There are ‘morning people’ (most people I know) and there are ‘night owls’ (me) and much of the time, night owls are assumed to be lazy or not as productive as their perky ‘morning people’ colleagues. This isn’t the case, though. It’s a matter of being able to schedule your life to optimize productivity no matter what your natural tendency is – early bird or night owl!
How To Plan For Peak Productivity
- Understand your own rhythm – are you perky in the morning and sluggish in the afternoon? Brain racing late nights? Figure out your best (and worst) times for productivity.
- Schedule routine, less-engaging tasks for when your energy is lower. If your best ideas come at night, plan for that.
- Batch together like tasks that take similar amounts of energy. Or, if things like meetings and phone calls tend to be draining, plan tasks between that will not require much of an expenditure of energy and allow you to recharge.
- Tackle complex tasks when you’re at your peak, whether first thing in the morning or late at night.
Make Prioritizing a Priority
- Plan your day when you’re unhurried and fresh.
What will take you the longest and how much energy will it take? Plan accordingly.
- Schedule things (as much as possible) to match your productivity peaks and valleys.
- Schedule time for yourself
Treat that time just as seriously as any other appointment. If you’re REALLY busy, you may need to schedule breaks. Put them as appointments in your calendar if you need to. Sometimes walking away for 10-15 minutes can give you the mental break you need to see a task with new eyes when you return.
- Two-minute tasks
As a general rule, if something will take two minutes or less, just go ahead and do it now. You’ll have the satisfaction of checking it off your list and it will be done instead of forgotten or looming over you.
- Five-minute tasks
Have a list of tasks that take 5 minutes or so. When you’re between calls or after you wrap up a project but find it’s not QUITE time to call it a day, you’ll then have a list of quick things that need doing.
- Do a “brain dump”
Write down all the little thoughts floating around in your head that are distracting you or nagging at you. This gets them out of your head and (if appropriate) on your active “to-do” list.
Revel in Routines
- Even if you consider yourself a spontaneous person, there is comfort (and productivity) to be found in a routine.
- Routines don’t have to be boring.
If you can listen to some music while emptying your email box it can help make that time something you look forward to rather than something you dread.
- Can it be Delegated?
If you find yourself procrastinating and not completing a certain task, consider whether it’s something that can be delegated. This will free you to focus on your passions (and aid productivity).
- Make mundane tasks fun!
For a task like filing, set a timer for 15 minutes and challenge yourself to see how much you can get filed before the timer indicates “time-up”.
With just a little attention to your natural rhythms and a few tweaks to how you organize your day, you can become more productive with minimal effort.
How do you honor your body’s timetable? What challenges do you face?