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You Might Have Missed This Simple Way To Increase Your Work Performance

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You Might Have Missed This Simple Way To Increase Your Work Performance

When it comes to productivity and time management, you’ve no doubt seen (and maybe) used some of the countless apps and tech tricks that are designed specifically to help with these life skills. Many people put all their faith in these external tools and techniques because the apps and tips are easily found on the internet. Some people seem addicted to trying out the latest ones.

If you’re a regular reader of Lifehack, you’ll know that we have plenty of articles that feature these apps and tech tricks. All these techniques are useful, but if you’re not careful, you may forget one of the basics of productivity – your personal energy levels.

On this point, I want to introduce to you the 3 Tiers of Productivity.[1] These can be explained as a pyramid, with the base (and biggest part) made up of fundamentals, the middle part of psychology, and the apex (and also the smallest part) consisting of details.

    The fundamentals part is the least sexy, and therefore, typically attracts the least interest. However, it’s actually the most important part. Fundamentals refers to adequate sleep, a healthy diet, a clean environment, and knowing exactly what you’re going to do. In other words – how you manage your personal energy. If you’re not as productive as you’d like to be, then you may be lacking personal energy.

    Why Your Energy Levels Are Low, and Why This Matters

    If you’re like most people, you probably respond to rising demands in the workplace by putting in longer hours. However, this takes a toll on your physical, emotional and mental health. This inevitably leads to declining levels of engagement, increasing levels of distraction – and a significant dip in your productivity.

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    As I mentioned in the introduction, once our productivity takes a hit, we gravitate towards “magical” tools and tricks to help us keep on track. But there’s a problem with this. Namely, that most of these tools and tricks focus almost exclusively on psychology and details. They fail to address the fundamentals, thus leaving us with an artificial, and oftentimes unsustainable boost in productivity.

    If you want to be a productivity superstar, then you need to get the fundamentals right. Luckily, there is a little-known method that can help you out with this.

    How Natural Cycles Help You Perform Better

    Most people aren’t aware that their personal energy is determined by natural cycles known as ultradian rhythms. These are recurrent periods or cycles that are repeated throughout a 24-hour day.

    When you work with instead of against the ultradian rhythms, you will perform better. When your energy levels are high, you can concentrate on the tasks at hand; when your energy levels hit rock bottom, this is the best time to rest.

    Psychophysiologist Peretz Lavie conducted a series of experiments that revealed the following:

    1. In the morning time, we get sleepy every 90 minutes.
    2. In the afternoon and evenings, we get sleepy at two specific times: 4:30pm and 11:30pm.

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      These daily cycles reveal when we’re most likely to feel at our best – and when we’re most likely to feel too groggy to continue.

      Align with Your Natural Cycles and Boost Your Performance

      You must get the fundamentals of personal energy right if you’re to reach the heights of the super-productive.

      It all starts with getting adequate and regular sleep (at least eight hours per night). Good sleep allows you to rest and rejuvenate. It gives you the energy to get on with doing what you want to do. In turn, this leads to a significant boost in your performance. You’ll also find yourself easily surpassing the energy and productivity levels of people who don’t sleep well.

      A Federal Aviation Administration study of pilots on long haul flights shows the vital importance of resting when your energy levels are low:[2]

      “One group of pilots was given an opportunity to take 40-minute naps mid-flight, and ended up getting an average of 26 minutes of actual sleep. Their median reaction time improved by 16% following their naps. Non-napping pilots, tested at a similar halfway point in the flight, had a 34% deterioration in reaction time. They also experienced 22 micro sleeps of 2-10 seconds during the last 30 minutes of the flight. The pilots who took naps had none.”

      You may not be aware of this, but sleep can also help you solve problems. For instance, it’s not uncommon to wake up with the answer to a problem that you’d earlier been unable to resolve. Find out more about this in another article Why Sleeping on a Difficult Problem Helps You Get the Answer

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      Clearly, if you can learn to follow your natural daily cycles, you’ll be able to do your best work when you have the most energy, and you’ll also know the most suitable time to take naps, rest and sleep.

