I. HATE. WAKING. UP.
I had originally written “I hate mornings”, but then I realised actually, I don’t. What I hate about mornings is the waking up part: the screeching of the alarm; what it normally signifies (going to work); getting stuck in traffic; being cold and dark, and so on.
When that happened this morning, just as I was climbing into my car I had the flicker of a premise for a post about how you can organise your day to maximise productivity in different areas of your life at different times. The fact the idea occurred at 5.30 in the morning served to reinforce my thinking.
You might be thinking quite what this has to do with personal finance. A productive day will maximise your earning potential. It will please your bosses; it’ll get you ahead; it’ll get more done with the same amount of time; and it’ll make you feel more positive.
A Bad Productivity Day
So, what exactly am I getting at here? So far there have been 132 words and not much substance to show for it. For a moment imagine you are Paul or Paula, and a somewhat typical day for you looks something like this:
- 6.45 am – Wake Up & Shower
- 7.30 am – Arrive at Work
- 7.34 am – Attempt to Deal With E-Mails
- 7.55 am – Give Up, Find Coffee
- 8.00 am – Continue Dealing With E-Mails
- 8.30 am – Suffer Morning Meeting & Presentation
- 10.00 am – Rush Breakfast
- 10.30 am – Finish Report
- Midday – Working Lunch (Still Finishing Report)
- 2.00 pm – Afternoon Meeting
- 3.00 pm – Afternoon Slump
- 5.00 pm – Give Up & Go Home
- 6.00 pm – Cook A Ready Meal
- 8.00 pm – Collapse In Front of TV
- 11.00 pm – Go to Bed
Identify & Exploit Your Day Phases
Everyone has what I call ‘phases’ that occur throughout the day at given points. Some people are “morning people”, where they roll out of bed at 5am bright as a daisy, eat a pastry, paint a masterpiece before lunch and then get down to mind-numbing report writing after a good hearty lunch and a siesta, and then retire to evening home life by cooking a sumptuous meal and finishing a novel.
Such a person is extremely creative and productive because they know what their phases are.
- Creative, passionate and driven in the mornings.
- Hungry and sleepy with no interest in work at lunchtime.
- Tenacious, meticulous and detailed in the afternoon.
- Relaxed, sensual and creative again in the evening.
A Real World Example
Although I secretly hate mornings, if I have suffered through the ‘waking up’ part and have actually got out of bed, I know that fuelled by a cup of tea or two but before eating anything, I can be quite creative. I’m writing this blog post in just such a phase.
Once I eat something my mind focus changes from creativity to practicality so I may do something physical rather than mental. After lunch I feel sleepy, and if I give in to that sleepy slump I can power through the rest of the day being detailed and meticulous. For me, that is a good time to proof-read.
Towards the end of the day my drive for creativity returns and I end up expressing it in the kitchen making a delicious meal, or batch cooking a selection of delicious meals for lunch times, or for when time in general is pinched.
A Good Productivity Day
- 6.30 am – Wake Up, Shower, Breakfast
- 7.30 am – Arrive at Work
- 7.31 am – Find Coffee
- 7.34 am – Create Presentation For Morning Meeting
- 8.15 am – Network With Colleagues
- 8.30 am – Morning Meeting (All impressed with presentation)
- 10.00 am – Coffee Break
- 10.15 am – Write and Finish Report
- Midday – Head Out For Lunch In the Sun
- 1.00 pm – Check, Sort, Reply to E-Mails
- 1.55 pm – Grab a Coffee
- 2.00 pm – Afternoon Meeting
- 3.00 pm – Coffee & Review Meeting Notes
- 3.45 pm – Write Tomorrow’s Todo’s
- 4.30 pm – Go Home
- 5.30 pm – Get Creative in the Kitchen
- 6.30 pm – Enjoy a Film
- 10.00 pm – Go to Bed
10 Tips to Maximise Your Productivity
The above are just examples. Whatever you do in your day you can apply the principles below to make the most of your day. In this example we have done more work in less working day, and then continued with that energy at home.
1. Get up a few minutes earlier
It doesn’t seem like much, but getting up 15 minutes earlier allowed us to have breakfast and a cup of tea to get our brain firing before we even got to work. In that time we came up with the idea of creating a quick PowerPoint to help get the main features of the meeting across in a graphical and not just verbal way.
2. Grab a coffee / tea first thing to power the mind
I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a bit of a caffeine junkie, and I embrace it when it works the most for me. In the morning’s a cup of joe will turn my 1.4 litre mental engine into a 6 litre V8. If you’re not one for tea or coffee, grab your drink of choice to power your mind. Staying hydrated is as important for the mind as it is for the body.
3. Ignore emails until you are good and ready
E-Mail is a very impersonal method of communication, and saps your creativity by diverting your attention. Once you’ve read an email that is screaming for a reply, you feel compelled to reply to it there and then. If you don’t and try to do something else, it’ll be nagging away at you anyway serving as a constant distraction.
4. Use your creativity phase
Instead of getting bogged down in other people’s demands first thing in the morning, use your creativity phase productively. In our case we seized it to take advantage of the images our mind put together to allow us to augment our morning meeting with a stunning presentation.
5. Use your productivity phase
Spurred on by how well the meeting went, and re-fuelled with a fresh cup of the bean, we powered through the post-meeting report before lunch time appeared and managed to finish it on time. This allowed us to eat a proper lunch, and spend some time re-charging our vitamin D in the sunshine and fresh air.
6. Acknowledge the afternoon productivity slump
It is part of human physiology that after lunch time we have a slump in mental and physical energy. Take advantage of this by dealing with matters that don’t really require a vast amount of mental processing power of physical stamina: attack those emails.
7. Leave todo’s for yourself tomorrow
If you need a particular phase to do something brilliantly rather than just sufficiently, remind yourself to do it during that phase on another day. Proper workload planning will allow you to take advantage of yourself without falling behind.
8. Come home and get creative yourself
Everyone can cook, and it is a great way to de-stress (with some practice if you’re not brilliant at it – and anyone can follow a recipe). You will benefit from the additional nutrition of cooking fresh rather than your body just suffering another TV dinner.
9. Switch off and relax
In my example we watched a movie. You could equally go for a walk, relax in the bath or curl up on the sofa and read a book. All of them involve disassociating from the race of life for a period and re-charging our souls.
10. Get sufficient sleep
A tired body and mind is an unproductive one. Your creativity, productivity and all other elements will suffer if you fail to get enough sleep. So go to bed an hour earlier than normal and reap those benefits.
What do you do to maximise your day? Come share in the comments!