Peak productivity levels should be one of the first things discussed in any conversation about time management. The best way to manage time is to manage what we do with our time and when. Using peak productivity levels allows you to do the right things at the right time so that you can get things done with the least amount of mistakes in the shortest period.
Peak productivity levels, like most things, vary significantly from one individual to another. The following recipe will help you to identify your own peak productivity levels. Once you have charted and identified your peak energy levels, you can then use those to create an ideal day schedule (IDS). The IDS then allows you to plan all your days with an emphasis on peak productivity. While your day-to-day schedule may vary somewhat from your IDS, the goal is to have it match as closely as possible.
Ingredients for Identify Your Peak Productivity Levels
- A spreadsheet or weekly planner broken down into one hour increments. For an even more fine-tuned plan, shoot for every 30 minutes.
- One to three very typical weeks (longer is better). This is best done when you are most likely to follow your typical routine.
- An alarm.
Preparation (Prep Time: 5 to 15 minutes)
- Ideally, you will complete this prep work over the weekend so that you are ready to begin first thing when you wake up on a Monday morning.
- Have easy access to your spreadsheet or planner (a print out is fine if you will always have it handy.)
- If you are creating your own spreadsheet, be sure to include recordings for energy, motivation and focus.
Cooking (Cook Time: Less than 1 minute an hour, every hour, for several days to a few weeks)
- Starting first thing when you wake up, record your energy, motivation and focus ratings on your spreadsheet.
- Note your new ratings each time the alarm sounds.
- Make a quick note of what you ate or drank, any activity you had or how you feel.
- Set your alarm to go off once every 30 minutes to one hour.
- Repeat steps 1 through 4.
- After at least one week of data, calculate the averages for every hour throughout your day. This is easy to do if using a spreadsheet.
- Calculate the averages across all the days to identify your peak energy levels as well as when you are most likely to be focused and motivated.
Yield: Your Peak Energy, Motivation and Focus times throughout the day.
With an idea of when your energy, motivation and focus tends to be strongest, you can plan your ideal day around these peaks and valleys. For example, you can plan tasks or activities that require a high level of focus during the time of day when you typically are most focused. Or plan physical tasks or tasks requiring a high level of energy during the peak energy points. You may even find it helpful to schedule some meditation or a mini nap (less than 20 minutes) for when motivation, energy and focus are all in a slump.
There’s a lot of one-size-fits-all “ideal day” schedules out there. Unfortunately, if they aren’t following your natural energy rhythms they may be doing you more harm than they are good. It may seem like a lot of “work” to identify your peak productivity times but it isn’t hard and is well worth it, even if you don’t tend to have a typical schedule. Just knowing that it is not a great idea to write that highly technical business proposal one hour after lunch could save you hours of time and hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Are you ready to identify your peak productivity levels?