is there anything else you would add to the list?


Photo by   keso sCC BY

Three MITs a day


I like to know for certain that my day’s been productive. Every day in the evening, I evaluate this. How? I check to see if I managed to do three MITs that day. If the answer is yes, then I know I’ve had a productive day. What are MITs? They are Most Important Tasks. Why MITs? Why three? You’ll find the answers to all of these questions below.

Each of you probably has a todo list. I’m sure that you have a lot of tasks there–more than you are able to process in a day. It doesn’t matter what methodology you use to manage your tasks, it’s simply not possible to do everything in one day! At some point, you have to choose what’s most important for a given day.

I deal with this challenge by defining three of my most important tasks for the day (MIT). I have a list of tasks that I need to do in a given week (I create this list every Friday; there will be a separate blog post about this). This list has a maximum of 20 elements, so choosing the right tasks for the day is not that hard. I scan that list searching for tasks that fulfil the criteria below:

  • I have to do it in a given day – I try to avoid situations where I have to do something on a given date, but sometimes I have such tasks. They will be chosen as MITs.
  • I want to do it because I want to see progress on a project – I like to see that things are moving in the right direction, and that I am closer to finishing the project.
  • Someone is waiting for me to finish a task and I do not want to hinder that person.
  • I want to do the task because I like it and it will be a pleasure to work on it (like writing a blog post :).
  • The task is part of a bigger project and I know that I need to finish it by a given deadline.
  • The task is quick and I know that I can finish it even if my day is very busy (for example, call someone, which is something I can do between meetings).

I’ve noticed that three MITs per day is an optimal number. Usually I can commit to finishing that number of tasks. If I chose more, I would risk not being able to finish them, and I would have to postpone them to the next day. If that happens, the tasks really start to pile up.

A lot of times, I’m tempted to mark more than three tasks as MITs because I consider a lot of tasks to be important. Then I try to remind myself of my rule, which states that if everything is the most important, then in reality nothing is! It’s up to me to choose what is really important on a given day.

To summarize, every day in the morning I have a list of tasks I want to do first. It looks like this:


In practice, I try to finish these tasks as early as possible, starting my day with them. Some time ago I wrote about how my mornings look. I work on my MITs before 9AM,  using the Pomodoro technique. If I manage to complete all my MITs in the morning, the rest of the day is much calmer. I have a lot of energy for other things that I want to do. I know that the most important things are done. And it’s a great feeling to know that I’ve had a productive day!

How do you choose your tasks for the day? How do you know what to do next? Let me know how you deal with this!

Photo by   Embracing HealthCC BY

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