      How to Take Care of Your Energy

      Want to get started with boosting your energy and productivity levels? Here’s my recommendations.

      Identify your energy cycle

      The first key thing to do, is to calculate your biological prime times. You can do this by:

      1. Cutting out stimulants or mood enhancers such as caffeine, alcohol or antidepressants.
      2. Turn off your alarm, and allow yourself to sleep and wake up naturally.
      3. Record your energy levels every waking hour, on the hour.
      4. Collect a minimum of three weeks of data.

      By doing the above, you’ll be able to determine your peak activity times – and your best times to rest and sleep.[3]

      Schedule activities according to your energy levels

      It’s critical that you know the effort and energy needed to complete upcoming tasks. Having this information will allow you to set the priority and importance of the tasks.

      You can then easily schedule the important tasks (or tasks that require a high level of concentration) at times when your personal energy is at or near its peak. Examples of these tasks include creative work like writing, or problem solving work such as learning to file your tax returns.

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      And of course the opposite is true. Tasks that need less thought-power or energy should be scheduled to take place during your low-energy periods.

      Break your work sessions into 90-minute blocks and take 15-minute breaks every 90 minutes

      When you break your work into 90-minute blocks, you’ll immediately experience a boost in your productivity. This is because 90 minutes is the ideal working duration before your mind and body needs to take a break. And how long should your break be? Well, it appears that 15-minute breaks are the ideal complement to the 90-minute sessions.

      By following the above routine, you’ll notice that you’ll have enhanced motivation to work because 90 minutes seems a manageable amount of time to work, especially when a 15-minute break is on the horizon.

      While the 15-minute break can be used to simply go for a walk, or make yourself a drink, you may want to consider taking a nap. Napping for just 15-20 minutes enables you to recharge your personal energy. (Be careful with longer naps, as these can disrupt your sleep cycle.) Read more about napping at work in another article A 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

      As you can see from the tips in this article, to manage your productivity levels, you need to get the foundations right first. This means getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, ensuring your environment is clean and orderly, and most importantly, learning how to align your work with your natural cycles.

      Featured photo credit: Picjumbo via picjumbo.com

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      Reference

      More by this author

      Leon Ho

      Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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      Last Updated on September 9, 2021

      10 Best Productivity Planners To Get More Done in 2021

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      10 Best Productivity Planners To Get More Done in 2021

      Productivity planners and journals are tools of a trade. There’s an art to productivity. Just like art is very personal to the artist, productivity is very personal to the person. What works for you may not work for me. This is an important distinction if you really want get more done in less time.

      Too many of us dabble in productivity hacks only to move on to the next tool or trend when it didn’t workout for us, missing the lesson of what worked and didn’t work about that tool or trend.

      We put the tool on a pedestal and miss the art. It’s worshipping the paint brush rather than the process and act of painting. We miss the art of our own productivity when the tool overshadows the treasure.

      As an artist, you have many brushes to choose from. You’re looking for a brush that feels best in your hand. You want a brush that doesn’t distract you from your art but partners with you to create the many things you see in your mind to create. Finding a brush like this may take some experimenting, but when you understand that the role of the brush is to bring life to your vision, it’s easier to find the right brush.

      Planners are the same way. You want a productivity journal that supports you in the creation of your vision, not one that bogs you down or steals your energy.

      Let’s dive into the 10 best productivity planners and journals to help you get more done in less time.

      1. The One Thing Planner

      The NY Times best selling book, The One Thing, just released their new planner. If you loved this book, you’ll love this planner.

      As the founder of the world’s largest real estate company Keller Williams Realty, Gary Keller, has mastered the art of focus. The One Thing planner has its roots in industry changing productivity. If you’re out to put a dent in the universe, this may be the planner for you.

      Get the planner here!

