When Things Heat Up

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on November 24, 2009 in: Time Management Strategies, Tools & Resources

Today, like most days, I…fire2

… got up,
… did some work,
… started to slump a bit,
… ate lunch,
… did more work
… started to slump a bit,
… stepped away from my desk and perked up,
… did more work,
… started to slump a bit,
… stopped working to get ready for supper.

If I were to look at my day, I could identify the periods of time when I was most productive. And, even within those times of productivity, my ability to produce work waxed and waned a bit.

Understanding these cycles within our own bodies is something we each need to do. When are we most productive? When are we least productive? When are we most creative? When can we handle phone calls (but not much else)? When is nap time?

By understanding and working within these parameters, we’ll make the most of our “up time” and the most of our “down time”.

Over the years, I’ve tried various techniques to measure this level of productivity. Often, it was measured based on output, but that’s not a great gauge (because other work crops up throughout the day). Recently, I read a blog at ProductiveFlourshing.com called “How Heatmapping Your Productivity Can Make You More Productive“. The title says it all! In his post, blogger Charlie Gilkey talks about charting your own productivity using a “heat map” to show when you are at your creative peak and when you’re ready for a nap (and all the stages in between). Using his map, you can get a good sense of when your brain is at its juiciest, thus enabling you to take advantage of the time and do your best and most productive work.

Gilkey also provides a downloadable 24-hour clock here: Blank Daily Productivity Heatmap (10465) and a color key so you can map your productive capability just like a real heat map. The colors are pretty simple: Red, orange, yellow, green, and gray (red being your peak creative time and gray being when you’re fast asleep). On a side note, I think I’d like to see two clocks: midnight to noon and noon to midnight, just to make it easier to link it to a clockface, but that’s just a personal preference and pretty easy to create my own clockface.

Once you’ve done this exercise, it’s time to figure out what it means for your scheduling. If you’re at your most creative and productive in the morning, then schedule your biggest and most demanding projects then. If you hit a less creative but still fairly productive stride from 11 to 12 and later, from 3 to 4, plan other activities there that require less creativity but still some focus. And the periods where you really slump are periods that you need to consider stepping back from your desk. (It’s tempting to think you’re doing work by checking email but the things you do during these slumping periods are barely productive at all and you spend three times as long doing them!)

Check out Gilkey’s blog and try heatmapping your day and see what happens!

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