Have you been productive today? What’s your secret?
A recent spike in my workload has required me to be more conscious of my productivity than I usually am, and it’s reminded me of the one factor on which I feel my productivity hinges: rhythm.
While I hate schedules and structures, and love change, to be effective I need the work I do to fit into my rhythm.
Do you have a working rhythm? Mine looks something like this:
Monday, Wednesday: I schedule meetings on these days, so they’re not great for doing focused work. Small tasks that can be easily chunked (like writing this blog post) are most easily knocked over on these days.
Monday morning is pretty appalling for me. Working for myself from home hasn’t made the week’s beginning any easier to manage.
Tuesday, Thursday, Friday: days for serious focus. Whether I’m at home, or I head out to a cafe or library for a change of scenery, these are the days I’m most likely to let the calls go to voicemail and focus on getting big-ticket items off the To-Do list.
Within that framework, I find it takes me about half an hour or more to get my head into the right frame of mind for work each morning. Rather than squander that time on social media or emailing friends, I try to use it as productively as possible, adding tasks to my To-Do list, sending invoices, clearing my inbox and responding to the less-taxing of my emails.
I also find that the evening hours, between, say, 4 and 7, are a kind of “quiet time” when I can think really clearly and get a lot done, but to make the most of that energy, I need to be doing something I like. I can be super-productive then, but not if I’m not having fun. I can’t force myself at a task that late in the day.
Breaking the rhythm
Knowing my work rhythm is extremely helpful in terms of making the most of each day, and each week. It also gives me the freedom to take time out when I need to, knowing that I’ve scheduled my remaining tasks for times when I’ll be operating at full throttle.
But of course there are always unexpected tasks that crop up—clients want a job done really quickly, for example, or I need to do a task at an odd time to fit in with the schedule of someone who’s located on the other side of the globe.
These are the challenges. While freelancing largely allows you to set your own pace and schedule, having to fit in with others can provide the chance to return to the “real world” for a moment, and force yourself at something against your body’s and mind’s natural preference.
For me, these are opportunities to remind myself of what I’m capable of when push comes to shove, so I try to rise to the challenge, rather than complain about it (too much!).
What’s your secret?
Do you have a similar perspective on your daily productivity rhythms? As I’ve shown here, knowing how and when you work best can help you structure your time and tasks so that each item’s done efficiently and as well as possible. What’s your productivity secret? Share it with us in the comments.