When I was young, my golden hours were from 1 o'clock until dawn. It was something about the silence of the night, the gap between bedtime and rise, that turned me alive. I'd have all kinds of ideas. My writing would flow. An optimistic glaze would cover my world. It wasn't until I couldn't stay up all night (hello, family) that I realized how much my creativity was fueled by certain rituals - and, in this case, certain schedules. 

I recently heard the term "golden hours" from People Matters founder Jodi Wehling. I take it as more than just your most productive time of the day. No, it's when you are at your peak in creativity, vision and inspiration - even without a cup of coffee. Here Wehling describes them:

Pay attention over the next week and identify when your best work hours are. 

Then guard them with your life.  Block the time and mark it as "busy".  Resist the temptation to book this time for a meeting. 

This is your time.  It is worth twice as much as other times in terms of what you can get accomplished.

As a leader, it is terribly easy to let outside forces dictate your schedule. If you get more successful, then defending your own needs becomes harder, not easier.

There are three great, actionable ways to make your golden hours work:

Say no: Nope. Uhn-uh. Can't right now. I recently talked about three smart, strategic ways to say no and save your relationships. Denying people access to you 24/7 is the only way you can preserve your productivity.

Create a blank day: Block off an entire day and make no meetings, phone calls or messaging available. Not only will it give you the space to think, which we rarely create, but it also will give a glimpse into when your golden hours actually are. Undisturbed, I'm productive mid morning, mid afternoon and late evenings, which is much different than when I started my career or even during my early morning rituals a couple years ago. Having a blank day will show you your natural productivity patterns *at this moment*.

Build in palate cleansers: A popular culinary strategy, palate cleansers are little tastes that provide a break between larger courses. I talked about them at length recently, but the gist is to strategically place your palate cleansers between your golden hours. For instance, if I have meetings or interviews, I place them before or after my most productive moments. It is a great way to preserve your outside work needs and protect your golden hours.

When are your golden hours during the day?