Are you of the mindset that it doesn’t matter when you do the tasks on your daily to-do list, just that they get done?
You may be thinking all wrong. However, setting your daily activities in line with your circadian rhythm, energy level, and ability to focus may prove your biggest productivity tool.
I have my highest energy in the morning, and my focus is best before 2:00 PM, so that’s when I do the complex tasks for me. Here is how I schedule some recurring tasks to fit around client meetings:
E-mail: I’m not easily distracted by e-mail. I can get it, get it done, and get out.
Writing tasks: Although I love to talk, writing is difficult. I need to be mentally fresh to be creative.
Listening to past client calls: I’m hyper-critical of myself. I need to get this done early in the day, or I will procrastinate on this vital task. Using lunch as a reward works nicely for me with this tas.
Posting social media: This is a “tick it off” task for me. It only takes a few minutes, and then I can stop thinking about it. I don’t delve into others’ social media posts in the morning, or I could get lost in them.
E-mail: Although I check e-mail several times a day, the afternoon is my “clean up” time. If I have the energy to do it, great. If I don’t, there is no significant consequence.
Client billing: Because of the systems I use, this task is pretty rote, not taking much brain power. It’s easy to do when I have less energy and resilience.
Client follow-up: I enjoy connecting with clients/prospective clients, so this task is enjoyable for me and creates afternoon energy.
Other financial tasks: Much like client billing, this process is very well laid out and simple to follow, requiring less mental energy.
On the other hand, some of my clients experience their highest energy in the afternoon, so they schedule their days differently.
Report/presentation writing (creative): Creativity is not a challenge for most of my clients. Mind-mapping a presentation is generally easier than tedious detail work and may take less energy. Plus, a creative task in the morning provides energy and momentum.
Financial tasks: Financial stress is prevalent in the ADHD community, so facing any financial task can be fraught with doubt and fear. Getting financial tasks off their plates early in the day can be helpful, so the “what if” isn’t spinning in their heads all day.
E-mail: e-mail can be a dopamine-creating and highly distracting activity. I often suggest clients get a couple of hours of task-focused productivity before opening their e-mail.
Making phone calls: Most of my clients don’t prefer phone conversations. Especially calls that require them to think on their feet, like scheduling appointments and following up on open items. This can be an easily procrastinated item, so I often suggest it be placed right after lunch when energy may have been replenished.
Report/presentation writing (detail): Creativity is not challenging for most of my clients, but detail work is. Scheduling detail work for when energy and resilience are highest is essential. Although the focus may be better in the afternoon than in the morning, detail work is still not a dopamine-inducing task. Going for a walk before taking on this task might be helpful.
E-mail: Most people are compelled to look at their e-mail several times daily. I suggest limiting e-mail interaction as it is highly distracting. Afternoons may be a good e-mail for afternoon-energy individuals as creative e-mail processing (delegating, deleting, creating an e-mail action item list, etc.) may be highly productive. And, if we get distracted for a bit after the bulk of our daily tasks are complete, the consequences may be lower.
As a side note, scientists say peak performance happens right around lunchtime, so focusing on complex tasks around that time may provide a productivity boost.
What do you know about your highest energy time? How can you use that knowledge to get the most out of your day?
Cindy Jobs, PCAC, ACC
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