Time management, especially for freelancers and entrepreneurs, is something that gets talked about a lot. There are loads of systems to make you more efficient and productive using time blocking or scheduling, but today I’m going to show you how to fast-forward your productivity by finding your most productive time.
Here’s a bit of the science behind the method. If you’ve read Why We Sleep you’ll know that we are each genetically hardwired to our own sleep schedule. For some of us, falling asleep early and waking up early is the most natural pattern. For others, falling asleep late and waking up late is better. Figuring out whether you’re an early bird or a night owl is going to help you find your most productive time.
Last week a friend lent me the Four Hour Work Week. He didn’t think there was much to the book, but I found something that inspired me enough to change my whole working pattern.
When the author of FHWW worked as a cold caller, he realised the biggest problem were the ‘gatekeepers’ (secretaries, assistants – all the people he didn’t want to speak to) he was getting stuck at. Like most people, he was working 9-5. He soon realised that by calling clients between 8am – 8.30am and 5pm – 5.30pm he avoided the gatekeepers, made more sales and still got through his whole workload for the day. His whole workload done in one hour. Now that’s what I call finding your productive time.
Being an entrepreneur and working from home can be difficult because there’s not a set schedule. Sure, you could work 9-5 because everyone else does, but you shouldn’t. Embrace your own schedule.
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I’m a night owl, no doubt about it. I struggle to fall asleep before 2am usually, and I’m happiest waking up around 10am. Ready for a bit more science? The body winds down between 6pm and 10pm, which is why that’s when people often fall asleep (thanks melatonin). But if you stay awake past that you’ll get a huge shot of cortisol (the stress hormone) at 11pm. This will wake you right back up again and is why, if you’re a night owl, working between 11pm – 2am will make you super productive.
If I work between 11pm-2am, I can get though my whole to do list for the week. This is compared to working from 11am – 2pm, lunch, work 3pm – 5pm, dinner, end up working even more after dinner because there’s still more to do… Instead, working at night fuels me, so that’s what I do. If you’re an early bird working from 4am – 8am might be your thing.
By finding your most productive time, you can uplevel your time management tenfold. No more motivational quotes or talking yourself into getting the work done required!
Just think what would happen if you could get through today’s to do list, and most of tomorrow’s, in just four hours? If you’re an early bird, imagine having done all that before other people are even out of bed. Time management sorted, productivity and efficiency both supercharged and working from home means finally getting to enjoy the benefits of working from home! My personal favourite is getting to go to all the best places in London while they’re quiet (well, as quiet as you can get in London), but maybe you fancy doing the shopping on a Tuesday morning when the supermarket is deserted. Understandable.
So here in step-by-step format is how you become more productive as an entrepreneur working from home:
1: Find your natural sleeping pattern. When do you easily fall asleep, and when do you naturally wake up?
2: Determine if you’re an early bird or a night owl.
3: Decide where you want that supercharged four hour window to be. Is it 4am-8am (early birds)? Is it 11am-2am (night owls)? Play around with the window and see what suits you best.
4: Factor in the externals. These are things like calls, meetings, emails (things that involve other people who probably aren’t happy having a meeting at 4am). But, if you’re working with people in other countries, maybe having a meeting at 4am works well with the time difference. Work out all your externals and make them work with your productive time.
N.B. Don’t be tempted to think that your most productive time is best spent writing emails or arranging meetings. You have plenty of time during the day (and regular working hours) for all that.
5: Test it out. See what happens. How does it fit with everything else.
6: If necessary, alter the times and try again.