This is an excerpt from The Simple Leader: Personal and Professional Leadership at the Nexus of Lean and Zen
Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.
– Stephen King
Similar to the Hour of Power is the concept that certain parts of the day are more productive than others. Once again we’re all different in this respect, and it’s why some people are “morning people” while others prefer the evenings. I once even had a star employee who worked best from one to three in the morning, and insisted on being in the office at that time. (I won’t divert our discussion by describing the other problems that caused.)
I’ve long known that the most productive time of my day is in the mornings, especially the early mornings. I almost never set an alarm, but am generally awake at four. I take care of my morning meditation, breakfast, reading the paper, and then start the Hour of Power. After the Hour of Power, I usually hit the gym for an hour of strength or cardio work. After a quick shower, I head to the office, attend our morning team video call (our version of the “standup meeting” meeting I’ll describe later), and then get back into my productive time. I’ll use the pomodoro method to optimize the use of that time, which lasts until 11:30 a.m. or so.
While I find that my mornings are usually very productive, afternoons are far more difficult. I find it harder to maintain focus, even when removing distractions, and I know my mental acuity is not at the level it was in the morning. Therefore, I schedule phone calls, more mindless tasks, and errands during this time. A couple times a week, I’ll also take do a walking meditation on the beach. During this time, work (improvement) is still being done, just not the most critical tasks. I’m working on improving my mental productivity in the afternoon, but so far nothing has changed—perhaps reinforcing how powerful the productive time of my day is.
Evenings are a bit better than the afternoons, but my priority in the evening is my family. Therefore, I purposely don’t schedule any work tasks during this part of the day. When I have evening free time—which is common, since my wife requires more sleep than I do—I use the evenings to catch up on reading. If my brain feels a bit fried, I’ll turn on the TV. I end the evening with some reflection.