April 16, 2018

Your Higher Productivity/Lower Stress 24hr Cycle

In this brief post I’m going to share an idealised 24hr period that is guaranteed to increase your productivity and reduce your levels of stress, using what I call Your Higher Productivity/Lower Stress 24hr Cycle . I can guarantee this, not because I’m some kind of Tony Robbins whizz kid, but because there is rigorous scientific validation behind each of the elements in this 24hr period that are proven to work (I’ll put some of my sources at the end of this piece).

The reason I say an ‘idealised’ 24hr period, is because this is a framework rather than a rigid instruction manual. There is no such thing as one size fits all but there is such a thing as some ‘universal truths’ to daily thriving that can be incorporated in anyone’s day.

SO if you’re interested in improving what you create every day in your work, or you’re looking to reduce your levels of stress, read on and adopt some of these practices into your daily schedule.

6.30am to 7.00am – Wake up (do not touch your phone), instead grab 20 mins of a guided meditation. Something that teaches your mind how to focus again.

7.30am – Have breakfast, higher in protein and lower in sugary carbs (like eggs on wholemeal toast) because the protein will help you feel fuller for longer.

7.30am onwards – In your commute to work avoid social media and e-mails, simply listen to music, read an e-book and use this time (as best as possible) to stay relaxed.

8.30am – Start work. Do not switch on any connected technology, say hi to your colleagues, crack a couple of jokes and explain you’re about to start your deep work period, of completely focused work. To learn more see the resources list below.

10.00am – A 20 minute break. In that break drink plenty of water, have a healthy snack (fruit/nuts etc not a Mars Bar), and do something not related to work (and not social media). Talk with colleagues around the coffee machine, read a book, juggle balls, do some yoga stretches. In short, rest your brain. This is what Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz call ‘energy management.’

10.20am – E-Mail Sprint. Allocate approx 30 mins to focusing on e-mail. Do your e-mails in sprints, it makes you focus on the priorities, you get more done, more quickly and it stops e-mail from constantly distracting you throughout the day.

11.00am – Second Deep Work session of the day for approximately 90 mins and then rest again. You’ll be amazed at what you get done in just these two periods. One lady got more done in two days than she had in the whole previous week.

12.30pm – Lunch. Do not eat it at your desk, ensure you’re being sociable and ensure you’re eating a healthy balanced meal, avoiding sugary items.

12.30pm – Physical movement. Before lunch, at least 3 times per working week do some exercise. There is evidence to suggest that exercise in the afternoon is less stressful to the body than first thing in the morning. It will help you shake of the stress of the day, improve your cognitive function and improve your subjective wellbeing levels (your happiness). Then eat a nutritious lunch.

1.30pm – Second E-mail sprint. Once again prioritising the important e-mails and then making sure you switch off your e-mail until later in the afternoon.

2.00pm – Lower challenge work. From this point forward your brain will only be able to handle less challenging work, as you have used up your ‘deep work’ capacity for the day. I hold my meetings in the afternoon, handle non urgent phone calls and lower priority work.

4.30pm – Last e-mail sprint of the day. Crank through your e-mail priorities and make sure you tell people whether you’re able or not to give immediate responses, especially as you’re at the end of your day. When you manage their expectations well, you reduce your level of stress. Do not go back to e-mail at all after this last sprint.

5.00pm to 5.30pm – Have a clear ‘shut down routine’ at the end of the working day and avoid working late. A shut down routine allocates all your unfinished tasks into a clear list so that you can find that list easily the next day. It overcomes the Zeigarnik effect (unfinished tasks rumble around in our minds causing us low level anxiety and tension).

6.15pm – Fifteen minutes before you get home (assuming you have a partner or a family), decompress by letting go of the day. Take 5 deep belly breaths and mentally see yourself relaxing and shedding stress like dark smoke being breathed out by your body.

6.30pm – Have dinner and relax. If you have a family or a partner, spend time with them (its good for you), if you live alone, get on the phone, Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangout to a friend. Speak to a living person and keep you social media habits limited and time boxed. There’s evidence that an hour a day or so is actually good for you, it’s not all bad news. There’s also evidence that being too absorbed in our smart-phones is bad for our health too. So moderation is the key.

9.00pm – Turn off all blue screen devices at least one hour before bed time as not only do they affect how easily you fall asleep, they also negatively affect the quality of sleep once you go under.

10.00pm- Read an old fashioned book with print pages. This should form part of a wind down routine to help you fall asleep quicker. (Also – keep a ‘worry journal’ next to your bed. If you wake up in the middle of the night with a worry, jot it down. This will allow you to get back to sleep quick, knowing its handled, rather than ruminate all night and not sleep at all).

10.30pm – Get some sleep, a minimum of 8hrs if possible. We are just learning the enormous benefits of sleep, including; We wash the brain free of the days toxins, it helps us to stay physically well, we maintain a healthy balance in our neurochemistry, you’ll improve your memory and you’ll live longer.

  • Repeat and do it again 🙂

Some Resources for You:

For those interested in the benefits of mindfulness and meditation, Jon Kabat-Zinn is a research authority on the matter.

For those interested in the benefits of Deep Work. read Cal Newports book.

If you want to understand more about the negative effects of e-mail, read John’s book.

Jim and Tony teach the principles behind energy management and strategic breaks.

Even if you’re not a huge fan of exercise John’s book will change everything you know about the brain benefits of physical movement. It is an extraordinary book and an easy read.

Author: Alan Furlong, Sherpa People Systems