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Tactics intersecting awareness and productivity pt. 1

Chase Damiano
14 min read
Tactics intersecting awareness and productivity pt. 1

Do you ever fall into the trap of blocking time on your calendar, only to completely ignore what you planned to do because you got pinged on Slack, another email came in, or someone knocked on your office door?

This is a common pitfall many leaders fall into.

You blocked your time to be present with an important task at hand but just as you start to get into flow you feel the friction and challenge in the work. Because, you know, it’s the hard thing on your list for today.

And you get relief when instead you:

  • check your email and fire off a few responses
  • answer an incoming phone call from a team member
  • scroll through social media
  • read newsletters (like this one!)

Contrary to popular belief, multi-tasking makes most people worse in their performance (don’t listen to me, Stanford¹, Cleveland Clinic², & American Psychological Association³ seem to agree).

When you fragment your attention across multiple things at once, it becomes difficult to do what you originally set out to do, especially if it’s your “hard thing.”

If you struggle with this, you’re not alone. To be honest, this is something I still wrestle with to this day. I, and others, ask myself questions like:

  • “How can I keep myself focused, motivated, and productive?”
  • “At the same time, how do I prevent myself from burning out or feeling overwhelmed?”
  • “How can I clarify what I need to be working on (versus all the other things that I could be working on)?
  • “How can I foster deeper relationships and be more present with my family, friends, and colleagues?”

Over the next two weeks I’ll be offering you several strategies that have personally helped me (and the leaders I work with) have their cake and eat it too. Here’s the first of six total strategies I’ll be sharing.

#1 Align to your circadian rhythm.

Every human has a natural circadian rhythm mostly rooted in our genetics. It’s inherited from our parents. It dictates the natural peaks and valleys in your energy as the day unfolds. Yes, you can shift it, but it’s better if you start by accepting it and going from there. Being consciously aware of these peaks and valleys allow you to take advantage of them. This goes for your work and personal life. Closely related to your circadian rhythm is your chronotype which is your propensity to sleep at particular times within a 24-hour period. If you’re unsure of your chronotype check out the Auto MEQ here.

For me, I scored a 50. My morningness-eveningness type is considered to be intermediate. It suggests my natural bedtime is 11:45pm.

#2 Do the hard thing at peak energy.

Once you know your chronotype, do your hard thing when you have the highest level of energy.

What is the hard thing?

It is the task or priority that you want to create time to do, but it’s often easily interruptible because it’s hard for you to focus and get it done. Give yourself a chunk of time to work on the thing that only you can do as the founder or team leader. You’ll be able to create the outcome quicker because you aren’t being interrupted by pings, rings, and knocks on your office door.

For me, I experience peak energy between the hours of 8am – 11am, so that’s the time of day I plan to do my hard thing.

#3 Time block.

The amount of time that it takes to complete a task will fill the container that you give it. This is called Parkinson’s Law and verywellmind^ expands, “If you give yourself a week to finish something that would only take an hour to complete, then that one-hour task will grow in complexity, requiring more time and resources than were originally needed.”

Blocking off your calendar to predict the amount of time a task will take will help you to avoid the excuses to push the thing off and complete it in the allowed amount of time.

Estimating the amount of time you spend on every task can be challenging and will show you where your bias is. Many founders will under-estimate how long a task will take instead of over-estimating. Meaning, they may estimate being done in two hours but in reality it will be fully completed within four hours. I believe this is one of the root causes for a feeling of having an infinite to-do list. Simply due to a perceptual bias in which the founder believes they can get more done than they actually have capacity for leading to a sense of frustration or incompleteness in that gap.

This more about becoming more aware of your bias than it is being correct.

Ready to implement some of these strategies? Then start with a plan. Here’s a tool to help.

The Ideal Workday Planner will help you:

  • plot your sleep schedule so you can align to your circadian rhythm.
  • plan to do the hard thing at peak energy (so you can get more done).
  • forecast and limit the amount of time you spend on recurring activities every week so you can resolve your perceptual bias).

You can download the Ideal Workday Planner template below (plus see examples of how several other leaders have structured their workdays).

P.S. You can read part 2 here where I shared three more proven strategies to help increase your awareness and productivity.

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    ¹Why Multi-tasking Does More Harm Than Good, Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute, Stanford University

    ²Why Multi-Tasking Doesn’t Work, Cleveland Clinic

    ³Multi-Tasking Switching Costs, American Psychological Association

    ^What is Parkinson’s Law?, verywellmind

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