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Maximizing Your Productive Hours

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productive hours

This week in our series we are talking about tools for taking on our big “elephants”. Earlier in the week I shared about finding a space to work in. And Christa shared about community and mind-mapping as excellent tools for tackling our big projects.

Our biggest tool and also our biggest challenge perhaps is our time. Time or lack of it can be an obstacle to overcome when facing an “elephant”.

“I would love to (fill in your blank) but I just don’t have any time!” Sound familiar?

Well today I want to encourage and equip you to find and maximize your time so that you can put it to work FOR you not against you.

My first suggestion is to identify your productivity levels throughout the day. When are you most productive? When do you struggle to do the most basic tasks? It’s important to have a clear understanding of these patterns so you can use them to your advantage.

I’ll be honest; I’m not a morning person. At least I wouldn’t describe myself as one. BUT, I’m definitely NOT a night owl. I have tried putting projects off with the excuse that I’ll work on them later but the reality is that come 9pm I’m tired and my brain is not at its most productive levels. Does that mean I can’t work at night? No, not at all. But over time I have found that my most productive hours are the morning hours.

And even though I might feel tired in the morning, once I get going, the early hours are when I come up with my best ideas.

Once I get my thoughts organized, I can then use my evening hours to work on projects that require less creativity and are more simple and straightforward.

What are your most productive hours? When do you feel most energetic in your day?

Second, find your “fringe hours”. Jessica Turner who wrote a book called The Fringe Hours defines them as “pockets of time in your schedule that often go underused or wasted altogether”.

She uses the term in the context of finding time for self-care but I believe you can apply these hours for anything, including working on eating your elephant. 🙂

I’m sitting at Starbucks on a Wednesday evening writing this blog post. Every Wednesday while my kids are at AWANA, I can count on 1 1/2 hours of time to write or work on a project.

This is an example of a “fringe hour”. I could do any number of things during this time but I’ve learned that a blog post on average takes me about an hour or so to complete so it’s the perfect project to take on during this pocket of time.

Another example; my husband is my very best friend and the person whose company I enjoy most in the world. I know I’m a total cheeseball but all that to say when he’s home I would rather hang out with him and talk or watch Parenthood on Netflix than be “productive”. I know, OK don’t judge me. But at least one or two nights a week sweet hubby is at a meeting of some sort so I get an hour between 8:30pm when the kids go to bed and 9:30 when he gets home to myself to be productive. That’s an extra 1-2 fringe hours per week that could definitely add up.

As I mentioned earlier my evening hours are not my most energetic or creative so I tap into the creativity I’ve discovered in the morning hours and just get to work on one or two specific tasks.

Let me go back to the example of this blog post. I had already planned out my topics for this series several weeks ago. I already had a draft of this post from one of my “creative” moments. I had my notes ready so all I had to do is sit and edit which requires about as much energy as I have at the end of the day.

Where are your fringe hours?

Possibly:

  • While your kids are at school
  • On a day off from work
  • During your lunch hour
  • While your toddler naps
  • In the car while sitting in traffic (perfect time to listen to a podcast or catch up on a book on CD)
  • Seasonal fringe hours? Perhaps you’re a teacher and get days off during holiday breaks and summer. Can you maximize those hours?
  • Traveling for a work trip? Maybe you can use a few hours of air travel to work on an elephant.
  • While you’re in the shower. Seriously that’s totally me and I found these waterproof notepads that are a lifesaver!

They might just be small pockets but several small pockets add up over time.

Next week we’re going to focus on creating a plan so we can start fitting in some of your tasks and to-dos into various time slots but for now just consider when you’re most productive and where you might be able to find some fringe hours.

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