Everyone has a productive zone, i.e., a time in which they prefer to work. They may not recognize it as such, but they have one. It’s that time of the day where ideas start to come together. It’s when the ideas are flowing faster than the person can write them.
The usual custom is to divide the productive zones into early birds and night owls. It’s a generic division, but it does point to a truth: most people either work better in the morning or in the evening. Some work better in the afternoon, but they seem to be in such short supply that they have not been given a category.
The generic divisions can be defined even further. Some early birds work before the sun even has begun to rise. Others in the category find their specific zone between the times of 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. The same phenomenon occurs with night owls; some work earlier in the evening, and others work later.
Once people have determined their preferred working hours, they should do their best to protect those hours. If they know they can accomplish the work of an eight-hour day in four hours if they tackle it during their peak productive time, they should address the work during that time. They should not spread the work throughout the day if they have the option of completing it earlier. Spreading the work only results in additional distractions and the potential for not finishing it; after all, if the work has to be spread across several hours, why not waste time online? If, however, the work is done in that productive zone, distractions are all but eliminated. The work takes precedence when a person is in it.
The trick is finding and protecting that productive zone. Not everyone knows when they work best. To find it, people have to examine their work lives. They need to note – yes, in a notebook or some other note-taking device – when they tend to complete projects. They need to write down the times when they prefer to work. They then need to decide how they will protect those times. Maybe they stop answering email during those hours. They disable their internet access. They rearrange meetings, or, if they work from home and are distracted there, they leave the house and work elsewhere.
When are you most productive? How do you protect that time?
Photo: Ben Andreas Harding (CC BY NC SA 2.0)