      2. The Full Life Planner

      The Full Life Planner is Lifehacks’ ultimate planning system to get results across all your core life aspects including work, health and relationships. This smart planner is 15 years of Lifehack’s best practices and proven success formulas by top performers.

      With the Full Life Planner, you can align your actions to long term milestones every day, week, and month consistently. This will help you to get more done and achieve your goals.

      Get the planner here!

      3. The Freedom Journal

      Creator of one of the most prolific podcasts ever, Entrepreneur on Fire, John Lee Dumas released his productivity journal in 2016. This hard-cover journal focuses on accomplishing SMART goals in 100 days.

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      From their site:

      “The Freedom Journal is an accountability partner that won’t let you fail. John Lee Dumas has interviewed over 2000 successful Entrepreneurs and has created a unique step-by-step process that will guide you in SETTING and ACCOMPLISHING your #1 goal in 100 days.”

      Get the planner here!

      4. Full Focus Planner

      Michael Hyatt, author of Platform and host of the podcast “This is Your Life”, also has his own planner called the Full Focus Planner.

      From the site:

      “Built for a 90-day achievement cycle, the Full Focus Planner® gives you a quarter of a year’s content so you aren’t overwhelmed by planning (and tracking) 12 months at a time.”

      This productivity planner includes a place for annual goals, a monthly calendar, quarterly planning, the ideal week, daily pages, a place for rituals, weekly preview and quarterly previews. It also comes with a Quickstart lessons to help you master the use of the planner.

      Get the planner here!

      5. Passion Planner

      They call themselves the #pashfam and think of their planner as a “paper life coach”. Their formats include dated, academic and undated in hardbound journals with assorted colors. With over 600,000 users they have a track record for effective planners.

      From the site:

      “An appointment calendar, goal setting guide, journal, sketchbook, gratitude log & personal and work to-do lists all in one notebook.”

      They have a get-one give-one program. For every Passion Planner that is bought they will donate one to a student or someone in need.

      They also provide free PDF downloads of their planners. This is a great way to test drive if their planner is right for you.

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      Get the planner here!

      6. Desire Map Planners

      If you’re looking for a more spiritually oriented planner, Danielle LaPorte, author of The Desire Map, created the Desire Map Planners. With Daily planners, Weekly planners and Undated planners you can find the right fit for you.

      Behind this planner is the Desire Map Planner Program including 3 workbooks that not only support you in using the planners but guide you in your thought process about your life and intentions you’re using the planner to help you fulfill.

      Get the planner here!

      7. Franklin Covey Planners

      The grandfather of all planners, Franklin Covey, has the most options when it comes to layouts, binders, and accessories. With over 30 years in the productivity planner business, they not only provide a ton of planner layouts, they also have been teaching productivity and planning from the beginning.

      From the site:

      “Achieve what matters most with innovative, high quality planners and binders tailored to your personal style. Our paper planning system guides you to identify values, create successful habits, and track and achieve your goals.”

      Get the planner here!

      8. Productivity Planner

      From the makers of the best selling journal backed by Tim Ferriss, “The Five Minute Journal”, comes the Productivity Planner.

      Combining the Ivy Lee method which made Charles Schwab millions with the Pomodoro Technique to stay focused in the moment, the Productivity Planner is both intelligent and effective.

      It allows for six months of planning, 5-day daily pages, weekly planning and weekly review, a prioritized task list, Pomodoro time tracking, and extra space for notes.

      From the site:

      “Do you often find yourself busy, while more important tasks get procrastinated on? The Productivity Planner helps you prioritize and accomplish the vital few tasks that make your day satisfying. Quality over quantity. Combined with the Pomodoro Technique to help you avoid distractions, the Productivity Planner assists you to get better work done in less time.”

      Get the planner here!

      9. Self Journal

      Endorsed by Daymond John of Shark Tank, the Self Journal takes a 13 week approach and combines Monthly, Weekly and Daily planning to help you stay focused on the things that really matter.

