I know we were all taught to work at least 8 hours a day, but I have come to find most of us can produce high-quality work for no longer than 3 or 4 hours a day. That’s it.
The work habits of the majority of the writers, philosophers, scientists, artists and other creatives throughout the ages I’ve read about confirm this observation. There were very aware of their personal energy performance.
It’s not that they only worked 3 to 4 hours a day, but they recognized the importance of reserving their most energetic few hours a day for their most important work.
I call this period of each day your “peak performance period”.
When I started working for myself I tried to keep working an 8-hour day, but soon discovered I didn’t need to.
I was able to get all my work done much faster because working from home eliminated all those counterproductive office distractions: endless meetings, people stopping by my desk to chit chat, office parties, getting IM’d questions people could have easily found the answers for themselves, etc.
You know exactly what I’m talking about!
I felt guilty about working less at first, but why shouldn’t I be rewarded for getting my work done faster? After all, wasn’t this one of the benefits my self-employment lifestyle?
Then, I started becoming more aware of my personal energy performance and discovered my own peak performance period.
It’s mornings for me. From about 7am to 12pm is the time when my personal energy is at its peak.
I use this highly valuable period of my day to do my most important work. I spend my best energy writing blog posts like this and creating other forms of content for Life Skills That Matter.
I passionately defend my peak performance period from distractions and other forms of work that require less energy. I don’t answer any emails, I don’t schedule meetings, I don’t search the web, and I don’t check social media.
This period of the day is when I can work effortlessly because I am more physically energized and more mentally focused than any other time of day.
I am able to produce higher quality work and often more of it than I would if I tried to accomplish it during another time of day. After 8pm I’m mush. I’m in such a low energy state that I’m almost unable to make even the most basic of decisions!
I spend the rest of my day on tasks that require less energy and focus.
To make this easier, I organize my work tasks based on the amount of energy they require:
- Low energy – Administrative tasks like accounting, website maintenance, and organizing.
- Moderate energy – Social interactions like meetings, email, and social media.
- High energy – Intensive mental work like planning, writing, researching, and interviewing
In the 9-to-5 world, you have to justify your income by showing how long you work. I’ve worked inside many companies that valued people who stayed in the office the longest, regardless of the quality of their work.
When you are self-employed you need to conserve your energy. Because the buck stops with you, it’s up to you to increase your hourly rate.
The goal isn’t to work longer for the same amount of income. It’s to make more money for every hour worked, resulting in a more efficient use of your energy.
Even if you are only in the early stages of lifestyle design, start paying attention to when your peak performance period occurs each day. You might even discover it is split between two different periods in your day.
I believe recognizing your peak performance period is the bedrock of personal energy performance management. At the very least you will start making more effective use of your highest energy periods for your most important work.