You're likely familiar with the concept of your "golden hours" -- they're that time of the day when you're at your most focused and motivated. You crank through items on your to-do list with relative ease, rather than feeling like your feet are stuck in wet cement.
Chances are, you think you already have a handle on what time of day that is for you. But, you might want to think again.
Do You Really Know When You're at Your Peak?
Just take me as an example. "I'm not a morning person!" I used to proclaim with as much vigor as possible, "I just can't get going when it's early!"
Naturally, with that assumption in the back of my mind, I figured the time I spent working in the morning was somewhat wasteful -- that there was no way I was getting real, important work done before I had finished my beloved cup of coffee.
But, I decided to put myself to the test and use a few strategies to see if I was indeed a night owl like I predicted. Did my "golden hours" really occur in the afternoon?
The results were somewhat surprising. On one hand, I found that between 7PM and 9PM was a great time for me to get work done -- that made sense. But, I also discovered that I managed to get a ton accomplished between the morning hours of 8AM and 10AM.
Me -- the self-proclaimed morning-hater -- was actually making great use of those first couple of hours I spent working. I was shocked, but also empowered with the knowledge of when I should attempt to tackle my more involved projects. Turns out, the morning could be more suitable than I thought!
Now, you're left with one big question that lingers: How did I figure out that those were my peak times? Here are a few different strategies I used over the course of a week.
1. I Tracked My Time
This first one is the most obvious. I used a time tracker (personally, I use Toggl -- but, there are plenty of options out there for you!) to keep track of what I was getting done when.
It's extra helpful to look for a timer that already integrates with the tools you use (for me, that means a lot of Gmail, Google Docs, and Trello), so that your time can automatically be assigned to various projects.
You can make this process as complex or simple as you like. I chose the simple route. At the end of each day, I'd take a look at my report to see during what hours I managed to log the most working time.
It might not be the most scientific approach, but it was certainly enlightening in terms of when I was getting the most accomplished each day.
2. I Utilized a Browser Blocker
A browser blocker is already a great step for helping you resist the luring siren song of those distracting websites. You can program various sites you should be avoiding -- as well as times when you shouldn't access them -- and your browser will automatically give you a reminder to get back to work.
I use a browser blocker (StayFocusd is the one I go with) fairly frequently. In fact, I usually have it set for the entirety of my workday. But, in order to zone in my golden hours, I decided to take this one step further.
I kept a simple sticky note next to my computer. During every instance when I attempted to visit a blocked site, I'd jot down what time it was on my note.
This helped me look at the opposite side of the spectrum from my time tracking -- I was able to quickly see at what points in the day I felt most distracted and unmotivated.
3. I Checked in With Myself Frequently
This last strategy doesn't involve any fancy timers or apps -- just a little bit of self-reflection.
A few times each day, I'd pause for a minute or two to just jot down the time and how I was feeling at that moment. Did I feel focused and excited? Tired and drained? Distracted? Foggy?
Regardless of the emotion, I'd write it down in my notebook as a time log of sorts so that I could look back later and identify any common themes from day to day.
You know yourself better than you think you do. And, stopping to do these occasional "temperature checks" with yourself can reveal a lot about your best times to really zone in and get work done.
Identifying your "golden hours" will require a little bit of your time -- which might seem sort of counterintuitive. But, these three strategies really are quite easy. And, it's well worth the few minutes here and there to truly figure out when you're at your most productive.
Who knows, you might end up being surprised just like I was!