What are Your Productivity Time Preferences?

When do you do your best thinking?  Your most productive thinking?  The thinking that yields the most AH-HA!!! moments?

When do you have the most energy?  When are you most ready to take on the world?  Morning, afternoon, evening, or after everyone else has gone to bed?

Which day of the week do you get the most done?  Are you a hit-the-ground-running-on-Monday-morning person or do you need Monday to ramp up so you can knock it out of the park come Tuesday?  Are you a powerhouse of productivity on Friday?  Does the quiet of a Sunday morning set you up for success when it comes to focusing on your most important work?

I apologize if I’m overwhelming you with too many questions.  I realize my mission is to help you overcome overwhelm instead of adding to it.  My goal though in asking these questions is to help you build awareness around the importance of timing when it comes to your personal productivity, and increased productivity may help you overcome your overwhelm.

Because these questions are designed to raise awareness, there are no right or wrong answers.  The best answers are those that most closely reflect what actually happens in your life.

Each of us has our own productivity preferences.

For example,  I have a distinct flow to my day. Over time, I’ve noticed my best times of the day for personal productivity and self-directed action are from 6:30AM to about 11:30AM (in fact, the clock reads 6:49AM now) and again from 4PM to 5:30PM when I get a second burst of focused energy before leaving my office.  I’m less self-directed during the afternoon hours and I’ve learned that makes those hours a perfect time to work with others.

Because my prime productivity time is when I first wake up in the morning,  I have to do a lot of self managing at this time of day so I don’t end up wasting those precious hours.  For me, this time is best used for writing, tackling challenging reading, communicating with clients or thinking creatively.  Some days it is best used for exercise, if that is what the day dictates and exercise won’t happen otherwise.  What I don’t want to do is squander my prime productivity time on tasks like unloading the dishwasher or folding laundry.

When scheduling sessions with clients, I ask what time of day they’re at their best, so they can benefit from the session as much as possible.  Someone who typically doesn’t get out of bed until 9AM isn’t going to be at their best for a 9AM session.  We also consider time preferences when creating organizing systems.  Why establish a schedule that has you working on your downsizing project, rife with decision-making, during the morning hours if that is when you’re at your foggiest?  If your project is important, doesn’t it deserve the best you have to offer?

I’m confident you’ll experience increased productivity if you schedule your day and your week with your prime productivity times in mind.  Identify those slots and fill them with your most meaningful projects – the work that really matters to you, the work that is mentally challenging for you, be it writing a book, working on your business, or making headway on sorting through and organizing your paperwork.   Consider what might be possible for you if you were to create a best practice around scheduling in this way.  How much more might you accomplish in a day? What kind of difference might there be in your output and even the quality of your output?  Imagine the possibilities.

What do you know about your prime productivity periods?  What do you do to make sure this time is protected for your most important work?   I’d love to hear from you.


14 Responses to “What are Your Productivity Time Preferences?”

  1. Michelle February 18, 2015 9:23 am #

    Hello Andrea, the sofa table came and it looks fabulous! The beading boards fit perfectly on the top shelves. I am still waiting on the two cabinets. I already feel better. My best productivity time is in the morning around 9 am. Thank you again!

    • Andrea Sharb February 18, 2015 11:03 am #

      Michelle, I’m thrilled you’re pleased with the table and its functionality! Great also to hear that you know your best productivity time is 9AM. Is that a prime time of day for you to do your beading and create those beautiful necklaces that you make?

  2. Janet Barclay February 18, 2015 4:16 pm #

    I’m a morning person as well. I like to get up before anyone else (i.e. my husband and our dog) so I can have some quiet time to get myself organized for the day. Depending on what email has come in overnight and what’s on my task list, sometimes I even manage to get things DONE before the day has “officially” even started.

    • Andrea Sharb February 18, 2015 4:50 pm #

      Thanks for sharing your preference Janet and your appreciation for getting things done before the day “officially” starts. My husband heads to his office super early each morning so that he arrives before the majority of his colleagues. His uninterrupted 60-90 minutes of quiet time is typically his most productive time of the day and the day hasn’t even “begun.” Have a great rest of the week!

