In the last few years, I've tried all kinds of productivity tricks to work smarter. I've tried the "pomodoro" technique to work in 25-minute increments with breaks in between, blocking addictive social media sites through a desktop app and disabling my internet altogether. I thought that if I could keep distractions at bay and just stay focused and on track, I could be productive for as many hours in a row as I wanted to keep working.
But the distractions weren't the problem. My mindset was.
Emails and text messages popping up on my phone left my mind wandering - even when I would try to refocus on a work task. And despite a detailed to-do list, I felt like I could only finish part of my list each day before calling it quits because I was tired.
That jibes with the latest research on productivity. Working smarter is not really about being focused on details to assure productivity, but rather being focused on the energy we harness while we're working and relaxing.
Energy levels can be difficult to measure, but tracking how you feel at a given hour during a workday can help you set your own schedule for doing your best work, according to Flip Brown, author of Balanced Effectiveness at Work: How to Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor Without Driving Yourself Nuts.
Most workers aren't truthful with themselves about how much they can take on each day, he said. "People have some delusions around time management and that creates problems in our energy management," explained Brown, who saves his most difficult tasks during his "high energy zones" between 8:00 to noon and 19:00 to 20:00.
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