How to Take Control of Your Work Day

Even if you feel like you’re day is dictated by clients, customers or various emergencies, there are still some tactics for feeling like you are running your day, instead of your day running you. Keep in mind that every job is different, and many may not apply.

Prepare Beforehand

  • Grab a cup of coffee, smoothie or water before getting started on your work
  • Have your snacks ready or eat a small meal if you tend to get irritable when hungry
  • Find the music or podcast that helps you get in the zone
  • Make a to-do list, or review the schedule you have ahead of you
  • Check in with your coworkers or manager to get a feel for the mood of the office, or to avoid having them interrupt you later
  • Tidy your surroundings if you haven’t already done so. Close out of the tabs you might have left open, or clear off the cup you forgot about the night before.
  • Get excited by doing some research on current events in your industry.

Limit Communication

  • Put your personal phone on silent or vibrate, and maybe even keep it out of sight while you work.
  • Use your headphones to signal you are focused on your work and not available.
  • Mute notifications or keep your computer muted if you use an internal chat system for certain periods of time.
  • Check email at specific times of the day. Determine how often you need to be checking your email to stay in the loop.
  • Respond to all of those emails, even if you can’t complete the task, and use Sortd, Inbox, or Gmail labels to keep that email saved for a later time.
  • Use Gmail filters to properly archive or label items that you like to have, but don’t actually need to do anything about.
  • Seek out people that are most likely to need your help during the day, so you can add it to your docket before things get out of hand.

Handling Your Tasks

  • Figure out which tasks require different types of energy and schedule the high energy tasks when you are at your most productive
  • If you are asked to do something that doesn’t seem as important as your current task clarify with that person and/or your manager which one should take precedence, especially if your manager is the one asking you to do the task, often that person doesn’t realize you are already in the middle of something more pressing.
  • If you are asked to do something that is unnecessarily offloaded onto you ask the person for more details or something they can contribute. If it’s really as important as they make it out to be they will follow up, if it’s not they may not even follow-up with you or do it without your help.
  • Ask for a long request in an email, so you can keep track of all of the details, or write an email following up with the person about the agreed-upon task.
  • If you know a task is not truly urgent, let the person know you will handle it at a later time. The more you safeguard your time, the less likely people are to expect you to drop everything.
  • If you know you are going to have to take on emergency tasks, add some margin into your scheduled tasks so you can readily accommodate them.
  • Have a list of things you never seem to have time for and fill those in when you have extra time or even try to schedule them out when things are less hectic.
  • If someone asks you to do a task, they likely want it done on their timeline, but if you see that it needs to be done you can offer to do it on your timeline

Establish Boundaries

  • Figure out what you are and aren’t willing to do after hours. Tasks that will just repeat will drain you compared with a one time project.
  • End your workday at a specific time. This can vary but have an idea of when to end the day at the start of the day.
  • Don’t let people call you after hours unless it’s an absolute emergency, and opt for a text to call if regular communication is necessary
  • Get away from your desk during your breaks.
  • Don’t check your email after work unless it’s asked of you. Most people don’t expect emails to be answered until the next day, especially if sent late in the evening.
  • Be clear about instances you may need to leave early or at a specific time.
  • If you regularly need to collaborate with others, set specific times to do so.

Respect Your Coworkers Time

Okay, so this group isn’t technically to help you, but it’s always a good idea to treat others the way you want to be treated.

  • Think before walking over to someone’s desk and asking them about something you could have asked in an email and waited for a reply.
  • Even if you are super chummy with a coworker, they may not want to hear about the drama going on with your work when they’ve clocked out.
  • If you supervise others, look for ways that you can give them some freedom in the way they handle their workload, and try to ask for things before they become urgent.

There is a very good chance that your role is just a little too crazy to take advantage of a lot of these, but if you start with just a few, you will slowly start to see more and more ways to avoid feeling taken advantage of and avoid burnout.


Photo by Tyler Franta on Unsplash

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