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Ask the Entrepreneurs: The Most Productive Hours of the Day

Ask the Entrepreneurs: The Most Productive Hours of the Day

Ask The Entrepreneurs is a regular series where members of the Young Entrepreneur Council are asked a single question that aims to help Lifehack readers level up their own lives, whether in a area of management, communication, business or life in general.

Here’s the question posed in this edition of Ask The Entrepreneurs:

What hour(s) of the day are you your most productive and why? What do you do?

1. Friday Evening

Christopher Kelly

    I am most productive on Friday evening when the week’s activities are all laid out in front of me and everyone else is gone. Then, I make it my job to bridge all five days worth of momentum into the following week by organizing my thoughts and plans into draft emails that get sent out first thing on Monday.

    Christopher Kelly, Convene

     

    2. Hours 2 to 6

    Neil Thanedar

      I’ve learned to build my daily to-do list around this time slot. On principle, I focus on one objective and three key tasks each day. Usually, I’ll warm up in the first hour with a task that can easily be completed within 30 to 60 minutes before throwing myself into these key projects worth my peak effort and intensity. All secondary objectives are restricted to hours 7 through 24.

      Neil Thanedar, LabDoor

       

      3. The Midnight Hour

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      Natalie McNeil

        From about 11:30 p.m. until 12:30 a.m., I always seem to get hit with a wave of energy and productivity. It’s usually when I get my writing done and answer media inquiries or interview questions. There’s something I love about getting a few things done when the neighbors’ lights are out and people are going to sleep.

        Natalie MacNeil, She Takes on the World

         

        4. Before Meetings Start

        Derek Flanzraich

          I have time in the morning to plan ahead, complete my toughest task and catch up on social media. Then, it’s meetings time, and by the time they’re done, my brain’s rarely fresh enough to get anything really meaningful completed.

          Derek Flanzraich, Greatist

           

           

          5. Evenings

          David Ehrenberg

            In the evenings, I can finally find some undisturbed time to myself. This is my time to concentrate on all of the independent work I need to do that I never find time for during the day. I take this time to answer emails, review materials and address different projects.

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            David Ehrenberg, Early Growth Financial Services

             

             

            6. Lunch

            Michael Portman

              Lunch punctuates every work day, and I try to keep at least a couple free every week to be alone with my thoughts. Things that bother me about my business may not come to the surface in the hustle of the day, and I find it most convenient to leave lunch open for those “aha” moments.

              Michael Portman, Birds Barbershop

               

               

              7. Mid-Morning to the Afternoon

              Michael Patak

                My most productive hours are probably from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. When I first get in, I check my priorities, organize my day and start getting on the grind around 11 a.m. Mental preparation in the morning really helps me.

                Michael Patak, TopstepTrader

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                8. 7 p.m. to 2 a.m.

                Andy Karuza

                  I have a lifestyle that I haven’t let go of since I was a kid, or maybe I’m just not a morning person. I’m very productive at night because I get a second wind around 7 p.m., and I can focus because the rest of the business world is dormant. At night I can focus with clarity on projects such as writing this response, doing reports, organizing myself and much more without my phone going off.

                  Andy Karuza, brandbuddee

                   

                  9. 5 a.m.

                  Corey Blake

                    I wake up each weekday at 5:30 a.m. to spend the first 30 minutes of my day writing. I journal about what I’m grateful for and about what I’m dreaming of living into that day. Setting up my day that way helps me focus and act from a place of appreciation before I start diving into projects and problem solving.

                    Corey Blake, Round Table Companies

                     

                    10. Morning

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                    John Meyer

                      It is hard to argue with morning being the most productive time of the day. Our focus is like a gas tank that we have to fill up each night. All the things in our life use up that focus fuel, and by the end of the day, it’s tough to be productive. I like to go to a coffee shop first thing and try to do high-value tasks such as planning and reading before I jump into the emails and meetings.

                      John Meyer, Lemon.ly

                       

                      11. 1 to 6 p.m.

                      Elizabeth Saunders

                        I’m most productive in the afternoon because in the morning, I take care of all of my emails, voicemails, small to-do items and planning. That leaves me free in the afternoon to work on projects, talk with clients, write articles and simply get things done.

                        Elizabeth Saunders, Real Life E®

                         

                         

                        12. Nighttime

                        James Simpson

                          During the regular work hours, it is often impossible to get a lot of meaningful work done because of everything else going on around you. At night, when the office is quiet and the world around you is going to sleep, ultimate productivity can be achieved.

                          James Simpson, GoldFire Studios

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                          The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

                          The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

                          It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

                          Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

                          “You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

                          In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

                          New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

                          There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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                          So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

                          What is the productivity paradox?

                          There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

                          In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

                          He wrote in his conclusion:

                          “Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

                          Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

                          How do we measure productivity anyway?

                          And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

                          In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

                          But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

                          In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

                          But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

                          Possible causes of the productivity paradox

                          Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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                          • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
                          • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
                          • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
                          • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

                          There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

                          According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

                          Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

                          The paradox and the recession

                          The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

                          “Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

                          This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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                          According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

                          Looking forward

                          A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

                          “Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

                          Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

                          “Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

                          On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

                          Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

                          Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

                          Reference

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