There’s nothing worse than labouring at a particularly difficult task when you’re just not feeling it. It’s like wading through treacle; nothing you do helps, and it feels like you’ll be stuck there forever.
But a start-up guru has a simple method for organising work that promises to stem the pile-up of complex decisions or activities, and revolutionise daily routines.
Thomas Oppong, the founder of Alltopstartups.com, says we need to re-focus our attention on energy, not time, in arranging our working days.
Writing for ThriveGlobal, he says: “It pays to use your peak time, when you feel alert and excited, for projects that involve problem-solving, complex thought, and critical decisions.
“Routine, unimportant, and less complex tasks can be done when you are not as focused and engaged.”
“The best productivity hack is just listening to your own body and working with it, not against it,” Oppong says.
With that in mind, he’s created an “natural rhythms experiment” to determine when during the day he is most energetic, and for how long.
This, he says, takes some commitment but it’s worth it in the long-run, to work out how you can tackle your to-do list in a productive and sustainable way.
Here’s how to keep your own journal, according to Oppong’s method.
Keeping an energy journal
1. Pick a day and start tracking how you spend it.
2. Eliminate any factors that could mess with your energy – changes in caffeine intake is a big one, staying up late is another.
3. Start recording what you’re accomplishing once an hour. Rate your energy level, motivation, focus in the process of work, every day (you could record scores for each factor).
5. Take a few minutes each day to reflect on your previous day/week. Do you notice any patterns? When are you most focused? When do you notice a surge or dip in energy? What times do you reach for coffee in the day? These patterns can reveal when you’re at your best and when you should take a break to refresh.
6. Write down how you spend your minutes and keep notes on how you felt. Be honest. Sometimes you can identify that you feel “on a roll,” which is a good sign that you’re figuring out something about your productivity.
After a week or so of keeping an energy journal, says Oppong, you should start to see patterns emerging. He suggests using a spreadsheet to help keep track, which can be downloaded here.
Oppong also recommends playing around with your routine a little during this period – by adding in slots of meditation or exercise, or altering start and break times – to see how it affects your productivity.
Read more: Five ways to work less and get more done
The longer you track your days for, the more accurate the results will be. But a minimum of three weeks should do the trick as a starting point.
“Once you figure out your most productive time of day, rearrange your tasks and put your important, high-concentration tasks in periods where you’re highly productive,” writes Oppong. “Place less important, low-concentration tasks in periods where you’re not very productive.”
So, there you have it. Go forth and conquer!