Block It Out: How A Simple Time Log Can Restore Maximum Workday Productivity, Part 3

hocI’ve written about the benefits of keeping a time log from several perspectives now, including the utilization of non-prime time, increasing energy and productivity, managing your inbox, and even blocking out time for “goofing off” (resistance to Facebook can be futile!). In this 3rd and final installment of Block It Out, I’d like to explore with you how I strategize my scheduling by aligning my values and biorhythms. Upon reflection, I’ve gotten to know myself well enough to realize how such an approach can help me achieve full focus more often each day, and I invite you to follow suit. I’d then like to offer you some valuable insight about how I’ve become more secure in my mindset that I’m NOT lazy simply because my time log strategies have left me with a surplus of free time (yes, that’s non-busy time). But first, a look at those personal biorhythms, which ought to inspire you to reflect upon your own, and then map your time log accordingly.

-I now do my workday “heavy lifting” between 6 and 10am, when my brain is sharp and nimble. Typically, at the end of this morning run, I can report to myself that “I’ve cranked”, which inspires further momentum in me.

-When I plot my daily and weekly schedules, I actually block out time for recovery, with the realistic anticipation that I’ll need it (and I always do). This includes strategically planning my meditation and exercise sessions!

-I block out the time immediately following each business phone call to do follow-up and flesh out my notes. Such follow-up never even makes it onto my TO-DO list, but it’s done promptly and thoroughly as a result of my methodology.

-I acknowledge and accept that I’m least productive between 2 and 4:30pm daily. So, guess what: This becomes time for some guilt-free afternoon reading, meditation, exercise, and the occasional nap. If I happen to be working from home, I use this time to prepare and eat a nutrient-dense lunch.

-When I schedule my time smartly, the last hours of the day are as powerful as the first. Thus, I often find myself blocking out time right up until 7pm when working from home.

On Becoming More Secure in My Mindset

There appears to be something macho or heroic about declaring that you’re busy, or letting someone know that you work “80 hours a week”. I am mindful NOT to fall into that camp. First off, time management expert Laura Vanderkam has demonstrated that such 80-hour claims are actually only two-thirds that amount after you factor in the distractions and dilly-dallying that sabotage our workdays. Secondly, my goal is clear by design, or as Tim Ferriss says, “The goal is to spend as much time as possible doing what we want by maximizing output in minimal time.” When you ask me how I am, my answer is never “Crazy busy”. You’ll more likely hear “Excited about the projects I’m working on” or “Exhausted from the three workshops I delivered last week”. This takes some internal repetition, and I’ll admit that those of us who instinctively develop this mindset are in the minority.

My goal is to work 45 highly-productive hours each week, and save the other 123 hours for leisure. And instead of thinking of myself as a slacker at 45 hours, I’ve decided to frame it as my opportunity to truly live. Even as I practice this approach, I’m mindful to keep shushing my inner critic. All the self-brainwashing has lead me to enjoy my free time more, celebrate my good work habits, and be fully present knowing that I’ve got my priorities covered. The exciting results are that I’ve worked 2,525 productive hours in the last 52 weeks, and I’ve exercised more than 20 minutes a day for at least 5 days per week! But it’s still a work in progress. Here are some of the challenges, which rear their heads from time to time, but are clearly on their way out:

-I have started to highlight blocks of time in my log as a review of when I’m working at low focus and high focus. My next challenge is to convert all low focus work into high focus. My assumption is that I’ll work LESS hours this way.

-I don’t always give myself unconditional permission to recover when I’m exhausted. My inner critic starts screaming that I’m going to turn into a lazy, overweight bag lady. But in reality, this is highly unlikely to happen, the acknowledgment of which is grounding.

-I tend to spin my wheels when highly stressed, as a result of stretching WAY beyond my comfort zone. That inner critic gets ahold of me here as well, but I’m on to her. These days, I’m recovering more quickly.

-I still procrastinate, especially when it comes to that book I’ve been writing for the last 8 years! Instead of beating myself up for not completing it, I celebrate the progress I’ve made, and focus instead on growing my business. If and when the book finally gets written, it will seem a treat, not a feat.