Have you ever noticed that during the natural course of your day there seems to be times where you are just able to get things done? Without much effort at all you put out an enormous amount of high quality-high value work? In these times our productivity levels simply go off the charts and when we finish our tasks and projects there is an amazing sense of accomplishment and achievement. For some reason the rest of the day just eases by when we experience those rewarding times.
Now let’s talk about those times when no-matter how hard you push or how much energy and effort you apply, nothing of value seems to get done. In fact upon review the next day the work seems like it didn’t even come from you, as there are silly mistakes and missing pieces information everywhere.
Do you ever wonder why? Sometimes is seems as though we are two different people. One is this awesome, completely energetic person who is competent beyond their position or title. And the other is seemingly clueless like a young intern just walking onto the job for their first day.
A growing amount of research over the past decade is showing that most human beings are at peak productivity for 90-120 minutes everyday. That means we have about only 2 hours when we are physically and mentally at our best.
The data suggests that based on our unique bio-rythyms, things like sleep cycles, blood sugar levels, hydration, hormone levels, body temperatures and a host of other naturally occurring events that take place below the surface, we will have various levels of creativity and productivity. And for most of the population those rhythms seems to fall into perfect alignment for roughly 90-120 minutes every single day.
Whether you choose to believe the science or not, I bet you will agree that there are certain times in your day where you are just better than other times. You are able to manage your tough tasks, engage in difficult conversations, crank out more high quality work, and just feel as though you are moving the needle further than at other times. When are those times for you?
In my coaching practice I’m often asked by my clients to identify ways in which they can become more productive and get more done in less amounts of time without sacrificing quality. The first thing I will ask them is “When are you at your best? What 2 hours of the day are you able to solve the complex problems of your business with relative ease? And most importantly, how are you protecting those hours in your schedule?”
Once you’ve identified the two hours in your day when you are at your absolute best, ask yourself what are you typically doing during those hours. If it’s not some of your highest value tasks and projects then you are wasting your peak productivity team. And guess what? You don’t get them back later in the day, and unfortunately you get to wait until tomorrow to be at peak productivity again.
Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean you can’t work your full day and get things done. This just suggests that if you want to get more high quality-high value work done in the course of your day, than structure your day so you can do high quality-high value work during the best part of your day.
I’ll give you an example:
When I’m not traveling and speaking at events, my personal peak hours of productivity are early in the day, usually in the range between 8am and 11am. Those are the hours when I’m the most creative, I’ve had a few cups of coffee so I’m wide awake, by brain is fresh with new thoughts, and my body isn’t fatigued or tired. In fact as I look at the clock on my computer is says its 8:45am.
This is the time that I schedule my highest value tasks like writing new material, creating training and keynote programs, connecting with new clients, and working with existing clients.
By the end of the day I’m mentally and physically exhausted so that’s usually when I do those tasks that require less brain power, like expenses, booking travel, scheduling dates with clients, responding and closing the loop on emails.
I don’t even attempt to write and create new content in the late afternoon because I already know from experience that it’s an exercise in futility. For creativity and innovative ideas, later in the day in never as great for me as it is early in the day.
There are days however when get wrapped up in the axle of those less valuable tasks in my peak morning hours and before I even realize what’s happened its 1pm and I’ve now wasted my most productive time of my day. I’ve also come to recognize that on those days I’m more irritable, I tend to work later into the evening grinding the gears, and still really don’t ever feel as though I’ve accomplished anything great that day.
Do yourself a favor this week and identify the 2-3 most productive hours for you and then script out an ideal work-day build around them. If you travel frequently think about an ideal office day. What does it look like? Is your productive time crammed with meetings, pop ins or interruptions? If so can those meetings be moved to different times of the day, can those pop-in people be coached into waiting until later in the day, can those distractions be mitigated?
Start getting intentional around how you use your most valuable time. Start thinking about a plan to protect your most valuable time. If you don’t I promise you no one else will.
Thoughts for the week:
Productivity is never an accident. It is the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning and focused effort. -Paul Meyer
Time is what we want most, but what we use worst. – William Penn
If I had six hours to chop down a tree I would spend the first two hours sharpening the axe. -Abraham Lincoln
Tim is really the only capital that any human has, and the only thing we can’t afford to lost. -Albert Einstein
Do you run your day, or does your day run you? -Unknown