We all struggle with feeling like there aren’t enough hours in a day. With getting to the end of a busy day and thinking our to-do lists aren’t any shorter.
And we get the golden days where it all clicks into place and we finish the day actually satisfied with what we’ve accomplished.
But it feels like too many of the former days and not enough of the latter.
How do we set up our days so we have more golden days?
Your Peak Time of Day.
Everyone has a time of the day where energy peaks, focus is high and you can really get some work done. Mine is first thing in the morning through until about 10.30am. My productivity from when I first get to the office is unparalleled to any other time of day. I get a second peak in the late afternoon but nothing quite compares to the morning.
This is prime time.
Your peak productive window needs to be sacred. Guard this time fiercely. Be absolutely discerning in how you use this time.
Focus on using this time for crucial projects and work that is high on heavy brain power. One of the biggest wins you can make is to identify your peak productive time and to know every day what you are going to accomplish at this time.
Avoid squandering this precious productive time on meetings, emails, invoicing or other low brain power tasks. Instead, do these things in the corresponding low that comes after every high.
Figuring out when you peak and trough is a matter of tuning in. You’re following your body’s natural rhythm so it can tell you all you need to know.
If you need a little more guidance consider about how you wake up. If you ‘come to’ pretty quickly and without the aid of coffee, likely you peak in the morning. If you’re a slow burner when you wake up then your peak time might be mid-afternoon.
It’s less about what time you wake up and more about how fast you go from waking to brain powering on all cylinders. Focus on which pattern you follow most of the time. Even though I’m usually quick to wake, I still have days when I take a long time to wake up!
Starting Your Day.
There’s a lot of talk about morning routines and starting your day off with an hours meditation, a full HIIT workout, morning pages and your daily intake of greens. Despite being scathing, I do believe in morning routines, they just need to serve you. But that’s a post for another day.
A simple way to make your day more productive is to hit the ground running. Eliminate wondering where to start each day.
It never fails to amaze me how much time I lose if I don’t know what I’m starting on the minute I get to the office. I make coffee, chat to people, get sidetracked by emails and suddenly I’ve lost an hour before I truly get going. Compounded by this being one of my most productive hours I’ve frittered away, this is a massive missed opportunity.
My suggestion is everytime you finish up work, you know exactly what task you are starting with when you recommence working. For most of us, that means at the end of the workday, deciding how to start the following day. If you work on a side project every weekend, it’s knowing where you’ll start the following weekend.
This works because it reduces decision making. There’s no figuring it out, you just get on with the task at hand. Plus by deciding ahead of time, your brain will subconsciously start working on it, meaning when you sit down to start, you’ll have ideas on how to crack on.
Not Happening Today.
Just as important as knowing what you are going to do is knowing what you’re not going to do.
You instinctively know you won’t get it all done. There simply isn’t the time or energy. But part of your brain doesn’t seem to get the message. So it goes into overdrive making sure you don’t forget this email or that project or working on a spreadsheet. These are the thoughts that pop into our heads when we’re trying to go to the sleep at night.
Inevitably this leads to task switching, anxiety and lost productivity. You jump all over the place trying to keep up with the reminders from your brain, stressed out from the sheer volume of things you’ve got on at once and from lack of meaningful progress on any of them.
The only way to shit your brain up is to reassure it. If it knows things will get taken care of, it will stop reminding you incessantly. This allows you to focus on your chosen priorities for the day.
And the only way to do this is to write it down. In one place. You need one, central deposit to write all of your to-dos and reminders. It has to be one place, otherwise, your brain panics about the tasks on the random scrap of paper. Use a planner (I use this one), an app like Todoist, online tools like Asana, or even a spreadsheet.
Pick something, dump everything you can think of into it and commit to using it for at least two weeks. If, at the end of the two weeks, you feel it’s not working, evaluate what’s missing. Pick a new system that closes that gap and migrate across completely. Don’t be tempted to straddle two systems. Simple is productive.
Make Your Day More Productive.
Consistently having productive days isn’t hard or complicated. All it takes is a little understanding about how you work and some straightforward, quick daily habits and you’re away.
The key learnings:
- Always know two tasks, what you’re going to do first and what you’re going to do in your peak time.
- Guard your peak time fiercely, only allowing important, high brain power tasks and activities to happen at that time of day.
- Stick to a single system to collect all of your to-dos to keep your brain quiet and make it easier to remind focused on your priorities.
If you do these things, you will notice a significant increase in how much you’re getting done in the same amount of time.
Tell me, How do you make your day more productive?
Related Content: Inspiration to Create Your Morning Routine