The sweet spot for productivity lies at the intersection of Time, Energy, and Attention
Productivity. I recommended a great book to a business coaching client who replied by saying “I don’t have time to read a book!”. I couldn’t help but think: how can you NOT have time to read this book? It could save you HOURS of time learning the subject by trial and error.
We all have 168 hours in our week. From the most unproductive of people to the most productive of us…we all have 168 hours to be productive, accomplish our goals, and live a fulfilling life. What my client really meant was that they were NOT WILLING to take the time to read the book. It’s not a question of having time, it’s a question of how we choose to use the time we have.
I think of high achievers like Elon Musk, who’s running multiple billion dollar companies and revolutionizing the world of transportation (Tesla and Hyperloop), power generation (PowerWall Batteries), and space travel (Space X). That’s not just one, but three massive industries where he has become a game-changer. How is it that an uber achiever like him is able to accomplish so many great things with the same amount of time as others that can’t even make time to read a book? Two things, really: leverage (left to discuss in a future post) and the key component that I believe it comes down to in even seeking leverage, the right mindset: A PRODUCTIVE MINDSET.
What is Productivity?
Productivity is best realized when combining Effectiveness with Efficiency.
Effectiveness (goal oriented), is your ability to make progress toward a worthy end. A goal lets you measure whether you’re being productive or just active. In other words: doing the right work.
Efficiency (process oriented), is doing the work right. If you jump straight to efficiency without being effective, all you’re doing is working on the wrong thing quickly…busy work. You’re just fooling yourself.
The Three Elements of Productivity
Like I said earlier, productivity resides at the intersection of Time, Energy, and Attention (or Focus). For you left-brainers out there, look at Productivity as this equation offered up by Paul Minors of the Productivity Podcast:
TIME + ENERGY + ATTENTION = EFFECTIVENESS + EFFICIENCY
Use the task and time management techniques I have previously blogged about and spotlighted on episodes of Talk with Tom, and the related resources you will find here, such as: the Master Calendar, Ideal Week, and many of the task and time management apps out there, to hone your effectiveness. Be specific as to what you spend your time on by being definitive about your goals.
“I want to create a website and blog about photography.”
“I’m going to spend 6 hours a week for 4 weeks building my website. I then spend 4 hours a week blogging about photography writing 2 blog posts a week until I have 5,000 visits per month.”
There are lots of things you can do to increase your energy. We will focus on three key areas: sleep, exercise and nutrition.
On the subject of sleep, I’m often asked in my workshops, “What is the optimal number of hours to sleep per night?” I always answer: that everyone has very similar, but often times small differences, in their personal bio-rhythms. Personally, I operate best on 8 hours of sleep a night, between the hours of 10 or 11pm and 6 or 7am. It’s odd for me that if I sleep that same eight hours between 9-5 or 12-8, I do not function as well the next day. You must find your own key times and amounts but here are some guidelines:
– Take advantage of the GOLDEN HOURS of sleep opportunity from 10pm – 2am. Even if you get the same 8 hours a night as an early sleeper, by missing this window you wake up feeling worse. For the research, Google sleep golden hours.
– Aim for 7.5 to 8 HOURS in total. This is exactly 5 sleep cycles (each cycle is 90 minutes and takes you into deep REM sleep). I use the Sleep Cycle app to monitor my sleep.
– If you wake up at the RIGHT TIME (at the top of a sleep cycle) you wake up feeling more refreshed. Again, the Sleep Cycle app provides for your alarm to sound in a 20-minute window that provides an optimized wake time at the top of your sleep cycle. I have no idea how this cool app works, but it uses your phone’s built-in accelerometer to monitor your sleep patterns while lying next to you in bed… so weird, but it works.
– Aim for the 10pm – 6am window.
“Timing your sleep is like timing an investment in the stock market – it doesn’t matter how much you invest, it matters when you invest.” – Sleep researcher, Dr. Kulreet Chaudhary
Similarly with exercise, I am asked in my Create The Life You Want workshops: “What is the best exercise to do?” My answer is always the same: “The one you’ll do!” If you enjoy playing tennis or cycling, then go with that! Don’t force it by going to the gym to hit the weights when you find that to be drudgery! Play more tennis! There is no denying that regular exercise is crucial for a healthy lifestyle and for BOOSTING your energy. Here are some reasons why morning workouts are best:
– Studies show that MORNING EXERCISE is more beneficial for your sleep and energy levels.
– Schedule your workouts for the morning. CORTISOL (energy hormone) is highest in the morning, this natural body drug encourages activity and exercise.
– Exercise gets OXYGEN to the brain – getting exercise in the morning sets you up for a productive day.
Lastly, think of food (your nutrition) as fuel for your body. Wouldn’t you want to use a high-octane (high energy) fuel in your car for better performance? Of course you would. Same for your body. What you put in your body provides for how good your output will be. Here, again, are some guidelines:
– Don’t skip BREAKFAST! Your body is in starvation mode and needs energy for the day.
– Focus on eating GREEN and WHOLE FOODS. For example, use natural ingredients, not processed food, and stay away from sugars and starch. I start everyday with a homemade green drink that I make fresh weekly using apples, spinach, cucumbers, celery, lemons and wheat grass.
– Stay HYDRATED throughout the day. The rule of thumb is drink half your body weight in ounces every day. Water is best.
– Go easy on the CAFFEINE. Don’t consume caffeine within 6 hours before sleep.
The last variable in the Productivity equation is ATTENTION.
Have you ever gotten so “in the zone” at work that you completely lost track of time? This intense state of concentration is sometimes called “the flow.” Your whole world becomes you and the project you’re working on, and it feels great to emerge from that state after getting a whole lot done. If you’re like most people, achieving “flow” only happens every once in a while. In fact, the average office worker gets interrupted from their work every three minutes.
Thankfully, if you combine SELF-DISCIPLINE, GOOD HABITS, and a PRODUCTIVE WORK SPACE, you can retrain yourself to get into a deep state of focus when you really need to. Check out this infographic in my resources from OnlineCourseReport.com to learn helpful tips on getting “in the zone” and increasing your productivity at work.
Please let me know of your interest in this topic by commenting below and I will expand on this topic in future posts; your feedback is greatly appreciated. Let me know whether you like, or dislike, the topic and of other topics you would like addressed in future posts.
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