I wrote previously about Scheduling Your Day in a general sense, discussing the importance of recognizing your peaks and valleys, as well as your need for recuperation and breaks. I included an exhortation to adjust your daily schedule so as to make the best use of the natural fluctuations in your capabilities.
This time I’m going to get more detailed. I’m offering suggestions on maximizing your ability to generate long-term productivity and success.
Let’s begin at the beginning:
Everyone has fluctuating cycles of capability that vary from their best to their worst. It should be obvious that you can benefit greatly when you identify your capability peaks and use them for your most important work.
Accordingly, you should track your feelings of intensity, effectiveness, creativity, and overall productivity until you get a sense of your own daily fluctuations. Then you should protect those prime hours of effectiveness and fill them with your most important work.
These are the hours when you should strictly avoid distractions and interruptions by refusing to answer the phone, closing your door (if you have one), and postponing your responses to the questions and conversations that others try to insert into your schedule.
You can fuel these high-energy hours even more by consuming some protein just before you begin. A serving of protein tends to keep your blood sugar level high enough, and steady enough, to support your brain and body while they’re operating at their peaks.
While different people typically have different periods of “peak” effectiveness during the day, psychological studies seem to show that most people are sharper and more productive for several hours in the morning, and generally less so after lunch.
Relax and Detach
At the end of your peak period, it’s helpful to turn your talents “off” as much as you can. This involves scheduling an hour or more for “non-work,” which can include a light meal, as well as relaxation, meditation, or even “play.”
In the same way that breathing out is as necessary to life as breathing in, relaxing and detaching are as necessary to productivity as focusing and working hard. This “down time” promotes the natural process by which your brain and body de-stress, rest, and recover from the high-powered efforts you have just expended.
You can, for example, use the time you schedule for relaxing and detaching to accept those interruptions and distractions you steadfastly avoid during your peak hours. Because they are inherently “off topic” and distinct from what you’ve just been focusing on, they are likely to beneficially engage different aspects of your skills, knowledge, experience, and talents.
While you’re relaxing and detaching, you may feel good about refusing to think about or engage in any of the important work you’ve just been focused on. This will help promote your recovery and strengthen your peak productivity during your next series of capability fluctuations.
Complete Your Responsibilities
It’s not possible to Push Hard or Relax and Detach all the time. You have routines, chores, and other responsibilities that you must also complete. The goal, however, is to complete most – if not all – of this secondary work during your less effective and off-peak periods.
By tracking your feelings of intensity, effectiveness, creativity, and overall productivity, your sense of your recurring capability fluctuations will suggest portions of the day best suited to this category of work. As carefully as you devote your peak energies to your more important work, try to reserve your less important work – such as administrative chores, routine meetings, and repetitive tasks – for your off-peak hours.
These are additional hours when you need not avoid distractions or interruptions. In fact, frequent changes of attention from one task to another – for example, from boring routines to challenging questions or sudden dilemmas – can actually increase your attention and better engage your abilities.
After a period of pushing hard, and a recovery period of relaxation and detachment, don’t be surprised to find yourself more than willing and able to tackle this category of less important work.
As I wrote before, adjusting your daily schedule to benefit from these ideas is a simple but effective way to get the most productivity from your best moments, and over the long haul greatly increase your level of success in both your work and your life.
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