While there's no perfect formula to improve workflow, making positive changes generally involves prioritization, organization and the ability to anticipate your needs. It's a balance between knowing this process may take some time, while also understanding that it's not rocket science. And, almost anyone can accomplish it.
This is the process I follow, and it has completely changed my daily routine. The following four steps have cut down on my decision fatigue and confusion-based procrastination. What's best is that I save more than an hour of time that once went to waste.
1. Clarify your priorities with the Eisenhower technique.
Each Sunday or Monday morning, make a simple list of all your goals for the upcoming week. Use this opportunity as a brain dump and pour it all onto the page.
After you've done this, the next, and most important, step is prioritizing using the Eisenhower technique. It's a simple method that helps you distinguish the difference between what's important and what's urgent. It can make everything in your life easier as a result.
Start by taking a sheet of paper and dividing it into four quadrants labeled urgent/not urgent and important/not important. Then, scan through all the things from your list and sort them into these quadrants. This will serve as a guide for how to plan your week, days, and generally, how you proceed with tasks.
Treat tasks or projects sorted into Important/Urgent as top priority to complete that week, followed by those sorted into Important/Not Urgent. Then, you can save at least an hour every week by using the other two quadrants. I've started delegating many tasks sorted into Not Important/Urgent. I've even let go of projects under Not Important/Not Urgent. You may see that items on your to-do list turn out to be time wasters, which can help you let go of them more easily.
2. Make a to-do list that is based on your priorities and has a clear hierarchy.
Now you know what is actually important and needs to get done. So, decide where to start and how to tackle your Important/Urgent items, followed by those marked Important/Not Urgent.
If there are specific deadlines or optimal energy times you'd like to take advantage of, take note of them for the next step.
With your calendar in hand and your priorities clear, it's time to assign times and dates to tackle different tasks. Take into account the aforementioned deadlines and any optimal times for different types of work that you're aware work best for your concentration and productivity. Are you most productive in the mornings or afternoons? Keep this in mind as you create your schedule.
Pro tip: Time-block similar tasks to optimize concentration. This helps you avoid wasting time by unnecessarily switching your focus, having to change space or set-ups, or having to utilize different skill requirements.
You can optimize by type of activity, location of the activity, or even equipment needed to complete a task. Errands and meetings in a specific city area, for example, should ideally happen on the same day and one after another so you don't waste time driving around or commuting to distant places.
4. Minimize decision fatigue by pre-deciding things such as meals, outfits, and the like.
This is a killer skill to develop, but one that most people don't pay enough attention to.
Since you already have your tasks and your calendar organized, the next step is to organize the small logistical aspects that consume time and may cause us decision fatigue without us even noticing. This includes choosing outfits, planning meals, or preparing equipment needed for tasks.
You can lay out your outfits for the whole week based on your schedule and have them ready every morning. This will greatly reduce mental strain early in the morning, giving you more room to make better decisions as the day goes on. You can do the same with food by either meal prepping or picking the restaurants you'll visit or order from during the week, or laying out materials you'll need to use the following day before leaving the office the evening before.
Doing this all at once is faster than doing it everyday, and it frees up your mental energy for what is actually important. Definitely try it.
Bonus: Do a weekly review.
This might be more valuable at the beginning of making these changes, while you're still experimenting and fine-tuning your process. By taking a look back at the week, you can gain great insights into what worked, what didn't and how you can make the following week even better.