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The best of times: Taking advantage of the day’s most productive hours

Public Service News - 15 Apr 2019

Donna McGeorge says it’s essential to understand that we have innate cycles that can help or hinder our productivity at certain times of the day.

 

How do you currently spend the first two hours of your day?

 

Things like: checking your inbox, tidying your desk, responding to “urgent” queries, discussing the football scores from the weekend or the latest exit from your favourite reality show. (Be honest now.)

 

All of this “stuff” is a distraction that dictates what you do and when, and makes you unproductive for the whole day — not to mention your team.

Yet the work of Michael Smol

ensky and Lynne Lambert, published in their book The Body Clock Guide to Better Health, reveals we have an internal body that makes us more alert in the morning.

 

That means anything that requires our focus and attention should be done first thing, and anything repetitive and routine is best for the afternoon when your body is naturally looking to rest.

 

So with some small but easy tweaks to you and your team’s mindset, you can maximise your most productive time and feel better for it as a result.

 

Morning mojo

In his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg explains that there are things that we can do upon waking that have a positive impact on our mental and physical wellbeing throughout the day.

 

The same can be said for the habits we have in the first two hours of our working day.

 

The first two hours is when we have the greatest levels of alertness and mental capacity, so we need to make the most of it on the most difficult jobs or the things that require great attention.

 

This means not squandering it on email or meeting requests!

 

But before you stop reading this article in horror at the idea of waiting until lunchtime to respond to emails, think about this.

 

According to an article by DMR, a company that looks at social media statistics and trends, only about 10 per cent of your email requires a considered response, and given that 80 per cent of your emails are probably a waste of your time anyway, there’s not much at stake here.

 

So put your earphones in, shut the office door, chuck up a “do-not-disturb” sign, or do whatever it takes to protect your most valuable time of the day.

 

You must lead your team by example.

 

Start work on any tasks that require focus and critical thinking — anything you would determine is your “real work”.

Save the next two hours of your day to be in service to others.

 

For example, giving time to someone in your team to “bounce an idea off” or something similar.

Understanding that our mind and body have innate cycles that can help or hinder our productivity at certain times of the day is the first and most important step to maximising our work time.

 

Mindset makeover

Now this might seem easier said than done when you work in government where there always seems to be an “emergency”, a quick “catch-up” or a “team-building” exercise (usually in the form of morning tea).

 

So think about this: If time were a currency, would you think differently about how or where you spent it?

 

Would you continue to accept meeting requests and fill your calendar without thinking about how much time you give, to whom and when?

 

Or would you be thoughtful and considered about when you scheduled those meetings?

We need to think differently about how we manage our time, the same way we are encouraged to manage our money or the Department’s budget.

 

If every minute had a dollar value, how would you ensure you got a return every time you gave one out?

Like money, once time is gone, we are unable to get it back.

 

And, unlike money, we can’t save it or store it, so we have to make the best use of every minute of the day.

When we are truly managing our time, we are thinking about it as a valuable resource that we want to get the best return on.

 

When you stop working on autopilot and start designing your day with these small tweaks in mind, then you increase not just your productivity but that of your whole team as well.

 

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