energy1If you know you’re always sleepy after lunch, why try to do work that requires intense concentration at that time? It’ll take you 1 hour to produce what would take 10 minutes at another time. There’s an optimal time of day to work on different types of tasks, and it’s a different time for each of us. This post will teach you how to recognise that time and schedule your work for optimal productivity, even during the periods of low energy!

How do your energy levels fluctuate throughout the day?

It’s time for some field research. Grab a note pad and list the hours of the day down the side of the page. At the start of each hour write a number between 1 and 10 to represent your energy level (1 = almost falling asleep at your desk, 10 = bouncing around on your toes with excitement to start work).

If you keep forgetting to record your energy level, keep setting a timer on your phone for an hour and when it buzzes, record your energy level in your phone’s notes app.

Do this for 2-3 days or whatever is enough for you to recognise your patterns.

For example I find my highest energy levels are in the morning, suddenly dropping after lunch to between 0 and 1 between 2pm and 4pm where I almost can’t get anything done. Then my energy goes back up again after 4pm.

Matching tasks to energy levels

This is pretty straight forward but you do need to give it some conscious thought so that you don’t just start working from top to bottom, treating every task equally.

Tasks that require creativity are best done in the early morning because at that time your brain hasn’t been flooded with other thoughts from everything happening around you. You’ll feel more free and ideas will come more easily.

Tasks requiring high levels of concentration and deep thinking, where the outcome is not already well known in advance, will need your highest energy levels.

Routine tasks, or things where the outcome is known and it’s just a matter of executing the steps, can be done when your energy levels are low to moderate.

What can you do when energy levels are really low?

Take a break!

Taking a break is probably one of the best things you can do at these times. What’s the point of sitting at your desk reading the same paragraph over and over again because you’re too tired for your brain to register what you’re doing?

Go outside and walk around the building for 5 mins, then come back and do one Pomodoro on a low energy task. This can get you back in the zone and all of a sudden your energy levels rise enough to be productive.

You can also take a quick nap. Set a timer for 20 minutes and doze off in your chair. Actually, maybe dozing off in an empty meeting room would be better if you’re working in an office. A 20 minute nap will significantly boost your energy levels.

Planning the night before

As you create your task list for tomorrow, pick out the task that you won’t enjoy and that you’re most likely to procrastinate on. Make this your most important task for the day and do it when your energy levels are at their highest. For example, plan to tackle this task first thing in the morning (also known as eating your frog).

Alternatively, select a task that is most likely to get squeezed out when you run out of time. Important but not urgent tasks that align with your goals are good candidates for this. Plan to do these tasks at high energy, low distraction times of the day to make sure the urgent tasks that pop up don’t squeeze out these types of tasks.

For example I’m writing this article first thing this morning, before opening email, before most of my colleagues are in the office, and making great progress! If I had left it to after work, it would most likely have been squeezed out by other urgent priorities – this has actually happened over the last couple of days.

Next, pick out a couple of tasks that don’t require much concentration and you feel like you could easily do them in your sleep. Plan to work on these at the time when your energy levels are lower.

At the time when your energy levels are almost non-existent and you’re not going to be able to concentrate at all, plan to have a break, a nap, a walk, or some physical activity rather than mental activity.

This way you’ll be matching your tasks to your energy levels. However be weary of creating a rigid schedule – you don’t want to be constantly facing resistance just to try to stick to a plan.

How this helps stay on track with your goals

Reducing reliance on willpower as much as possible by implementing systems and setting up your environment for productivity gives you the best chance of consistently meeting your goals.

Working with your natural energy levels rather than struggling against them aligns with this concept.

You’ll be eliminating sources of resistance as much as possible and creating every chance that you’ll take action without needing to exercise strong willpower – this is a winning combination that will improve your ability to consistently take action, and it’s this consistent action that will lead to great things.

How do you work with your natural energy levels?