Do you wish to get more done every day of the week, but the hours always seem insufficient? You may want to try the fixed schedule approach. This work schedule is said to force you to optimize the time you have by focusing on what’s important, and limiting time on trivial tasks, hence improving your performance.
However, a fixed schedule isn’t going to work for everyone. Some people thrive on a flexible schedule, particularly remote workers who prefer to set their own time to accommodate the challenges of working from home.
In this post, we discuss what a fixed schedule is and its impact on your productivity.
What Is a Fixed Schedule?
A fixed schedule or fixed work schedule is working a fixed amount of time, following strict deadlines. It’s a routine that entails working the same number of hours every day of the week.
With this schedule, you set a fixed goal of not working past a certain time. It could be a fixed number of hours each week or a specific time of the day. That means you only spend the allotted time doing the predetermined task.
The most common fixed time schedule is the traditional 9-5 workday, where you work eight hours a day, accumulating to 40 hours per week. Some companies have shifts running Monday to Friday from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm or Tuesday to Saturday from 3:pm to 11:00 pm.
Others implement the four-day workweek where employees work 10 hours a day, instead of eight, for four days and rest for three days. The idea is that you follow a specific routine and never deviate from the plan.
Cal Newport, the author of Deep Work and champion of an intentional approach to work-life balance, discusses how he manages to work 9-5 and accomplish all his goals within that time limit. Cal uses what he calls the “fixed schedule productivity” approach.
According to him, there are two rules for this system:
“Choose a schedule of work hours that you think provides the ideal balance of effort and relaxation.”
“Do whatever it takes to avoid violating this schedule.”
With a fixed work schedule, you start by setting the schedule you want and then working backward to develop productivity strategies to fit it.
Most people won’t have a problem with the first part. It’s striving to stick to the schedule that might prove tricky. You see, you’ll have to put yourself on a scarcity model of time to manage to work efficiently and creatively.
- learning to prioritize tasks effectively,
- identifying and eliminating inefficient work habits from your schedule,
- saying “No” to people,
- overcoming procrastination
Newport’s approach is about changing how we work to better manage time. When we have too many options, we focus on possibilities instead of engaging in the actual work. Marissa Mayer, the former engineer at Google and co-founder of Sunshine, a software company, puts it best in this video:
Her concept that “creativity loves constraint” resonates with fixed scheduling. When you constrain yourself with a fixed schedule, you focus on defined goals and direct your efforts toward accomplishing them.
Naturally, when pressed for time, you’ll turn to the most important tasks and drop stuff you don’t find useful at the moment.
How Fixed Schedule Works in Practice
In the book Deep Work, fixed schedule productivity requires setting “drastic quotas on the major sources of shallow endeavors and ruthlessly capping the shallow while protecting the deep efforts that ultimately decide professional fate” (p. 239).
Might we add that it also involves limiting even some of the more important non-shallow stuff you do at work. To nail this type of schedule, here are some guiding principles:
- Get a clear knowledge of the ‘Big Picture’. First, you must understand where you currently are and where you want to be in the next two, three, or five years. Otherwise, how do you determine what matters to you and what doesn’t? Bestselling author Stephen Covey in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People” explains this approach in Habit 2: “Begin with the End in Mind”.
- Understand priorities. Next, you need to identify and prioritize your tasks and goals at work. Prioritizing allows you to work on important tasks first and then tackle the rest. In other words, you’ll know exactly what needs to be done and when, hence avoid moving back and forth between tasks, which only wastes time.
- Set boundaries. Whether you freelance or are a full-time employee, it’s common for your manager to assign tasks. When you rely on a fixed schedule, you’ll want to inform the manager and the rest of the team that you’ve blocked a certain number of hours to focus on specific tasks. This way, you won’t overcommit yourself and, therefore, be forced to work outside the scheduled hours.
- Make yourself unavailable. The ‘always-on’ culture can hinder your productivity. As such, consider setting specific times to read and respond to work emails. In addition, put your phone on silent and only check it during your breaks or at a designated time. Let people know that you won’t always be available to cater to their needs immediately but that you’ll do so when you’re free.
- Be disciplined. With practice and discipline, you’ll soon get a flow of things and develop a routine. While sticking to that routine is going to be the hardest part, doing so makes it easier to manage your time and develop good work habits. Another thing about discipline: Ruthlessly eliminate time-wasting behaviors.
- Don’t give in to procrastination or distractions while working. You might not think it, but putting up with this tiny-time sucks can add up and eventually steal the time you could’ve used to accomplish an important task.
