Your energy level is the highest right away in the morning, so if possible, don’t spend that precious resource on sitting in update meetings or chatting with coworkers. Get right to your workspace and start your projects. Looking for more ways to increase personal effectiveness? Here is the key: Ignore email, stay off of the internet, and don’t answer the phone for the first 90 minutes of every day. Why 90 minutes? Because that’s what the research suggests is the optimal human limit for focusing intensely on any given task.
According to Tony Schwartz, author of Be Excellent at Anything, “I typically get more work done during those 90 minutes, and feel more satisfied with my output, than I do for any comparable period of time the rest of the day. It can be tough on some days to fully focus for 90 minutes, but I always have a clear stopping time, which makes it easier. I launched this practice because I long ago discovered that my energy, my will, and my capacity for intense focus diminish as the day wears on. Anything really challenging that I put off tends not to get done, and it’s the most difficult work that tends to generate the greatest enduring value.”
As you finish out your day, your last task should be to make a list of priorities for the next morning. When you sit down at your desk in the morning, instead of opening email, shuffling papers, or browsing your favorite online news sources, consult your list, and immediately get started with your projects. If you spend the next 90 minutes concentrating on the list, by the time you come up for air you will be surprised at what you have accomplished. Take a break, check email, and then try giving yourself another block of time. If you can do two of these every morning, by lunch you will have accomplished more than you typically do in an entire day.
This single practice of giving yourself a 90-minute block of uninterrupted concentration every morning can change your personal effectiveness and have a life-changing impact. Give this habit a week. If you find that by Wednesday you’re itching to check email when you sit down at the desk, shake things up. Instead of tackling the list right away, spend that time considering the larger life and professional questions that many people never face up to. What are your true personal and professional values? What is your mission? How much time do you actually devote to them, every week? If you spend one of your 90 minute blocks clarifying these critical questions, the rest of every day will be easier to prioritize. Tasks that have been filling your time every day but are not in line with your values and mission will fall away from your priorities list.
Learning to increase personal effectiveness is just one of the critical skills taught in our Increasing Personal Effectiveness program. Learn more here or contact us to find out how other companies have benefited from our practical, results-oriented programs.