I’ve always found my early morning hours to be my strongest “thinking” hours. And apparently I’m not alone! The first hours of your workday are the most productive, according to psychologist Ron Friedman.
“Typically, we have a window of about three hours where we’re really, really focused. We’re able to have some strong contributions in terms of planning, in terms of thinking, in terms of speaking well,” Friedman told Harvard Business Review. “If we end up squandering those first three hours reacting to other people’s priorities for us . . . that ends up using up our best hours and we’re not quite as effective as we could be.”
Likewise, Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and author states "Successful people understand the importance of having control over their mornings and know how to use that time wisely."
So, what is the best way gain control over your morning hours for peak performance?
1. Don’t schedule meetings during this first part of the day if you can help it. You’ll be more effective and better able to focus on the subject of the meeting later if you’ve had a chance to plan and structure your day versus just jumping in.
2. Avoid distraction. If possible, focus on one thing you really need to do and put off opening your inbox for one hour. If that’s not possible, deal with necessary emails and voice mails, but set others aside for later. You know which ones are truly important and which can wait awhile.
3. The quiet hours of the morning can be the ideal time to focus on an important project without interruption. Take time to strategize on large projects and break them down into smaller, more manageable pieces. Look at the end goal or result and work backwards. Think of the necessary steps it will take to reach that goal and write everything down. Estimate timing for each step so that you have a realistic view on how long it will take to complete. Our brains are often better able to do some deeper thinking in the morning before the disruptions of the day begin.
4. Look at the large picture and prioritize goals for the day – the morning hours are peak time for planning and organizing. Set up a good calendar system to list projects, tasks and due dates and use it!
5. Give yourself a break when you need one. Our bodies follow “ultradian rhythms,” or cycles that last 90 to 120 minutes during which we become fatigued and need a break. When you notice signals such as yawning, hunger, or brain fatigue – give yourself a chance to step away from your desk and eat, walk or stretch. Pushing through these cycles or rhythms only results in lower efficiency and substandard work. Work that you might just have to re-do tomorrow morning!
6. Plan for the 2-3 o’clock energy dip. Most of us have a time every afternoon when our energy levels dip. If you can’t sneak away for a twenty minute nap (a favorite of mine), then have a list of “lower priority” tasks that you might be able to complete while you are not at your best. Keep in mind that when we are tired, our creative juices often flow. Fatigue puts us into a more relaxed state and allows our minds to wander, to wonder, and to create. So, if your work allows it, take on a more creative task during this mid-afternoon slump!
7. Unplug at a set time every day. There will always be work to do. But you can’t always be doing work. Give yourself time to unplug and do something FUN. Spend time with family or friends or curl up on the sofa and read a book. Maybe THIS is the most important time of the day after all!
By putting your morning in order and paying attention to your peak performance times throughout the rest of the day – you’ll be more focused and feel a bit more in control every day!
Those enrolled in online courses know the benefits of being able to complete coursework anytime, anywhere. Following the tips above will make you more productive and successful in your courses. Visit Ed4Career to learn more about our extensive course catalog today!