In your virtual assistant practice, you are always going to have to find a way to schedule all of your tasks and those of your clients, into your 8-hour workday. Invitations, meetings, conference calls, email requests – you’re always going to have something waiting for your attention. When you are managing your own schedule, you have to decide if these engagements warrant your time, and where you’re going to fit them into your day. While the Power of No is an option, it’s not always an option.
What most people don’t realize is that it’s not about having the time to do something, but where that time is within your day cycle. There are certain times of day where you are more productive than others, known as your prime productivity time. Having the ability to focus and get things done in the morning doesn’t mean that you will have that same ability later on in the afternoon or evening.
For years, research has shown that human cognitive functioning actually does fluctuate throughout a day. It has found that for most people, 9a-11a is THE time to get things done. By 3p, however, we can feel like time is dragging on and lose motivation. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just in our heads. For those taking notes, my prime productivity time is between 8a-12p. While tasks still get done throughout the afternoon, my creativity and innovation are low in the afternoon.
Recent studies suggest that as the day goes on we lose focus, the ability to learn and retain new information, and the ability to plan. It’s not emotional or laziness, it’s biological. The human body runs on a circadian rhythm which affects things like our temperature, brain waves, and hormones.
People don’t have identical rhythms so this means there will be variations in productivity, energy levels, and general alertness. Being a “morning person” or a “night person” is actually linked to when our mental and physical abilities peak during the day, not just preference.
Morning people perform better at the beginning of the day and night people are more productive at the end of the day. A new study has even found that the more tired you are, the more unethical you are — so a night person will be more ethical at night and morning person more ethical first thing in the morning.
Being tired isn’t all bad news though, as one recent study has found that the distracted and tired mind can actually be useful for creative problem-solving. A normal mind can quickly filter out disassociated ideas but sometimes a tired mind can let them through and you may just find a solution to a problem you may never have considered otherwise. If you need some creative thinking or new ideas, don’t be afraid to let tired people approach the problem, they might surprise you.
So what does all this have to do with scheduling your day?
Getting the most out of your day starts with you assessing what your normal day feels like. When do you feel like you have the most energy, the most focus, and learning absorption? Most likely, these are the hours that you are going to be at your prime and you can designate them as your prime productivity time.
Be protective of your most productive hours .. like a mother bear protecting her cubs. If you use an online calendar system, block those time slots off so that no one can invite you to meetings, hangouts,or calls at those times. If you use a traditional written calendar, block those times off so you remember that these are valuable time slots that should only be used for high-value tasks. Make yourself really think about what you want to use that time for.
Maximize the hours in your day by allowing your body to go with its natural energy flows. Choose the right time of day for your tasks, leaving your highest productivity time for all your more complex tasks and problem-solving meetings. Boring “routine” meetings should be left for after lunch, when most energy levels have gone very low.
You’re the only person that knows without a doubt how your cycle behaves. This also makes you the best candidate for protecting your prime focus hours. If you know that you need to be at your best and most alert for a meeting, push for it to be at a time that works for you. It could make a huge difference to your day.
About Out of the Office Virtual Assistance:
Since 2006, Out of the Office has offered ideas and ways to increase your productivity, decrease your workload, and work more efficiently. We nurture a successful business relationship, while continuing to grow as your business partner. We are focused on streamlining your administration, social media planning and execution, content writing and offering creative solutions for your business success.
Image credit: Time Spiral by Alexandre Duret-Lutz | CC BY-SA 2.0