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Productivity: Optimizing your Schedule

This is part 4 of a 5 part series on Productivity.

Productivity is not just about working harder or working more hours, much of it is about how you use the time you have. One of the mistakes I made early in my career was thinking that I could get more work done by working more hours, which is a mistake many people make.

Your productivity is a function of many things including your natural body rhythms, how often you are interrupted while working, what you are doing and how long you have been working (fatigue). Improving your productivity requires managing many of these factors before you even consider working more hours.

Most surprisingly, science tells us that no matter what you do you have only two hours of peak productivity everyday. For many people these hours are in the late morning, but you can easily identify yours by tracking your productivity during the course of the day. In fact, many of the productivity metrics we’ve covered this week can be adjusted to measure your personal productivity and help you identify when you are most productive.

Once you have identified your peak productive hours you can design your daily schedule around them using a technique called Time Boxing. You set aside periods of time for a specific focus, preventing yourself from jumping from task to task. Think of it like using your calendar to manage your todo list. A time boxed day, assuming peak productivity between 10am-noon, might look like the following:

9a-10a Staff Meeting
10a-11a Task 1
11a-noon Task 2
noon-1p Lunch
1p-2p Respond to Emails
2p-3p Task 3
3p-4p Project Meeting
4p-5p Planning

As you can see, time is set aside for specific tasks during peak productive hours to ensure they don’t get wasted on emails or meetings. Email and meetings are scheduled for low productivity periods like after lunch and later in the day.

This kind of scheduling works both for your personal schedule but also your team schedule, and should help you determine when to have team wide meetings as they will affect everyone’s productivity.

Quote of the Day: “You have two hours of peak productivity every day. How do you spend them?” – Me (Yes, I can quote myself. I am the author after all)

The Productivity series