Like for the most of us, Sarah’s job consists of a variety of tasks that she needs to complete. Some are routine recurring tasks that have to be done but are not urgent, then there are some urgent tasks and then there are some more long term tasks or projects that are not usually urgent.
Sarah spends her morning doing the routine recurring tasks that need to be done daily just so she can tick them off her To Do list and get them over and done with, as these tasks are usually boring.
Then she would have the afternoon free to work on any creative projects that need to be completed.
The difficulty for Sarah is the fact that she is a morning person and she is most creative in the mornings. So by the time she is finished with all her routine, she is at her lowest energy point and not feeling creative at all.
To make matters worse, Sarah is based in the UK, but she also works with US and China , who operate in different time zones, so in the afternoon she gets plenty of distracting emails and calls from offices based in other countries.
Her creative projects then get pushed back and either not getting started, or Sarah has to work on them very late in the day when she has no energy at all and it is impossible for her to come up with any creative decisions.
Does that sound familiar?
The thing is that all of us have natural energy ups and downs during the day.
So let’s look at how you can find the best time of the day for you and how you can schedule tasks around this time.
Find your peak times
Every one of us has a different ‘peak time’ – the time when our energy levels are at the highest. For those of us who are morning people, morning would be the ‘peak time’. On the opposite side, other people feel at their best at night.
There are, however, several peak and low times during the day for most of us, as our energy fluctuates. So you might be at your best in the morning, then have an energy dip during or just after lunch time, and again have a peak time later on during the day.
If you are not sure when your peak and don times are, spend a couple of days tracking your energy level and recording the results.
You might even add some creativity and create a graph or a chart, which can also be more fun and gives you a visual of what your energy levels look like during the day.
It is also important to look at your energy levels during the whole week, rather than just the day an try and schedule tasks and meeting according to this.
For example I know that I always have a very low energy on Monday and need that day to ease into the week, so I try and avoid having meetings on that day, scheduling routine tasks or projects instead and using this day to plan my week.
Analyze your tasks
Most likely you will have a variety of tasks that you need to complete regularly – either on daily, weekly or monthly basis and then there will be some ad hoc things and projects that always creep in.
To understand better what kind of tasks you are performing regularly, think about all the tasks you do and then separate them into 4 different categories:
- routine tasks
- creative tasks and projects
- tasks that require high concentration
- tasks that require high energy
Knowing what types of tasks you do on a regular basis, it will help you with further planning.
Look at the external factors
Look at all the external factors that influence when you do things.
Think about if there are tasks that you need to schedule at certain times due to availability of relevant people you need to be working with.
If you are working in the open office and need to do tasks that require high concentration, is it easier to do the tasks when no one is around or is there a possibility for you to book a room at a specific time?
If you are in a client facing role, is there a particular time that you need to make client calls?
Allocate tasks to the right times
Try and align your tasks with the ups and downs in your natural energy levels.
For example for me, as Human Resource Business Partner, I have different things that I need to do including issuing contract, interviewing, running training and working with data and reporting.
I know that I am at my best in the morning all days except Mondays, so I will try and schedule induction sessions, meetings, training and workshops that I will run.
And as I am at my lowest after 3pm, I will do operational routine tasks like benefit management, working with data and spreadsheets or working on surveys or performance management.
Scheduling my tasks this way around my energy levels, I know that I can be and do my best to very high demanding tasks or those that need me super concentrated.
Food and drink
You need to also bear in mind that your diet can greatly effect your productivity and energy levels during the day.
Coffee can help you and give you that needed ‘pick me up’ feeling, but it’s effect is quite short lived, and it is always followed by a dip in your energy levels.
Try and avoid sugary snacks and drinks, as they cause insulin spikes that will also result in additional ups and downs in your energy levels. Not to mention that the lows after eating sugar are very low.
Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water during the day. Dehydration will make you tired, sleepy and slow, so keep that glass on your desk full.
Getting some fresh air during the day is also a great way of keeping your energy levels up and clearing your head to give your brain, eyes and body a rest. Walking meetings can be a way to go!
By understanding when we function better and when we are more productive, we can significantly improve our quality of work.
Analyze when the high and low points are and then schedule the tasks you need to do accordingly and you will notice the difference in your productivity straight away.