© 2011 jen

Your Sweet Spot

“Productivity is never an accident.  It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” ~ Paul J. Meyer

When I worked a 9-5 job I noticed that my mind was clearest in the early part of the day. By the afternoon I would begin to feel my energy fade.  Later when I began working for myself I found that if I let myself, I could be almost done with my work day by noon.  I’d get up at 5:30 and work until noon. With 6-ish hours worked, I would only need to fit a couple of hours in over the rest of the day to complete my work day.  The problem was, there was no time for me in that schedule.  I’d be hungry, un-showered and usually pretty grouchy because I wasn’t taking care of my needs.  I mention this as a reminder of the importance of finding a schedule that meets your own internal clock for optimal productivity, but also balances out your needs for some self-care.

Everyone has an internal clock of sorts—times where you’re on fire and times where your energy level is much lower.  I’ve revised my productivity schedule and have found a couple of techniques that boost my productivity level.  I still get to work pretty early, but I weave my AM routine throughout my morning.

Sugar VS Running

I used to drink coffee or eat sugar in the afternoon when I’d feel that lull feeling, but I found these really did almost nothing for me and then I’d have the typical crash a few hours later.  Now I’ll hop on my treadmill instead.  What I tell myself is that I only need to do 5 minutes, then once I get on (which is half the battle of working out – starting!) I try to stay on for at least 15 minutes.  We all have little mind games we play with ourselves and this is mine.  I know I won’t get on the treadmill if I tell myself 15 minutes, but I know once I get on, I’ll have no problem staying on for at least 15 minutes.  I try to run, though I can imagine any neighbor innocently passing by at the right moment might find this comical, but it really gets my heart rate up and it’s an instant energy charge.  If you don’t have a treadmill or if it isn’t feasible to go on a walk, something else that gets your heart rate up. Stand in place, swing your arms and when your arms come down at your sides pump your legs as if you’re jumping in place, but your feet remain on the ground.  Set a goal, do this 50 or 100 times.  It really gets your heart moving and is an instant burst of energy.

I try to use my best, clearest thinking, most energetic times for my work. I save my time wasting tasks, like talking on the phone with friends, Pinterest, Facebook, etc for times of the day when I’m not as alert.  I don’t need to be in top form to “like” something online. I watch movies or TV shows online after a long day of work.  And, I try not to work in the evenings for a few reasons: 1) I’m not a night person. 2) I want to spend as much time with my family as possible.  If I do have a day when I have extra time in the evening and feel that I want to do something productive, I’ll do something fun and easy like photo editing which doesn’t require a lot of extra brain cells (well at least not the photo editing I do.)

Here are a few additional tips for optimizing your productivity:

1. Automation – the more you automate your schedule and aspects of your routine the easier it is to keep up with productivity.  Automating your work and life give you more time for both.  Also, as you begin to automate your work, you become more and more of an expert at what you do.

2. Streamline it – simplify what you’re currently doing. There are a million ways to do most things, look at your tasks at hand with an eye for simplifying them.

Example: I used to feel really overwhelmed by cooking and shopping for groceries.  What I realized is that I need a plan for meal preparation. I don’t really like to cook at the end of the day.  I created a shopping list around menu plans.  I can do both my shopping and planning in about 1.5 hours and that’s for a week’s worth of menus and groceries.  I also try to make at least 1 crockpot meal a week, as well as  making larger quantities of food when I cook, so that we only have to cook from scratch once or twice a week at dinner time.  We go out to eat less, eat healthier foods and this system is very low stress.

3. Do each task only once – decide and do, don’t over think the process. It’s easy if you’re feeling overwhelmed about something to spend more time thinking about it, turning it over and looking at it from all angles, than it is if you decide what you want to do and then just do it.

Example: You get a piece of mail from a friend inviting you to a wedding that’s far from your home.  You know you cannot attend, but you open the invitation, look at it, set it on the table and proceed to pick it up daily to think about how you’re going to handle this, feeling bad that you’ll have to tell them no at some point.  Rip off the band-aid, already!  The truth is, you know you cannot attend.  Spend 5 minutes writing them back or picking up the phone to tell them that you’re thrilled for them and that unfortunately you cannot attend.  The point is, you can deal with the situation in 5-10 minutes tops rather than moving this invitation from clutter pile to clutter pile, while feeling like, “Oh right I need to deal with this.”

4. Outsource – when possible hire someone.  Is there someone who can help you with the bookkeeping for your business?  Then hire them. If you cannot hire them, can you work out a trade?  Outsourcing allows you more time to do what you’re good at and you can hire the expert to do what you don’t love.

Whatever your internal clock is telling you, listen, and adjust your routine to maximize your productivity. I think you’ll be amazed by what a few adjustments can make.


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