How did we let the early risers set working hours for all of us?
That’s a joke I read a few weeks ago. We all have 24 hours a day but let’s face it those hours aren’t created equal. Research has shown that about 60% to 80% of us are at our most productive during the early morning hours before noon. Only about 1 in 5 people work better at night. This is because our bodies have an internal clock mechanism that regulates our cycles of wakefulness and sleep. This mechanism is called a circadian rhythm and it dictates the best time for you to focus, work on creative tasks and when to take a break. It’s also responsible for the jetlag you may experience if you travel quickly across time zones as your body struggles to recalibrate its internal clock.
Taking this into account, it means time management really comes down to energy management. Since most people are at their most alert and productive in the morning, losing energy as the day inches towards noon, you would think more people would take advantage of this cycle to attend to important tasks first thing in the morning. Unfortunately, the morning hours are the time people spend on emails and social media until they start losing energy.
If you are an earlybird, like most people, you would be better served using your morning hours through lunchtime on important projects that require a lot of focus such as doing research to get facts for your next report, working on your next presentation or brainstorming a solution to the latest problem befuddling your business. You should also make all your important business calls before noon. If you have to make a presentation. it will be a good idea to set meeting times before lunch. The last thing anyone wants to attend is a presentation where you look dead tired and unfocused.
Brian Tracy refers to this as “Eating your Frog.” If you are not familiar with the expression, the idea is for you to pick the most important task on your To-do list that is likely to yield the most results and do it first thing in the morning before anything else. Allow yourself 15 to 20 minutes between tasks. You can take deep breaths, go for a short walk or if you are like me, take a cup of tea. This will allow you to recharge your energy and attention span.
When your energy begins to wane in the afternoon, go get your jollof rice or pounded yam and egusi combo. After that, you can focus on the less important tasks of the day such as replying your emails or even sneaking in a social media break. You deserve it and you can do it without feeling guilty because your most important task for the day is already done.
Feel free to share your thoughts with me on this one. I’m an early bird. I’d especially love to hear from you if you’re a night owl. What system do you use to get the most work done after “office hours?”