When are you your best?

When are you your best?

If I need to write, it has to be first thing in the morning. That is when my head is clear and distractions are minimal. If I need to solve a problem, I go for a walk. For some reason walking always puts me in the mode to sort things out. When I need to be creative, I go for a run or a bike ride. The ideas start pouring out. Not everyone solves problems or creates in the same way or at the same time, so you really have to figure out what works for you. The biggest mistake we’ve made with work, is thinking we are all productive in the same way.

It took me years to figure out what works for me. I think it was more of an unlearning process. I really struggled in elementary and high school. Not terrible, but it was forced. I could have done better. It wasn’t until I got into college that I became a straight A student. Even that was a process. Several teachers and courses will teach you how to study. The whole “Read, Write and Review” method was pretty standard. Sitting at your desk for hours on end and in the library earned you kudos from your parents and fellow students. A new Critical Thinking course introduced me to different ways of thinking and studying. The methods were unique, but the biggest takeaway was that there are no rules. You can learn any way that works for you.

It took a lot of trial and error to learn when I was my sharpest. From there I was able to figure out which tasks were best tackled at which times. For lack of a better phrase it was essentially, Resource Management. I wasn’t going to waste my most energetic and alert time in the morning doing bills. I can do that mundane task anytime. It really broke down that my most productive times were early in the morning and later in the evening, not surprisingly, when the phone wasn’t ringing. What did surprise me is when I would come up with solutions while I was doing other things. This was particularly evident when Building Websites. I started noticing that some of my most difficult solutions came to me while I was doing something less mentally demanding, like yardwork, sweeping, washing dishes and walking. Needless to say, the more demanding the Web Project, the cleaner my house became!

As I’ve gotten older and in the habit of maintaining a task list, I constantly go back and forth between my calendar of appointments and tasks. I prepare for the next day in the evening. To keep me on task, sometimes I will use the BreakTime timer to make sure I don’t drift off and spend too much time on email. Here’s an example of how I break things up. These are all approximate times. It will differ by appointments and workload.

  • 5:00AM Wake Up, Drink Water, Go to the bathroom
  • 5:15AM 30 Minutes of yoga
  • 5:45AM Get a cup of coffee and go through email
  • 6:15AM Write
  • 7:00AM Wake up my daughter for school
  • 7:15AM Make my daughter some tea and make her breakfast
  • 7:30AM Drink tea and talk with my daughter while she eats
  • 8:00AM Take my daughter to school
  • 9:00AM Eat, run or work (If I am scoping a project, I would do that now.)
  • 10:00AM Meetings start or I take my dog for a walk. (If I was working on scoping a project, I would review the scope in my head so far, as we walk. Often I will take notes on my phone along the way.)
  • 11:00AM Meetings or if I’m writing a scope, I sit back down with my notes and continue to write it out. (This is the time when I use BreakTime as well. I typically do 1 hour, with a 15 minute break. For my break time, I will do quick tasks around the house, trash, laundry, pick up, etc.)
  • 12:00PM or 12:15PM If I haven’t ran or biked and don’t have a meeting, then for my break I will go run/bike. Depending on my mileage goals, I’ll do a 30 min or 1 hour run/bike. (I will use my run time to flesh out a new feature, service or blog post.)
  • 12:45PM or 1:00PM Cool down from my run/bike and write down any notes that came up.
  • 1:15PM Shower (This is always a perfect time to sort through a problem Hot Water = Clarity.)
  • 1:30PM Review completed tasks, email and work on editorial calendar. (I know I have to pick up my daughter soon, so this is a great time for admin tasks that don’t take a lot of time.)
  • 2:30PM Pick my daughter up from school.
  • 3:30PM Meetings or light Web Development Tasks. (I typically get interrupted often during this time for homework help, so I save Web Dev tasks that are quick and don’t take a lot of deep thought during this time. This one took a long time to learn after years of setting my expectations too high.)
  • 4:30PM Take break. Try to do a task outside.
  • 4:45PM Light Web Dev tasks, email and work on editorial calendar.
  • 5:30PM Make my daughter dinner and talk with her about her homework.
  • 6:30PM Write, heavy web development or intensive focus tasks.
  • 7:30PM Make dinner for my wife and I.
  • 8:30PM Prepare and review all of my tasks and appointments for the next day.
  • 9:00PM to 11:00PM Read saved articles or a book or sleep (My favored time to sleep is 10:00PM, but if I need another intensive focus time to work, this next hour is it. It’s quiet and I can dwell on things without interruption.)

As you can imagine, the times and tasks I listed vary daily during the week. This is a real schedule and I have done it like this often. I have really tried to leverage when I am the most alert and put those tasks at the appropriate times. Of course all of this can be turned upside down by moved meeting times, deadlines, projects or the best part, my daughter.

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