I admit it. I'm a morning person (always have been) and I've totally jumped onto the "do these things every morning to boost productivity" bandwagon. From exercise and meditation to goal lists and intentional reading, I've hacked the heck out of the A.M.
Mornings work for me.
But by mid-afternoon, and certainly into the evenings, my productivity for work-related tasks starts to lag. No kidding, right? With such an early start to the day, there are only so many hours of focused work that any reasonable mind and body can tolerate.
Which is why I've been rethinking the evening hours, less as a way to add 4-6 hours of additional work time to the day and more to queue up the following day for success.
Here are four things to keep in mind as you shift gears to "win" evenings too.
1. Daypart your productivity.
There's some truth to the adages about "morning people" and "night owls." For a list of reasons, including when we eat and exercise and how much restful sleep we've had the night before, our brains function better at different times of the day.
That window of high productivity varies by person, because that list of reasons also varies by person. There's no right answer for everyone, except to consider carefully your schedule and the variables that impact it. The end goal here is to do the most challenging tasks during your personal window of high productivity.
2. Hack momentum.
An ultra-productive professor of mine in graduate school once mentioned, off-handedly, his hack for accomplishing so much on any given day: he stops doing the last task of his working day mid-stream. By pausing midway through, he knew exactly where he needed to pick up when he returned to his desk the following day. In other words, he controlled momentum and his own ability to maximize it for optimal productivity.
Consider this for your own experience at the end of today. Could you make a start on that document that's due next week? Could you set all the implements in place for tomorrow's experiment? Could you create the anchor and master slides for your next presentation, so that it's easier to "fill in" when you return to the project tomorrow?
You get the idea. Tailor the pause midway through a task, and you'll be able to pick up the momentum more easily and productively.
3. Fine tune down time.
I travel a lot for work, but every day I'm home I prioritize a simple, enjoyable task at the same time every day. When my kids, teenage boys, come home from school they know to expect fresh chocolate chip cookies on the kitchen table. It's a trick I learned from my own mom, who also loves to bake, and neither of us are ashamed to acknowledge the inherent bribery involved here.
We want our kids to look forward to coming home, and we want them to sit still long enough for us to get an actual read on how they are and what might be bothering them. If those are the benefits we get from pulling a simple tray of cookies out of the oven at just the right time, then I say bring on the butter and chocolate.
You can extrapolate this idea for your own situation, kids and cookies or not. The truth is that we do not have many hours in the day (or the week, or the month) to spend with family and friends that matter to us. So make those hours count. Turn off devices. Sit across from each other. Talk. It's rejuvenating and very (very) good for calming your nervous system.
4. Envision the next day
There was a series of books I loved as a kid by John D. Fitzgerald, about a family of boys in frontier Utah. The middle boy, Tom, had a "secret" he believed would help him solve any problem: go to bed at night focusing every brain cell you had on that problem, and when you woke up, the solution would be there waiting for you.
It doesn't work all the time, of course, but I think Tom was onto something. Having a vision in our minds about what we want to happen the next day - even if it's a list of three things in an idea book at the side of our bed -- gives our subconscious the whole night to mull it over. We may not wake up with "the answer," but I can attest to waking up intentionally and with energy to point in the right direction.