Productivity

How to make your afternoons more productive

- December 5, 2019 2 MIN READ

As someone wise said to me recently, “The work day is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.” So here’s some ideas for making the most of the pointy end of the day.

Turns out there’s a downside to being a sworn morning person.

It’s called: the afternoon.

Specifically the hours between 2pm and 4pm where focus and motivation is very much on the downward spiral.

Goodbye, coffee high

The coffee has worn off, the cream off the to-do list has been tackled and the lure of the evening is so close you can smell it.

Except, you still have a business to run.

If that sounds familiar these great tips from career analyst, Dan Pink (who used to be Al Gore’s speech writer) should help.

In a recent episode of the LinkedIn podcast, Hello Monday, Dan tells host Jessi Hempel even the most committed early bird needs to be strategic about how they approach work in the afternoon.

Take the afternoon by the horns

Dan has some fabulous ideas when it comes to managing our time better, especially for those like himself, who work from home. As Dan tells Jessi, it helps to think about our work day in three sections – peak, trough and recovery.

Understanding our personal preferences for each period helps us identify ‘when’ to do a particular ‘type’ of task.

Time management expert, Kate Christie shares an effective method for that:

“Think about it in terms of using your best brain for your best work. So morning people should use their mornings for their most challenging, important, strategic, revenue generating work. Save your afternoons to catch your process driven work, the tasks that don’t require your best brain – invoicing, returning calls, ordering stock, sales calls and so on.”

The best laid plans…

But what about the days where we start out firing arrows, with the best intentions and then get derailed?

Prioritise, says Dan who uses the example of getting a text message from his daughter the minute he walked into his office to start work at 9am. Hmmm, where have I heard this story before!

“Family is an obvious priority for me and so I had to respond. When you have to do that, try setting a timer to catch up on key tasks…”

Depending on the type of work you do, you may change/lower the parameters. For example, if you were planning on writing 900 words for a post for your blog, perhaps tweak that to 500 words.

The whole podcast episode is worth a listen for Dan’s productivity wisdom. Like, using our afternoons as a recovery period for brainstorming sessions.

“That’s because in the late afternoon and early evening our mood goes up but our vigilance does not. It’s a period of mental looseness…. Brainstorming sessions are ideal here, ideally for problems and/or work that requires insight or divergent thinking.”

And his best tip in my opinion? Save your emails for the afternoon rather than first thing in the day when your energy and vigilance and superb morning-person brain power is firing.