You have heard this before: Do creative work at your most productive times, when your energy and motivation are at their peaks. This post is about finding these precious times, and including them in your weekly planning.
I want to offer two approaches: one for the productivity-obsessed like myself, and one for the rest of the world.
Track your Energy, Focus, Motivation and Creativity every hour. For at least 1-3 weeks.
This approach was presented by Rob Nightingale, who’s also have created the Prime Time Calculator Spreadsheet for you to download and capture your rigorous tracking. You can read more about it here.
The insights you’d gain would be deep and meaningful, maybe even life-changing. But it’s an INTENSE commitment, especially if you’re already struggling with time management and focus. In weight-loss terms, it’s like a gastric bypass surgery.
Ask yourself a few simple questions. Once you have the answers, take the insights into account in your weekly and daily planning.
1. Let’s start with the easy one: are you a morning person or a night owl?
Schedule big blocks of creative work the times you’re awake. Simple.
For example - I can’t think straight at 8AM. As a parent to a school kid I am technically awake, but there’s no chance I will start penning my next masterpiece before 11AM. Not even a tweet. Nothing. It’s just not in my biology.
2. Human Interactions: do they make you more focused and energized, or do you do your best work alone?
Once you have answered this question, combine that with your previous response. Maybe you do your best work by yourself from 2PM to 6PM. Or maybe a morning brainstorm with a co-worker or a business partner gives birth to your most exceptional creations. Now you know what to do.
3. Do you tend to hyperfocus? Do you need setup times to settle into a creative task? Are you one of the precious few that actually can and should multitask?
Some people have the ability to hyper-focus on one thing, spend 6 hours with no bathroom breaks, and GET.IT.DONE. It is especially common among creative entrepreneurs - the words “creative surge” come up in most of my initial consults.
On the other end of the scale are people that work for 20 minutes, take a 20 minute break, then work for another 20. Ending up with an award-winning PhD and a most prestigious fellowship in their field, like a dear friend of mine. Pomodoro principle was probably invented by someone like that.
Take your focus patterns into account when planning your week. It's especially important for scheduling the recurring blocks of time, dedicated to creative work.
4. What are your productivity patterns around exercise?
Energy and focus patterns around exercise vary a ton - depending on your preferred type of exercise and the specifics of your biology. Some people feel at their peak as they finish post-workout shower. Others need 2 hours to recover the ability to concentrate. There are no wrong recipies, just the need to be aware of your own patterns.
5. Taking eating habits into account.
“Eating for Productivity” - an art or a science?
I’m not going to advocate any specific eating style (although you may be interested in what the experts have to say), but I would encourage you to ask yourself - are you more productive between the meals? Do you experience after-lunch energy crush? Again - your eating habits are absolutely none of my business. It’s all about being aware how your particular eating habits impact your focus and energy throughout the day.
6. A bonus question - do you get your best ideas in the shower?
This is so common, it could be defined as a "Local Peak".
I'd suggest keeping a notebook and a pen in the closest dry place. A smartphone works too - you can type or speak your idea into Evernote, Google Doc, or even a Reminder app.
Once you have these questions answered, look at your weekly planning.
Setup creative blocks when you know you're most productive.
Repeat as necessary.