My favorite productivity hack of the year?
That’s easy: theme days.
If you’re not familiar with the concept, it means to compartmentalize your schedule by day (or segment of the day) to allow for more “deep work” and fewer task-switching distraction and reboot time.
It’s a suggestion I picked up from Mike Vardy at Productivityist.com.
My Theme Days
Here’s what it looks like in practice for me:
Mondays are set aside for content creation and writing. This is the day I normally work on finalizing the podcast episode for the week or the following week (trying to build a bigger content queue). In the afternoon, I’m drafting or formatting blog posts, or editing guest articles that have come across my desk.
Tuesday is meeting day, and is often stacked up with calls and recordings from 8:30am to 5pm. It’s a marathon of a day and sometimes I’m losing my voice by the end of it, but what this has done is freed up much longer blocks of time the rest of the week.
No longer do I run into the situation of, “Well, I’ve only got 15 minutes before my next call, so I can’t really get anything done. I’ll just go on Facebook.”
Before implementing this I had a rule called “no meetings Fridays,” which worked so well I figured I’d try “no meetings Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays” too. How it works is in my calendar booking tool (Schedule Once) I’ve just blocked off all the other days.
Of course it doesn’t work 100% of the time and I will take more urgent calls on other days, but this has provided a great framework and structure to the week.
On Wednesdays, I work on this site and my other side projects, and try and clear up and nagging administrative issues. Those could include accounting and insurance tasks, housekeeping items, or travel planning.
And finally on Thursdays, I have almost the whole day dedicated to longer-term growth projects for my main business. This year, that’s been working on a redesign of the website, setting up a new email system, taking courses, and mapping out future projects.
In the past, those types of projects were the easiest to procrastinate on because there was rarely a big enough block of time to get started and feel like I could make meaningful progress.
I try and take most Fridays off, but will jump online during our son’s nap time to catch up on email before the weekend.
Why It Works
Each time you switch gears and jump from task to task, there’s a ramp up cost in terms of your productivity. The theme day system allows you to stay on one type of task for longer periods of time, AND feel good about the work because that’s what you’re “supposed to” be doing that day.
It also gives you a dedicated time block on your calendar to knock out the essential components of your business and your work, where otherwise they can tend to get pushed aside by more urgent-seeming tasks.
Creating a Theme Day System That Works For You
If you’ve never tried something like this in your own work week schedule, you can start small the way I did with “no meetings Fridays.”
When I started back in the spring, I positioned it in my head as a productivity experiment I’d test out for a month to see if I liked it. Turned out, I loved it!
Instead of putting out fires as they arose or working on what seemed to be the most urgent, I now had a dedicated time on the calendar for all of the most important aspects of my work.
Your schedule will probably look much different than mine, but one thing to keep in mind is to front-load your week with your most important tasks.
For me, my business runs on content; it’s the primary growth driver and monetization method so that had to come first. Next up is the recording and meeting marathon on Tuesday, which I chalk up partly under content and partly under marketing.
Wednesday and Thursday are important but less mission-critical in the near-term. If they don’t happen for a week or two, it’s not going to be the end of the world.
Have you ever tried a theme day set-up? What was your experience with it?
If you give it a shot, definitely let me know how it goes in the comments below!