How to Optimize Your Work Week
In today's digital workplace, navigating the multiple streams of collaboration apps, distributed work environments and cloud-based tools can be overwhelming. Minimizing distractions and prioritizing demands to focus on accomplishing critical tasks is key to getting the most out of the work week.
A 2021 FlexJobs research study showed that 56% of workers who are considering changing jobs cite work-life balance as a primary motivation, ahead of pay (50%). The newfound flexibility of work schedules, often due to the geographical distribution of the workforce, can mean emails and chats coming in at all hours of the day and night.
The best organizations set rules and expectations for employees to avoid them feeling compelled to respond in real time when outside of working hours. But it can still be difficult to ignore the constant pinging of new messages and requests coming in, and, at the very least, it doesn't allow individuals to truly disconnect from work entirely.
So, how can employees get the most out of their work week? Here are some strategies that can help them structure their time at work in a manner that allows them to complete their tasks and start the weekend feeling accomplished and able to disconnect.
5 Tips to Get The Most Out of the Week
1) Put Health First
Healthy employees tend to perform at higher levels, so taking care of physical, emotional and mental health is important.
"Your primary priority should be your general physical, emotional and mental well-being. You cannot improve if you overwork yourself," said Sanket Shah, CEO at California-based SaaS video production company InVideo.
Shah noted that employees who overdo it at work often end up requiring additional time off later down the road. Work on a one-off project that is of short duration, but at a pace that is not sustainable can have significant impact on the person's future health. It's therefore important that employees — with their managers — set realistic and achievable goals. This includes making sure the workload allows for breaks and pauses throughout the day to replenish and refocus.
“Fit therapy appointments into your schedule, even if it means skipping your evening spin class or leaving work early if you suffer from anxiety or despair,” said Vartika Kashyap, chief marketing officer at project management company ProofHub.
Research by Integrify showed that taking time to unwind by taking breaks throughout the day can lower stress levels and deliver a boost to a person's productivity, making it a win-win for both employers and employees.
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2) Make a Daily To-do List
A daily to-do list is an excellent way to make the most of the week and balance the workload. It helps manage time more effectively and measure progress along the way, which is particularly useful when there are a lot of daily tasks to accomplish.
Andrew Makhovskyi, CEO and co-founder of Effy, an HRM software company based in Kyiv, said, “If you want to be productive, you should start your day with a plan. Write down all tasks you want to complete and simply tick them off the next day.”
Identifying high- and low-priority tasks and carrying them out in order of importance also helps alleviate stress, as the most urgent items get checked off the list and pressure begins to ease. This also ensures nothing important gets missed, according to Makhovskyi.
3) Unwind or Take a Vacation When Necessary
Anyone can suffer from burnout or fatigue. Failing to take a break when necessary negatively affects a person's productivity. This is why it’s important to rest and unplug from the daily hustle and grind whenever possible.
“Unplugging can be as simple as using your daily commute to practice transit meditation rather than reading work emails.” Kashyap said. “We can release our weekly tension by occasionally cutting ties with the outer world, which also creates room for new thoughts and ideas.”
Taking vacations away from where work takes place or making time to regularly go outside and enjoy the surrounding environment is important to healthy work-life balance. A Qualtrics survey found that fewer than three in 10 US employees used all of their paid vacation time in 2021. And those who did were often still tethered to job tasks while away, the report said.
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Rather than leave off days and vacations unused to put in more office hours, employees should be encouraged to use them as a way to relieve stress and rediscover their motivation and drive.
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4) Schedule Time for Family and Friends
Motivated employees give their best to ensure the company is a success. But remaining motivated and productive is often difficult without a strong support system at home and work. Spending time with loved ones is essential to achieving a healthy work/life balance, particularly after the isolation we've all lived through during the pandemic.
"Set aside some time specifically for your family," Shah said. "Everyone in your family must prioritize this time for it to be successful. You can also set aside this time to call distant relatives or other loved ones.”
5) Keep Distractions in Check
With today's constant stream of content and media, it's easy to get distracted. Add the distractions of home for remote employees, and it can be challenging to focus on getting work done.
It takes a great deal of discipline to avoid distractions such as answering the door, checking social media, replying to a text or engaging in a lengthy conversation with a family member, for instance. Having an effective time management strategy or tool to help avoid interruptions can be of benefit in this situation.
Related Article: Supporting Your Team When Life Gets in the Way of Work
Hybrid Work-Life Balance
Hybrid workplaces seem to provide employees with more flexibility and a better work-life balance. According to Shah, in a hybrid work arrangement, employees can more easily switch between the workplace and their homes to minimize productivity loss as needed.
However, doing so can also be a source of fatigue and potential disharmony. While some remote workers must learn to deal with distractions from other family members in the house, others experience no interruption in their workflow. Yet, a typical day in the office comes with a great deal of interruptions from colleagues.
“The fact that employees [onsite] couldn't have uninterrupted moments of attention due to their excessive collaboration was one of the main causes of the decreased work-life balance,” said Kashyap. The situation is different for remote workers.
No work model is ideal for everyone, and as we navigate the transition to the future of work, employees and employers must look for avenues to improve productivity while establishing important boundaries that provide the important work-life balance needed.