Perfect Timing – How to make it happen every day!

My car was broken into, and the thieves stole…my carte grise!?  (government registration for the vehicle).  I’ve got no idea what they plan to do with it, but I was stuck with the hassle of replacing it.  Paperwork is never easy in Morocco, and I knew this was going to be a complicated and time-consuming process.  After multiple trips to the police station, muqata and a couple other offices downtown Casablanca, I succeeded.  😊  But that’s not the point of this story.

I had to take the tramway downtown to pick up the carte grise and then walk to the office – a big waste of my time on a Monday morning.  But I like to look on the bright side and redeem (‘buy back’) my time by listening to podcasts during my commute.  This morning I listened to a fascinating podcast by author Daniel Pink discussing the importance of timing, in relation to our effectiveness day-to-day.

Here’s a couple things I learned:

Schedule Flow
Most people are at their peak during the first half of the day, and then they hit a trough, followed by a recovery phase.  This research-backed information is super useful when structuring your day, and choosing what work to do WHEN.  Here’s a summary:

Mornings = PEAK:  Analytical work – difficult tasks that require concentration and mental sharpness
Lunchtime-ish = TROUGH:  Mundane tasks & admin (basic emails, meetings…)
Late afternoon/evening = RECOVERY:  Creative work, brainstorming.

It’s tempting to sit down at your desk and hammer out some quick wins, almost like a warm-up.  It does feel great to tick some items off the To-Do list, and it makes us feel like we’re being productive and making progress.  Unfortunately, we’re often procrastinating and avoiding the most difficult (and important) tasks, and pushing them off to a time of day that is NOT ideal.

Based on the science of timing, we should start with tasks that demand our full attention and are mentally challenging (writing, problem solving, decision-making, analyzing, learning etc.)  Don’t check your email first!!  Save it for a slow part of the day, or use it as a reward when you’ve made some good progress on a task that required solid concentration.

Break-Times
Another great lesson from the podcast with Daniel Pink was related to taking breaks.  Here’s what the research shows:

Outside > Inside – get some fresh air
Active > Stationary – move your body to refresh your mind
Social > Solo – even for introverts – talk with someone!  It’s better than sitting by yourself.
Disconnect – don’t talk about work/school, and leave your phone.

So if you’ve got a gap between classes or meetings, are preparing for an exam or a presentation…grab a friend and chat while you walk around the block – it’ll increase your performance when you get back.

I highly recommend the EntreLeadership podcast, and books by Daniel Pink.  I’m grateful for all the tips I learned during my commute this morning, but I’m still keeping my car doors locked to protect my carte grise.  😉

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