The Secret Of Productivity Is… Timing.

Like all good comedy, the secret of getting stuff done is good timing. Basically there are times to do and times to just be, or just do less.

 The wonderful James Victore from Brooklyn says 'mornings are wiser than evenings'.

Tony Schwarz of The Energy Project said: 'In the 1950s, the researchers William Dement and Nathaniel Kleitman discovered that we sleep in cycles of roughly 90 minutes, moving from light to deep sleep and back out again. They named this pattern the Basic-Rest Activity Cycle or BRAC. A decade later, Professor Kleitman discovered that this cycle recapitulates itself during our waking lives.'

The difference is that during the day we move from a state of alertness progressively into physiological fatigue approximately every 90 minutes. Our bodies regularly tell us to take a break, but we often override these signals and instead stoke ourselves up with caffeine, sugar and our own emergency reserves — the stress hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol.

There are 3 simple techniques I use for getting focussed and moving things forwards that matter to me with this understanding in mine.

1, The Pomodoro technique which I wrote about briefly here. You can also read more on the website of Francesco Cirillo, The Pomodoro Technique.

2, The 90 minute burst (3 x 25 min Pomodoros with 5 min breaks). Working in 90-minute intervals turns out to be a prescription for maximizing productivity. Professor K. Anders Ericsson and his colleagues at Florida State University have studied elite performers, including musicians, athletes, actors and chess players. In each of these fields, Dr. Ericsson found that the best performers typically practice in uninterrupted sessions that last no more than 90 minutes. They begin in the morning, take a break between sessions, and rarely work for more than four and a half hours in any given day.

“To maximize gains from long-term practice,” Dr. Ericsson concluded, “individuals must avoid exhaustion and must limit practice to an amount from which they can completely recover on a daily or weekly basis.”

3, Monitoring my wellbeing with Breathe Sync™. This app for iPhone (vested interest - I created it!) can be used to sync your breathing with your heart to get you in the zone and also measures your present state of inner wellbeing (WQ™). When I get high WQ™ readings (based on my autonomic nervous system and pulse rate variation) I know I'm ready for a burst of getting stuff done. When my readings are low I look for 'low-hanging fruit' and other low energy tasks like processing my email, filing, doing simple tasks or taking a break to recharge.

What do you do to get the most out of your day? How aware are you of your own rhythms? And do you listen them?