Damned if this stuff doesn’t work…
I’ve been studying the relationship between natural attention and cognition cycles, creativity and productivity for years. I know the data. But, being the cobbler’s kid, never really took the time to pay serious attention to my own organic attention and cognition cycles and then shift my working efforts to leverage these rhythms.
Big, honking mistake.
Coming home from a week in Boulder over the summer that led to a lot of rethinking, I decided to spend a few months completely retooling my own life-optimization, work and creation processes through a serious of experiments.
One of the first ones was paying attention to what times of day I’m most organically creative and productive. Identifying when kick-ass stuff literally cascades out of me. And also when I can’t drum up a half decent thought to save my life.
Within a few days, I’d verified what I already intuitively knew. Mornings are peak creation times for me (and for many people). Three to 5ish, not so much. And, I have an evening creation cycle that could potentially be insanely productive (except that it totally conflicts with my desire to be present with the family).
I picked up on this when I was working on my last book. And I structured my days to leverage these windows to create huge amounts of content in a very short period of time.
But once the book was in, I drifted away from that schedule.
I’d still roll out of bed, meditate, hang out with the wife and kiddo for a bit, then move my body first thing in the morning. But then, without being deliberate about it, I’d spend the next 3-4 hours on email, social media, phone calls and other yadda yadda. Awful, terrible, no good decision-by-default.
Using peak creation cycles for email stifles innovation, performance and progress.
I was inadvertently doing maintenance and production work during the window where I should’ve been in hardcore creation mode. By the time I’d roll into late morning/early afternoon, my organic hyper-creation window was cycling down and I nothing left to do the work that makes me come alive and that people most value. Malaise would set it. I found it harder and harder to come up with ideas, new posts and solutions when structured my day this way.
So, I responded by making a simple shift. I still do check my email after I get done meditating or exercising (shhhh, don’t tell). But, it’s a quick scan and, unless there’s a true emergency, I step away from email, twitter, facebook and pretty much anything else that beeps, vibrates or taunts me to respond. And I sit down to create. Blog posts, copy, art, multimedia content, the mode doesn’t matter as long as it’s all about ideation and output.
Not only did my creative output return, but my idea list exploded along with my output (which raises the whole other challenge of entrepreneurial ADD).
So, here’s your takeaway…
Pay attention to your organic Peak Creation Windows!
We all have them, along with other windows where tweets, conversations and emails are about the only thing we’re capable of doing. If you don’t already intuitively know when your peak creation windows are, run an experiment.
For a few days at a time, try moving your creative efforts into different windows throughout the day and see how you respond. Spend a few days with your revised schedule so you can really gather good data and also rule out aberrant events that might fool you into confusing peak creation and admin/productivity windows. Then shift your task windows to leverage your peak creation windows. Take note of how easily ideas and solutions flow at each time.
If you work for yourself, this is easy to do. But, interestingly, it’s also pretty easy when you work for someone else. Nobody forces you to read your email and blast through admin stuff first thing in the morning. For most people, it just becomes their default mode. It’s just as easy to spend time in ideation and creation mode. For the most part, the world will wait, especially after you “mysteriously” start churning out extraordinary work with less effort in less time.
But…yes, there’s always a but…what if you have kids?
Here’s where it gets interesting. As I mentioned above, I noticed that I also have a second Peak Creation Window late in the evening. When I was in law school, I’d often study from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m.. My brain drops back into that hyper-focused, other-worldly creation state again during that window. And I also tend to have a window from about 7pm to 9pm. But, with rare exception (launch mode), I don’t leverage these windows because if I did, I’d be taking time away from family and be a mess in the morning.
Because my greatest creation is the connection I cultivate with the people I adore.
What about you? When are your Peak Creation Windows?
Share them in the comments below…
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