Overloaded schedules, competing priorities, and a never-ending list of tasks and deadlines: If you asked most professionals today, they’d likely admit they face these struggles on a near-daily basis. This often leads to working longer hours with little to no significant change in outcomes. Before you google the best time management app, consider this: What if, instead of performing mediocrely for eight to 10 hours a day, you could accomplish more of what matters and achieve better business results by learning how to focus your energy on the right projects at the right time? This is called staying in your Power Zone, and anyone can learn how to do it.
When it comes to work performance, it’s not about how much you work but simply how you work. Consider the process of an athlete, for example. Athletes don’t perform at their all-out capacity 100% of the time. Instead, they strategically move through a cycle of warm-ups, followed by intense effort, followed by rest and recovery. This method allows them to perform at their best when it counts and avoid burnout when it doesn’t.
You can use these same principles to help you find and operate within your Power Zone.
Not all tasks are created equal. Take a few minutes at the start of each day and week to prioritize your to-dos and set your performance goals. Rank them by category to help you organize, using the Eisenhower decision matrix to choose which ones are the highest priority.
Prioritizing tasks requires understanding your goals. What are you ultimately working to achieve each day? When you know your desired outcome, it’ll help guide faster decision making and keep you focused on the right tasks.
During which hours are you most productive? That’s when you want to give your all-out effort and work on the most important tasks that require creativity, decision-making, and problem-solving. To discover your optimal working time, ask yourself: When do I have the most focus and energy, and the least amount of distractions? Tracking how you spend your time for a few days can help you arrive at a clearer answer. (Hint: It might not be during the traditional 9-5 timeframe.) Once you know your peak window for getting stuff done, block out segments of time to zero in and get focused. No checking email. No scrolling through Facebook. No phone calls. This is where you operate within your Power Zone.
Did you know? Our brains cycle through 90-minute periods of productivity, known as our ultradian rhythm. By the end of each period, the brain needs a break to recharge.
If you’re not sure how to segment your time, try the Pomodoro Technique®, in which you work in 25-minute blocks, with 5-minute breaks in between. Once you’ve completed four rounds, take a longer break (20-30 minutes).
Once you’ve expended most of your energy on high-priority stuff, give yourself some time to recover. Take a break, then tackle those projects that don’t require a lot of thought. This might be where you actually accomplish the bulk of your tasks, but you can do so without feeling guilty about putting off the more challenging or mentally-draining ones … because they’ll already be done!
Strategically focusing your energy and time on the right tasks is critical to helping you realize the best results. When you operate within your Power Zone, you'll achieve more of what matters, avoid fatigue, and feel a sense of accomplishment that will motivate you to keep moving forward.