- Develop a shutdown ritual. If you work in a 9-5 office, shutting down comes automatically at the end of the day. However, it’s a different story for those working from home. That’s why it’s crucial to have an end-of-day ritual that symbolizes the end of your workday. If you have a home office, consider locking it down. If your home office is in the living room, something like switching off work devices can suffice. The idea is to find something that will signal the brain that time for work is over and personal time has begun.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Fixed Schedule
Fixed time requires you or your employees to work a certain number of fixed hours each day of the week. For some, this might seem monotonous, tiring, and boring. For others, it creates structure in their day-to-day lives, enabling them to perform better and become more productive.
But is the fixed schedule time management technique good for you? Here are the pros and cons.
Pros of Fixed Schedule
The top benefit of a fixed schedule is its predictability. You and your team members will always know the hours you’re supposed to work and can plan the work around those hours. Furthermore, since you follow the same schedule week after week, you can easily balance your work and personal life.
Your family will know when you’ll be home, and your friends will know when you’re available for a night out or a fun weekend.
Improved Workplace Coordination
Team members on a fixed schedule can coordinate better with coworkers. Since they are all on a shared time and collaborative workspace, it becomes easier to have everyone on the same page.
Even if you have a mixture of office teams, hybrid teams, or fully remote teams, it becomes simpler to schedule meetings and address concerns immediately. It also becomes easier to focus on company goals and supervise team members.
Easier to Track
Apart from simplifying team management, a fixed schedule allows you to track their performance more effectively and manage their workload more efficiently. This enables management to identify areas that need improvement and implement the necessary strategies.
In addition, it’s more convenient to schedule things like employee training, conferences, and other developmental areas.
Fosters Better Connections and Relationships
When coworkers have common work hours, communication becomes more streamlined and fluid. Similar hours and schedule create an excellent environment that enhances relationships.
Consequently, good workplace relationships help build trust, which improves cohesion and performance.
Cons of Fixed Schedule
Negative Impact on Employee Satisfaction
Unless your employees work from home, which eliminates time wasted commuting, a fixed schedule can be limiting. Say your workers spend two to three hours commuting every morning and evening. This leaves little time to do anything else beyond work. Plus, when they get home, they are too exhausted to spend time with their families.
Their physical and mental health suffers. Doing this over a long time can lead to work-related stress, burnout, and fatigue. Employee morale, performance, and productivity will suffer, as a consequence, negatively impacting the business’s bottom line.
What’s more, a rigid schedule means an employee must stay in the office or at the desk (for remote workers) until the end of the workday, even after completing their work. With no personal time to spend attending classes or pursuing hobbies, you’ll be left with a bunch of unhappy employees.
Increased Absenteeism and Lateness
Office workers can be affected by various issues like bad weather and traffic, which can result in absenteeism and tardiness. If this trend goes on for a long time, you’ll end up paying workers for the time that wasn’t spent working, leading to losses.
In addition, if an employee has an emergency and isn’t granted permission, it will leave them feeling demotivated. In some cases, they’ll be forced to attend to the emergency without your permission, which will damage your company’s performance.
Increased Turnover and Difficulty Attracting Talent
A recent McKinsey report found that 44 percent of the people who left the workforce cited workplace flexibility as the top reason for returning to work. This survey clearly shows that employees want more control over where, when, and how work can be done.
Implementing a fixed schedule limits a worker’s time and freedom, which may result in you losing current employees and missing out on talented candidates who desire less restriction. As a business, the last thing you want is to lose top talent to your competitors, as this could tremendously hurt your company’s reputation and performance.
Is a Fixed Schedule Right for You?
According to LinkedIn VP of Global Talent Acquisition, Jennifer Shappley, as reported in LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends, “candidates are looking for companies that will value their whole selves and provide support in achieving work-life balance.”
Therefore, if you are still stuck with a fixed schedule approach, consider introducing flexible work arrangements. It doesn’t matter the type of company or business you’re in, it’s time to reimagine how and where work will get done.
Flexible work arrangement is the future of work, and employers who embrace it are positioning themselves for success. Workplace flexibility will not only bring in more talent, but will also improve employee retention.
Improve Outcomes with Traqq
Mastering a fixed schedule is going to be a challenge, and you’re likely to fail. Newport notes that it may take up to six weeks of failing and trying again before you master and consistently follow it.
The main reason is that you need to know exactly how much time is needed to complete each task. That’s where Traqq time tracker comes in. This time-tracking tool captures all the time spent working on tasks, recording the data neatly on an online timesheet.
You can then generate detailed reports and analyze the time it took to complete a task or project. Traqq provides insight into your working habits, making it easier to develop a fixed schedule. The tool also supports offline time tracking, meaning you can work without internet connection. Once the connection is reestablished, it automatically syncs tracked time. Alternatively, you have the option to add time manually to your report.
Moreover, if you manage a team, Traqq simplifies employee monitoring, thus preventing micromanagement. The software records activity levels and displays peaks and drops in performance, which can come in handy when creating a schedule. It also takes random screenshots at set intervals to allow managers to view work progress and check if employees are breaking company rules and regulations.