by Susan Caplan McCarthy
Are you a morning person who accomplishes most of the things on your to-do list early in the day? Or, do you struggle to go to bed because you get a burst of energy that lets you get more done in the last three or four hours of your day than you feel you did all day?
You know that your energy fluctuates all day, but do you take advantage of the times when you have more energy? Tie-in the most important activities you want to accomplish to your highest energy levels during the day and you’ll feel a productive high.
For example, I know that at three-thirty in the afternoon I’m dragging both physically and mentally. This frustrates me because this seems like an opportunity for a final push to wrap up tasks and get things done. But, doing anything that requires creative or critical thinking is a slow-go. I’ll get things done, but oh so slowly. What should take thirty minutes can take nearly ninety. Not very productive. I’d be better off reading and taking notes than writing or trying to create something during this low-energy time.
Create an Energy Map
If you aren’t certain how your energy runs during the day, you can track it for a few days until you notice a pattern. (I’ve included a downloadable energy tracker here.) If you never hit level 10 energy or you feel there’s just a marginal difference between your highest energy and your average “yeah, I can get some things done but don’t expect any miracles” energy level, don’t worry – your age, health, how much sleep you got, eating too much or too little at your last meal, dehydration and all that stuff is going to affect your energy.
However, you’ll probably notice a pattern. Look for a couple of blocks of time, three-to-five hours long, give or take, when you seem to be more alert and energetic. Your energy doesn’t have to remain consistent, but you won’t face a big dip. For example, between 9 a.m. and noon, you may stay at a 6 or 7 only to dip to a 4 during the next hour or so.
Be More Productive
If you notice that you are more alert and get more done between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., it doesn’t make sense to go to lunch at noon just because eating at noon is a habit (particularly if you aren’t hungry then). If you get a burst of energy at 10 p.m. until 1 a.m., but you still must leave the house at 8 a.m. to get to work, can you shower, make lunches, and do any other prep work for the next day in the evening – before your most energetic time – so that you can sleep a bit later in the morning?
In some cases, you are stuck with a schedule you have to follow. You must sit in a meeting during most of a peak energy time. You’re required to take your lunch break during a time when you are the most focused. You’re exhausted in the evening, but you have a list of household chores to tackle.
Because your energy fluctuates throughout the day, you may miss one peak but then you can aim to get important tasks done during another crest in energy. This also means that you can plan to do tasks of a lower importance during times when your mental energy slips.
Noticing how your energy fluctuates also means that you want to decide what tasks are the most important for your sense of accomplishment. If you can tie in high energy to high importance activities, you’ll feel – and be – more productive.
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I help people focus on what's important to them by guiding them through clearing clutter and distractions from their lives. I teach decluttering and organizing skills through articles; books; courses; speaking engagements; as well as virtual coaching sessions.