Feeling overwhelmed with work and life demands? Rushing, multitasking, or relying on fancy devices and apps won’t help. The answer is to create the conditions for Two Awesome Hours of peak productivity per day.
Davis shows us how we can create the conditions for two awesome hours of effective mental performance by implementing these four strategies:
STRATEGY 1: Recognize your decisions points.
The moment when you have finished a task and are free to start the next one is a precious opportunity. As simple as it may appear, learning to recognize and use your few daily decision points is a game changer.
Once you engage in a task, your brain tends to switch to autopilot, and as a result, you can easily continue doing the same task until it ends or something interrupts you. When your brain goes into automatic mode, you become less aware of your surroundings and the time passing. That’s why the decision points in your day are so useful: they are the moments when you snap out of automatic and become aware that you can decide how to spend your time.
There’s a time and place for the less important work, but leveraging your decision points will helps you keep attuned to your larger priorities.
STRATEGY 2: Manage your mental energy.
Managing time is not just about scheduling. Not all hours are the same. Because the brain fatigues and needs rest to regenerate, the best way to get your work done is not to find the hours to do it on a spreadsheet or calendar. Rather, the key is to tackle your work when you have the right mental energy for it.
Many tasks you do take a toll on you and your brain. Some deplete your mental energy, while others elicit strong emotions. Armed with knowledge of the kind of tasks that are most likely to lead to mental fatigue and how to anticipate the emotions that are likely to surface throughout the day, you can make wise decisions. You can choose when to take a moment to regulate your emotions.
You can do two things:
- Schedule your tasks to take advantage of when your mental energy is at its peak; and
- Strategically choose not to do something that will drain you.
Managing your mental energy like this will set you up for a couple of hours of true productivity.
STRATEGY 3: Stop fighting distractions.
As critical as we claim attention is for our productivity, we sure have mistaken ideas about how it operates. Our attention systems are designed to regularly refresh–to be ready to discover what is new in the environment and to help us navigate a constantly changing world. No wonder when you force yourself to stay focused you become maddeningly frustrated as you find your attention drifting.
But letting your mind wander may be exactly what you need to do in order to find your focus again. Getting back on track should happen far quicker that way than if you jump to whatever other tasks grabs your attention.
STRATEGY 4: Leverage your mind-body connection.
The feeling of being overwhelmed is an emotion, and emotions are not just ‘in your head’ but are highly physical. The awareness that you have more to do than you can cope with is usually accompanied by physical sensations like a knot in your stomach. That’s because your body and your mind are intricately intertwined.
Noise makes it hard to focus, and you can expect plenty of it in this age of cubicles and open floor plan offices. Working under different kinds of lights can make a big difference to your mental alertness and creativity. And the immediate workspace can be either restorative or distracting, easy or difficult to move in, and even inspire you to take risks, depending on how you organize the space and your things within it. You often can’t change the place where you work, but there are lots of little things you can do to ensure that your workspace is helping, not hindering, your productivity.