      Self Journal includes additional tools to help you produce with their Weekly Action Pad, Project Action Pad, the Sidekick pocket journal to capture your ideas on the go and their SmartMarks bookmarks that act as a notepad while you’re reading.

      Get the planner here!

      10. Google Calendar

      You may already use Google Calendar for appointments, but with a couple tweaks you can use it as a productivity planner.

      Productivity assumes we have time to do the work we intend to do. So blocking time on your Google Calendar and designating it as “busy” will prevent others from filling up those spaces on your calendar. Actually using those blocks of time as you intended is up to you.

      If you use a booking tool like Schedule Once or Calendly, you can integrate it with your Google Calendar. For maximum productivity and rhythm, I recommend creating a consistent “available” block of time each day for these kinds of appointments.

      Google Calendar is free, web based and to the point. If you’re a bottom line person and easily hold your priorities in your head, this may be a good solution for you.

      Get the planner here!

      Bonus Advice: Integrate the 4 Building Blocks of Productivity

      Just as important to productivity planners as the tool are the principles that we create inside of. There are 4 building blocks of productivity, that when embraced, accelerate your energy and results.

      The four building blocks of productivity are desire, strategy, focus and rhythm. When you get these right, having a productivity planner or journal provides the structure to keep you on track.

      Block #1: Desire

      Somehow in the pursuit of all our goals, we accumulate ideas and To-Do’s we’re not actually passionate about and don’t really want to pursue. They sneak their way in and steal our focus from the things that really matter.

      Underneath powerful productivity is desire. Not many little desires, but the overarching mother of desires. The desire you feel in your gut, the desire that comes from your soul, not your logic, is what you need to tap into if you want to level up your productivity.

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      A productivity planner is just a distraction if you’re not clear on what it’s all for. With desire, however, your productivity planner provides the guide rails to accomplish your intentions.

      Block #2: Strategy

      Once you’re clear on your overarching desire, you need to organize your steps to get there. Let’s call this “strategy”. Strategy is like assembling a jigsaw puzzle. You must first turn over all the pieces to see patterns, colors, connections and find borders.

      In business and life, we often start trying to put our “puzzle” together without turning over all the pieces. We put many items on our To-Do lists and clog our planners with things that aren’t important to the bigger picture of our puzzle.

      Strategy is about taking the time to brain dump all the things in your head related to your goal and then looking for patterns and priorities. As you turn over these puzzle pieces, you’ll begin to see the more important tasks that take care of the less important tasks or make the less important tasks irrelevant.

      In the best selling book, The One Thing, the focusing question they teach is:

      “What’s the One thing I can do, such that by doing it, everything else is easier or unnecessary?”

      This is the heart of strategy and organizing what hits your planner and what doesn’t.

      Block #3: Focus

      With your priorities identified, now you can focus on the One Thing that makes everything else easier or unnecessary. This is where your productivity planners and journals help you hold the line.

      Because you’ve already turned over the puzzle pieces, you aren’t distracted by new shiny objects. If new ideas come along, and they will, you will better see how and where they fit in the big picture of your desire and strategy, allowing you to go back and focus on your One Thing.

      Block #4: Rhythm

      The final building block of productivity is rhythm. There is a rhythm in life and work that works best for you. When you find this rhythm, time stands still, productivity is easy and your experience of work is joyful.

      Some call this flow. As you hone your self-awareness about your ideal rhythm you will find yourself riding flow more often and owning your productivity.

      Without these four building blocks of productivity, you’re like a painter with a paintbrush and no idea how to use it to create what’s in your heart to create. But harness these four building blocks and find yourself getting more done in less time.

      The Bottom Line

      Your life is your art. Everyday you have a chance to create something amazing. By understanding and using the four building blocks of productivity, you will set yourself up for success no matter which planner, or “paintbrush”, you choose to use.

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      As you experiment with different planners you will narrow which one is best for you and accelerate your path to putting a dent in the universe.

      More Tools to Boost Your Productivity

      Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

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