How to stay productive with changing work schedules

How to stay productive with changing work schedules

Many articles have been written about work shedules and productivity. However, the vast majority of tips are created with the traditional workday in mind: they are designed for office workers who sit at a desk from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. five days a week.

But the fact is that many of us don’t work a structured schedule: freelancers and remote part-time workers, for example. And those who sit in traditional full-time jobs don’t always do the same amount of work at the same time each week.

So what about those whose work schedule is different from what they are used to? It’s simple: create your own schedule that suits them. Below we will tell you a few simple methods that will bring order to even the most chaotic rhythm of life.

Why is a daily routine necessary?

1. Our brains work best when they are in an established routine

Many successful people are known to follow the same routine and rituals every day. An orderly regime is like a rut on which the mental powers of genius move at a good pace; it shields him from the tyranny of fickle moods.

In capable hands, the daily routine is a precisely calibrated mechanism that allows us to make the best use of our limited resources: primarily time, which we lack most of all, but also willpower, self-discipline, and optimism.

Creating the right daily routine will help you increase your productivity many times over.

2. A daily routine is more effective than a strong will

Many people believe that productive work is a consequence of a strong will. “Just sit down and get busy”, they say.

Yes, willpower can help you become more productive, but it is a limited resource. If you work solely through willpower (and besides work this resource is consumed in many other places, like school or the gym), you can’t avoid burnout and loss of energy.

A daily schedule is a more stable and constant motivator than the will, because it does not require any extra effort from you. The will is needed to create something beyond your normal accomplishments. And with an established mode of operation, you just go along like clockwork, without overexerting yourself. That way you save more energy for really challenging and creative work.

3. Daily routines reduce the need for planning

When you perform a similar set of actions every day, you relieve your brain of the need to plan your next steps. Why make something up when you already have a well-established algorithm? This is what you have as a result:

  1. You get less fatigue when making decisions, and therefore experience less stress;
  2. Easier to get into a state of “flow”, where productivity increases many times over.

If your mind is not forced to decide what to do next, it can concentrate more effectively on what you are doing now.

How to stay productive with unregulated schedules?

1. Create routines in the non-work part of your life

Work isn’t the only part of your life you should bring order to. Everything you do, from eating to exercising, can be subjected to a routine. At the very least, you should start by creating daily morning and evening rituals that get you in the right frame of mind.

Janessa Lantz, editor of HubSpot, recommends doing the same ritual every time before starting work, such as taking a shower. Here’s what she says:

When you work from home on a regular basis, it’s worth getting into the habit of taking a shower and getting dressed before you sit down at the computer. That way it’s like you’re telling yourself: “The work day has started!”. And when you put on your pajamas in the evening, you signal yourself: “The work day is over!”.

Create a steady routine, and it will be easier to fit new work tasks into it as they arise. That’s why, for example, writer Barbara Boyd advises following the same routine regardless of your current workload:

I try to stick to a certain routine regardless of whether I have a lot of work or not. I always use the time strictly set aside for work, and when work tasks are not available, I can devote it to chores or creativity. So in my schedule, certain times are always marked as “Work Time”, whether I’m writing for a fee or painting a kitchen.

2. Ritualize your work

For people with changing schedules, it’s important to create rituals around your work to separate it from your free time. Develop cues that tell your brain when it’s time to start working and when to take a break:

  • Create a workspace. Work in the same area of your home and do nothing else there;
  • Always listen to the same music (or background noise) while you work;
  • Set a time limit. Stop working when it’s a certain time of day.

Here’s what Kira Abbamonte, a well-known freelance writer in the United States, has to say:

I have one thing I use to switch my brain into work mode: headphones. I can’t write anything unless I’m wearing them, even if the music isn’t playing. And I rarely use them when I’m not working. So every time I plug in my headphones, my brain knows it’s time to write.

3. Stick to your own routine

You’ll find that sticking to a daily routine only helps you be more productive if it correlates with your own rhythms. That’s why studying the rituals and habits of famous personalities like Steve Jobs or Albert Einstein is interesting, but not particularly useful to put into practice. What worked perfectly for them won’t necessarily be right for you.

Katharina Wolf, a biologist and Oxford University expert on chronobiology and sleep, says that changing sleep patterns does not have a very positive effect on cognitive ability:

People who stick to their usual sleep rhythm feel better. They are more productive than those who try to outdo themselves.

So if you’re an owl, there’s no point in trying to get out of bed at four in the morning just because that’s what Tim Cook does. If you can, adjust your schedule to your own circadian rhythms.


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