3 min read
My weekday mornings tend to follow a pattern whereby I start out by catching up on emails from the prior day, first identifying items that can be immediately deleted or quickly addressed, then going back to those items that require more time, consideration or concentration.
Sometimes, an early meeting will disrupt this activity and the more intensive items get pushed off until later, perhaps after lunch. Unfortunately, after lunch I tend to have less cognitive (and physical) energy and perhaps I don’t bring quite the level of focus that I would bring to those tasks earlier in the day.
Being a creature of habit (some good, some bad), it has never really occurred to me to invert the order in which I deal with emails by dealing with the more cognitively demanding items first thing in the morning, when I am generally at my best. That would leave the more mindless process of deleting the fluff for the afternoon, when I am less likely to be in an intellectual flow.
I am now considering trying out such a change, after reading this interview with author Dan Pink, whose latest book, When, addresses the cycles we go through and how they relate to our productiveness.
Apparently, I’m not alone in my after-lunch slump: studies cited by Pink indicate substantive differences in effectiveness between the morning and afternoon. Standardized tests are one example, whereby taking them in the afternoon results in measurably worse average performance than taking them in the morning. Of course, the interview doesn’t necessarily talk about the distribution around those averages, so not everyone will follow the same trajectory throughout the day.
Regardless of whether your energy levels follow this common pattern throughout the day, they almost certainly do follow a pattern of some kind. Paying attention to this and tailoring your task-planning to the rhythm you observe, to the extent that you have flexibility to do so, could be a pretty nifty productivity hack.