When we spoke last about Peak Productivity Time, we talked about what it is and how you can find it in your own life.
Unfortunately, that’s not the end of the process.
It’s not the end because even though you understand and appreciate that you accomplish much more during your peak times of the day, not everyone is going to be on board with this discovery.
In particular, there are two key culprits who can sabotage your Peak Productivity Time. There’s:
- You. Because you don’t know what you want to accomplish, split your attention on multiple things, and spend your most productive hours of the day on nonsense work.
- Other people. Because they want to waste your time and attention.
By the end of this article, I want you to be armed with 6 killer tactics to guard your Peak Productivity Times and accelerate your agile success:
#1: Define What You Want to Accomplish
Make sure you know what “done” looks like before you start in on your tasks. This comes from an agile software development framework known as Scrum. Your definition of done defines what success looks like and maximizes use of your Peak Productivity Time:
Definition of Done describes clearly and explicitly what needs to be achieved until a task can be declared as done. And when you define your “done”, you can get rid of your perfection bug.
When 10:00 AM or 4:00 PM hits for me, I have to know beforehand what I want to accomplish in the 1 or 2 hours I’ll have of peak productivity. It’s important to be realistic about what you accomplish.
“Come up with a marketing plan” is not going to get done in an hour. Instead, an achievable outcome like “Research 3 social media outlets” could be.
Define your done. Then get to work.
#2: Turn Off Everything Non-Essential
Exit out of your email program. Close your Twitter/Facebook/RSS reader window tabs.
I’d even consider switching your phone to silent, unless anyone uses that line as an emergency contact for you.
The key here is to help boost your focus by narrowing the number of attention-grabbers that could distract you from your task.
Remember that we overestimate how well we can juggle multiple tasks in our brains.
Do the smart thing and avoid temptation by closing everything that’s not essential to the task you’ve scheduled for your Peak Productivity Time.
#3: Get Out of Attending Meetings
There are any number of deadly characters in the workplace who conspire to make meetings dreadful, contentious, or just plain boring.
The best policy is to get out of these obligations completely.
If you can’t, the second-best option is to make sure these meetings fall during lulls in your productivity.
If you absolutely can’t manage that because your boss insists on weekly “coordination” meetings every Tuesday right smack in the middle of your Peak Productivity Time, just work during the meeting.
Speak when it’s your turn, but tune out during everyone else’s bit and work on your project.
It’s best to pull this maneuver on a phone conference when people can’t see you (and you can push mute), but I’ve done this in a live meeting with my laptop open banging away on the keys.
People either ignore it, or they get the idea and stop inviting you to the meeting.
#4: Don’t Schedule any Calls During or Before
That 15 minute “status update” call might seem innocent enough, but it could easily spiral into a one hour plus fire drill.
Don’t tempt fate by scheduling any calls immediately before your Peak Productivity Times.
In my case, I will not agree to a 3:30 PM call because it could run over into my afternoon PPT that kicks in at 4:00 PM.
And for heaven’s sake, don’t schedule a call in the middle of your PPT!
#5: Close the Door (Literally or Figuratively)
If you have the luxury of an office with a door that closes, now is the time to use it. I know the Herd behavior at many workplaces is to always keep your door open, but now is the time to opt out of this well-meaning but misguided policy.
The function of a workplace is to stimulate the productivity of its workers. You can’t do this if people are constantly dropping by to dump projects into your lap, or chit-chat about the weather or their kids.
So close the damn door.
If you don’t have an office, put in earbuds or put on headphones.
Don’t let anyone interrupt you unless they are literally on fire or having a stroke in front of you.
#6: Focus on Your 80/20 Actions
Now’s not the time to check your email or Twitter updates.
In other words, don’t engage in activities that give you the feeling of being productive, without actually being productive.
Use the Pareto Principle to pare down your 10 to-dos to the 2 mission-critical activities you need to perform today, and schedule those for your Peak Productivity Time. The other 8 tasks can shift to other parts of the day, when your brain is sluggish and your energy is low.
Your best times need to be allocated to your most productive tasks.
Don’t waste your most energetic, creative period of the day on stuff that doesn’t matter.
I hope you found that helpful. Guard your time, and good things will flow from it.
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Image by Voka – Kamer van Koophandel Limburg.