Whether we love or hate our jobs, the amount of work most of us have to do each day has reached unsustainable levels. We start a typical workday anxious about how we will get it all done, who we might let down and which important tasks we will sacrifice—again—so we can keep our heads above water.
As we grab our first cups of coffee, we check our e-mail in-boxes on our handheld devices, scanning to see who has added a new task to our to-do list. The stress builds as we read e-mail after e-mail, each containing a request that we know can’t be dealt with quickly. We mark these e-mails as unread and save them for . . . “later.”
We mentally add them to the piles of work left undone the night before (when we left our offices much too late). More e-mails to answer, more phone calls to return, more paperwork to fill out. And everything needs our immediate attention.
In fact, too many things need our attention before we can even get to the tasks that really matter—and too many things matter. We frequently work all day long—at the office and then at home, taking care of our families, cleaning up, paying bills—sometimes only stopping to sleep. There simply isn’t enough time, but so much always needs to be done.
Work with your biology, not against it
The key to achieving fantastic levels of effectiveness is to work with our biology. We may all be capable of impressive feats of comprehension, motivation, emotional control, problem solving, creativity and decision-making when our biological systems are functioning optimally. But we can be terrible at those very same things when our biological systems are suboptimal.
The amount of exercise and sleep we get and the food we eat can greatly influence these mental functions in the short term—even within hours. The mental functions we engage in just prior to tackling a task can also have a powerful effect on whether we accomplish that task.
Follow the science
Research findings from the fields of psychology and neuroscience are revealing a great deal about when and how we can set up periods of highly effective mental functioning. In my book, Two Awesome Hours: Science-Based Strategies to Harness Your Best Time and Get Your Most Important Work Done I share in detail five deceptively simple strategies that I have found are the most successful in helping busy people create the conditions for at least two hours of incredible productivity each day:
1. Recognize your decision points
Once you start a task, you run largely on autopilot, which makes it hard to change course. Maximize the power of those moments in between tasks—that’s when you can choose what to take on next, and can therefore decide to tackle what matters most.
2. Manage your mental energy
Tasks that need a lot of self-control or focused attention can be depleting, and tasks that make you highly emotional can throw you off your game. Schedule tasks based on their processing demand and recovery time.
Source: Live Happy