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Posted by on Dec 22, 2012 in Productivity Improvement | 3 comments

Productivity Improvement – Choose Your Time And Place Correctly.

Productivity Improvement – Choose Your Time And Place Correctly.

How many times did you start a day saying “Today is going to be a productive day, I feel it”? And how many times did you end up the same day saying “Boy, I just don’t know what happened, I haven’t done anything today!”. Rings a bell? Anybody on the Productivity Improvement journey but yet having the same unproductive days over and over again?

To me, this happened a lot. After weeks of unproductive work, I started asking myself how it could be possible to be so motivated and sounproductive at the same time. I thought I was doing it alright : a burst of motivation in the morning with some Encouraging Quotes, a short list of important tasks to complete, no Internet notifications enabled and my Skype disconnected.

Well I was wrong. I basically skipped the two most important factors to productivity: time and space.

Choose your time correctly ….

I am not sure if I am more of an early bird or a night owl. As you will see, I have the characteristics of both.

One of my biggest problems is to stay late in bed – my work schedule is not fixed and I’m allowed to get to work as late as 11am, provided I leave around 8pm. I often used this as an excuse to go to bed late and get up late. It seems that I have the sleeping schedule of a night owl. And common sense would say that I have only the evenings left to do some personal productive work. Wrong. After a hard day of work, I struggle to get motivated to do anything relevant. In terms of focus and productivity, I am definitely a morning person.

If I manage to get up early, I get so much more done in the first hours of the day – and this applies both for my own personal business and for my office. But I have to get up early, and that’s the problem. But that’s another story.

After thinking this through, I came up with the best time for me to be productive: it’s before going to work. I even found out that if I make up my mind about being productive in the mornings, I actually have more reasons to get up early and this gets easier. And you know what? It’s awesome to start the day this way : you get pumped up for the whole day because you basically completed something even before getting to work. That’s some good food for the motivation and the state of mind.

What if you are a night owl, you may ask. Well it also offers some advantages. You get to do some good work before going to bed. It’s a nice way to finish the day, and if that was a stressing day, well you will definitely finish on something positive and you will sleep on encouraging  thoughts, thus you will sleep more relaxed and better. But just be careful : if your productive work implies the use of a computer, pay attention to have some no-computer time before going to bed.

What is your best time of the day to be productive? In the mornings just after breakfast? In the evening when everybody is sleeping in the house but you? Just after lunch when your coworkers are having their coffee? During the weekends cause you can focus all day long? If you want to find out, you can also follow these steps I’ve myself followed to discover your best productive moment in the day:

  1. Accept that you cannot be productive all day. But 2 hours of productivity can largely make up for 8 hours of not-so-productive work. This thought in itself will make you feel better. It helped me to focus on short boost of productivity and feel good about them rather than feeling guilty for not being productive 8 hours a day.
  2. Try to remember when was the last time you were very productive. Remember the feeling. If it was such a productive moment, you should remember it because it must have left you with a feeling of accomplishment. Every time I would write an article in the morning before going to work, I would have the guarantee of a great and happy day.
  3. Think about that time slot. Could it be generalized? Could you pretend to focus on your tasks at that very same time every day? Is it something possible? If not, think about how you could make this possible. My work schedule is not fixed, so the best for me is to go first thing in the morning to the library. If I have a tight work schedule, I can stay late and won’t harm my productivity routine – the other way around (planning to go in the evening) makes it more dependent on any work issues that might force me to stay late at work.
  4. Act now and schedule two hours of this quality time for yourself today – at the correct time, of course.
  5. Enjoy the results and reward yourself nicely.

Home made calendar for printing

… and choose your place correctly.

So, after this reflective work on myself, I decided I would get up earlier in the morning to enjoy some productive work on this blog before going to work. I thought that would be easy. I had something to look forward every morning, so waking up would get easier. And it was, really. I started getting up earlier. But I was still not being very productive.

You see, I live in a small piso in Madrid. I have the living room, the dining table and the kitchen in the same place, and when I need to get some computer work done, I usually use my dining table … which I also use when I just want to check Facebook and some news website. My mind is kind of triggered by sitting at the dining table : when I intend to be productive during the evenings, the main reason I don’t get any productive is because I open Facebook, laugh a bit, read some news and eventually lose completely my focus – and my motivation, if any.

So, the best way to avoid this situation is to … avoid it. And choose a place where I can be productive. For that matter, any different place could do the trick for me, as long as it doesn’t trigger any of my old “bad habits” of checking Facebook and emails all the time. I decided I’m going to go to the library and work from there, three or four mornings in the week. It’s a quiet environment. It’s new, so I don’t have any old patterns going on there. And it’s definitely different from what I’ve tried until now. To me, it’s a challenge, because I could as well stay late in bed and enjoy a long night sleep. But that’s another story, soon to be told.

In your case, you should choose the place according to your needs – and the best time of the day to be productive. It can be a meeting room at your workplace, a nice cozy coffee place where you can sit in a corner; or a deckchair by the beach, surrounded by the sound of the waves. Think simplicity, silence and comfort. This will skyrocket your productivity, believe me.

Any idea what is your best productive place? If not, you can follow these steps to find out yours – or make up a new one.

  1. List all the things that make you unfocused. Is it Internet, is it people interrupting you, is it the surrounding noise? I didn’t need any deep self-analysis to find out that the main reason for my unproductivity was Internet.
  2. Find a place where all this distracting factors can be removed. You can use the examples above. In my case, it turns out that my girlfriend suggested I could go to the library.
  3. Act now and schedule two hours of your time at this place for today. She gave me the advice on a Saturday, and by the next Monday I was requesting my access to the library.
  4. Enjoy the results, and give yourself a treat. I have been much more productive since going to the library (that post has been completely written at the library) and my productivity boost is my reward.

Ok guys, that was quiet a long post, but I really wanted to make sure you got my point. Except if you are a super productivity hero (in that case, don’t bother reading this blog), you need as much as I do some kind of frame to leverage your productivity.

I hope my illustrated list of steps will help you – and in any case, I would love to hear your thoughts about it and any feedback that you could send me.


Photo courtesy of Thomas Hawk and VicPrinter

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  1. I’m usually productive after I take my coffee for some reason… Caffeine rush maybe? lol

    But being productive definitely requires dedication and also habit. I try to make it so that I get the hard stuff out of the way first. More than likely, if you put it off later, you’ll never get to it because you’ll procrastinate.

    Keep up the good work, looking forward to more posts.

    • Hi Dennis! Thanks for the comment! It is true that if you put it off later, you’ll probably procrastinate. That’s what usually happens to me, that’s why I try to do the most important stuff first thing in the morning. But that’s just my case, and maybe for someone else it will be much easier to get real stuff done during late hours (imagine a self-employed dad who tries to get some work done when his kids are finally sleeping).
      You can subscribe to my newsletter to read more stuff from me! :-)
      Take care.

  2. Beautiful website and great blog post! I’ve been reading your website for about an hour now and learned SO much. TY :)


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