Doing good work has a lot to do with managing our time, focus, and energy.
Wasting our time, focus, and energy by being unproductive does not feel good.
Yet we all do it!
One of the main reasons this happens is because we insist on scheduling ourselves, our employees, and others in ways which don't pay any respect to our natural rhythms.
You may be familiar with the concept of circadian rhythm when it comes to our sleep schedule and our relationship to light and dark, but it's actually much more than that.
We each have a built-in, self-specific circadian rhythm that we groove to 24 hours a day.
This internal rhythm (along with other key inputs like food and exercise) is a key force behind our energy ebbs and flows and our ability to focus and flow.
I have found that recognizing and understanding my own circadian rhythm is key to doing a lot (volume), doing well (quality), and being productive.
I define productivity as a high ratio of outputs (good work) to inputs (time, energy, etc) with minimal waste (time, energy, frustration, stress, other people's time, etc).
Understanding yourself, your rhythm, and how you work best is one of the biggest wins you can have at work.
It's also a continual exercise, because 1) it is not always easy to be fully aware of ourselves and 2) our rhythms change and evolve.
The list below includes 10 things that I try to incorporate into my day to help me perform at a high level at work. About half of the list has to do with recognizing and leveraging my circadian rhythm.
Everyone will have their own list, but some of the stuff that works for me might also work for you. Go forth and experiment!
10 Keys to My Ideal Work Schedule
Optimize my peak focus hours by working on my highest priority, most creative, and most difficult/uncomfortable tasks in the morning.
Do meetings, email responses, and work errands in the afternoon when my mind is less focused and body is more restless.
Set my own priorities before responding to others.
Recognize when I am mentally weak or fatigued and do whatever helps me reset (most often it is a 15-20 minute walk without my phone).
Rotate between standing and sitting. Generally I like to stand in the mornings, and then I sit after lunch.
Identify the top 3 priorities on my to do list. Do those before doing anything else (or make significant progress if they're ongoing projects) .
Remember not to mistake urgency or recency for importance.
Schedule time for unstructured big picture thinking
Schedule time for reading various genres. It will spark unplanned associations/ inspirations. A recent example for me: "A Bias Toward Action" has become part of our daily vernacular and practice at Green Zebra, and it came from reading The Everything Store.
The mind and body are the foundation for doing good work, so treat them right. I do best when I attend to my mind and body before anything else in the day. My current ideal morning (it continually evolves) looks like this:
- Wake up after 8 hours of sleep
- Meditate for 10-20 minutes
- Exercise and Stretch
- Tea (I usually have my coffee later, mid-morning around 10 or so)
- Write, Read, or Learn.
- Ideally all of this happens before checking at my phone or email.
Average days may hit on half of these 10 keys. Good days may include 7 or 8. And then there are the rare exceptional days that include all 10 and those are very satisfying. I'm conscious not to be hard on myself if I don't live up to this standard every day.
This week, pay attention to your rhythm. What are your 10 keys to good work?
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