Maximize your best hours for productivity
MAXIMIZE YOUR BEST HOURS FOR PRODUCTIVITY
As the cliche goes: there are only so many hours in a day, which means maximizing your best hours for productivity is paramount. Being more productive at work is not brain surgery, but it does require being more deliberate in how you manage your workday.
You may already have a fairly good idea of your most productive hours. If you haven’t already, start taking advantage of your internal clock so you can begin to maximize your best hours for productivity. If you’re already in-sync with your internal clock good for you! But for the rest of us feel free to read-on and learn how you can learn to get-in-line with your ideal peak time.
MORNINGS ARE PRIMETIME FOR PRODUCTIVITY
Your brain is at its best approximately two hours after you awaken. If you get up at 6 a.m., you’re in your most cognitively active state by approximately 8 a.m. There are a myriad of studies that support the early bird concept. One such study according to a “Harvard Business Review” article, the-early-bird-really-does-get-the-worm, succinctly sums it up the best. The corporate and academic world, not surprisingly, follow the traditional 8 to 5 schedule.
Positive attitudes toward rising early are deeply embedded in our collective psyche. In Germany, for example, Prussian and Calvinist beliefs about the value of rising early are still pervasive. Worldwide, people who sleep late are often, albeit incorrectly, assumed to be lazy and unmotivated. The vast majority of work and school schedules are tailored favorably to morning types.
THE TWO MOST PRODUCTIVE HOURS
Dan Ariely, cognitive science professor at Duke University, and author of “The Honest Truth About Dishonesty,” elaborates on the significance of maximizing productivity saying: “The two hours after we become fully awake are, potentially, our most productive.”
Ariely added, “What’s the first thing you do when your brain shrugs off the fogginess of sleep? I know what I do: I ease into the day by attending to my most mindless tasks first, like replying to emails or playing around on Twitter.” Ariely, as well as many others, laments spending the two most productive hours of the day on things that don’t require high cognitive capacity (like email and social media). Odds are that you are not using your brain’s best two hours as you should. Here are three tips to help you to maximize your two-most-productive-hours of the day:
1. DEVELOP YOUR HABIT
Research has shown that it takes approximately 66 days to form-a-new-habit, which means that if you want to get an earlier start to your day, it’ll take around two months to make it routine.
START WORKING ON YOUR NEW ROUTINE
- The “if-then” approach. Think risk/reward, if you love coffee, maximize the “if-then” approach–if I get up early I can enjoy an additional cup of coffee.
- The “don’t-break-the-chain” approach. An almost forgotten Runner’s World article on maintaining a regular schedule of daily running, offers a helpful method for sticking-to-it. I was training to get-in-shape to run a marathon, which is a 26.2 mile run. Every day I would mark an “X” over each day (that I ran) on my wall calendar. After a week and a half of consecutive days of running I was more motivated than ever “not to break the chain.” It worked like a charm.
- The “remind-yourself” approach. Approximately a few weeks into your new commitment it can become easy to forget your goal. Place simple reminders to execute forming-and maintaining-your new habit, in this case, getting up earlier to start your day.
2. PLAN YOUR DAY OUT THE NIGHT BEFORE…
Just prior to leaving the office for the night, write down the most important tasks you have to complete during your new two-hour-ultra-productive window for the next day. Scheduling your time improves the likelihood that you will follow-through on the necessary tasks, to increase the likelihood of successful habit formation. Having a clear list of what you need to accomplish, in plain sight, is paramount for success.
3. EAT THE FROG
THE MOST DIFFICULT PART: DOING THE WORK THAT YOU SET OUT TO DO. THE MOST IMPORTANT TASKS TEND TO BE THOSE THAT ARE THE MOST DIFFICULT. BUT WITH YOUR BRAIN TARGETED TO BE AT ITS MOST PRODUCTIVE (TWO HOURS AFTER AWAKENING), THOSE DIFFICULT TASKS SHOULD SEEM EASIER TO TACKLE AND FINISH IN A MORE TIMELY AND EFFICIENT MANNER.
“If you eat a live frog first thing in the morning, you can go through the rest of the day knowing the worst is behind you,” said Mark Twain. Your frog is your most difficult task of the day; it’s best to tackle it first thing in the morning. Ignore the distractions around you and stay focused. When you complete the difficult task it’ll give you a strong sense of accomplishment and a psychological boost that will do wonders for your productivity, as well as your positive state of mind, throughout your day. That way you can enjoy an end of day and well-deserved meal from your favorite deck chair, while enjoying the scent of fall wafting through your tired nostrils.