  3. Linda Samuels February 20, 2015 7:49 pm #

    I’m definitely a morning person. That’s the time I prefer to write, do creative or complex thinking. As the evening happens, my brain is less alert and more tired. However, for a variety of reasons I’ve learned how to push myself to do more even when it’s not my optimal time.

    • Andrea Sharb February 21, 2015 10:36 am #

      Thanks for sharing Linda. I think often about you and all of your various responsibilities: President of the Institute for Challenging Disorganization, business owner and dedicated wife and mother, to name a few. As a friend and as a professional curious about time demand management, I would love to check in with you sometime about what you’re noticing with respect to learning to “push yourself to do more even when it’s not [your] optimal time.” Best to you!

  4. Ellen Delap February 22, 2015 8:43 am #

    Lots of morning people here! I am at my best from 6- 10 am and fortunately I am an early riser. There’s seldom a second wind for me sadly. Evenings are time to rejuvenate and get in bed early as a result.

    It’s so important to match your productivity time and your expectations. I have learned that pushing through a task can take so much more time if the match is not good.

    • Andrea Sharb February 22, 2015 10:13 am #

      Good Morning Ellen! Yes, lots of us morning folks here! For a long time I thought I was a night owl and did good work between 10:30PM and 2AM. Maybe a year or two after I started my business, I realized I needed more energy for my work in the mornings. I began to go to bed at the same time as my husband – around 10PM. It took awhile to get used to such an early bedtime, but over time I adjusted AND I came to realize I was much sharper in the morning than I had ever been between the hours of 10:30PM and 2AM. As the years went on and I worked with more folks with ADHD I noted that a number of my clients experienced that same burst of night time energy. Later I learned about a second wind that many of us ADHDers get at night which as you can imagine results sleep issues (My blog post titled Using Bookends to ADD Structure to Your ADHD Day talks about this a little more.) Experimenting with going to bed at 10PM and shifting my bedtime resulted in me no longer pushing through tasks late at night, and you know what? I learned I was much better equipped to handle those same tasks at 7AM the next morning, because as you mentioned, “the match” was better. Thanks for your comment and have an amazing day!

  5. Teresa Taylor February 25, 2015 5:36 pm #

    I am naturally a night person. I get some amazing things done after 10pm and have been known to stay up until 4am if I am making good progress. I also know I am an achievement oriented person so each little thing done is a boost. Nighttime also is more quiet so it gives me space to think and process and tinker.
    Working a corporate job I got used to getting up very early but did not like it. I preferred to sleep late, exercise in the morning and then do solo activities that didn’t require as much brainpower. I turned into my best beautiful vivacious self after 10 am (meeting time) then I had another good boost around 3-5 pm.

    • Andrea Sharb February 25, 2015 10:38 pm #

      Teresa, thanks for stopping in and commenting. So glad to finally hear from a night person! You mention the quiet that the nighttime provides. That I have to admit is one thing I miss about my night owl days. I used to get 2-3 hours of relative silence when I worked between 10:30PM and 2AM. Now I’m lucky to get 1.5-2 hours. Awesome that you know what works for you and honor it, which I’m guessing allows for more of that”best beautiful vivacious self” to come out. Enjoy the rest of your week!

  6. Cena from SaneSpaces.com March 2, 2015 11:59 am #

    I feel like my productive time goes in cycles.. and it has a lot to do with responding to what is happening for my family and my husband. I feel like my productive time shows up whenever the other activities and commitments of momming are satisfied… When the house is quiet and all is well, those are the best times for me to get things done. Some times it’s REALLY early in the morning – Some times it’s REALLY late at night, and sometimes it’s mid-day… So – what I’ve learned is that I just have to have strong systems that allow me to move into flow and complete tasks when I’m most motivated and when they are most convenient. Knowing my Time Style Preferences, makes a huge difference too!

    • Andrea Sharb March 2, 2015 12:35 pm #

      Cena, I appreciate you commenting. I also appreciate you sharing that your productive time shifts. What’s fantastic is that you’re able to shift yourself with it. When my kids were younger, I know I was more adept at shifting around my productive time. Being mom was number one and other tasks, etc had to be allocated to periods of time when the kids were asleep or otherwise occupied. Thinking about how I used to love those two hour afternoon naps brings a smile to my face. : )


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