The art of effortless work: 3 astonishingly simple ways to find peak productivity
By Eleanor Hope-Jones
Jun 01, 2023
Have you ever found yourself staring blankly at your computer screen, struggling to find the energy to get anywhere near a vague sense of productivity, let alone peak productivity?
If so, you're not alone. Many people struggle with maintaining focus and productivity throughout the day, leading to frustration and burnout, particularly if you’re a remote worker.
But what if there were some simple steps you could take to achieve peak productivity without sacrificing quality work or burning out? Let’s take a closer look at the science behind peak productivity and share three steps to help you achieve your goals.
How do you achieve peak productivity?
Peak productivity is a state in which you are able to complete your work efficiently and effectively, without sacrificing quality or burning out. Achieving consistent peak productivity relies on:
Creating a balanced routine
Committing to time-blocking rituals
Taking care of yourself
A state of peak productivity should leave you feeling accomplished and satisfied, not overworked and exhausted. To help you along this path we’ve broken down our approach to peak productivity into three simple steps.
1 - What time are you most productive? Build your routine around it.
Over a few days observe yourself and when the peaks and troughs in your energy are. Do you often get a late-night burst of inspiration? Is the post-lunch slump a complete dead zone for you? By mapping out your own peak time at work, and overall energy ups and downs at work you’ll be laying the foundations of peak productivity.
What does peak time at work mean?
Peak time at work refers to the time of day when you are most productive and focused. By understanding your personal peak productivity hours and prioritizing your most important tasks during that time, you can make the most of your energy levels and achieve your goals more efficiently.
At what hour does productivity peak for most people?
Research has shown that most people experience a cognitive performance peak between 10am and noon when our energy levels are typically highest, and our minds are most alert. But a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology found that chronotype and lifestyle factors affect individual peak productivity hours.
A chronotype refers to an individual's biological preference for sleep and wake patterns. It is determined by factors such as genetics and circadian rhythms and can be categorized into types such as morning types (also known as "larks"), evening types (also known as "owls"), and intermediate types. Understanding your chronotype can help you optimize your sleep and wake patterns to align with your natural rhythm and enhance your productivity and well-being.
2 - Prioritize and assign specific times to specific kinds of tasks
Now you know when you have your most energy, and when you have your least, consider how you can use this knowledge to your advantage. Responding to non-urgent unimportant emails - definitely an after-lunch thing. A presentation you’ll be giving to your boss and their peers that may significantly impact the business rest of the year? Let's tackle that first thing when you’re at peak productivity in a deep work focus session.
Use a prioritization framework
Break down your tasks into different categories and consider how much energy you need to complete them. You can then link certain types of tasks to specific blocks of time in your routine. Here’s our breakdown of the Moscow and Eisenhower prioritization frameworks for some inspiration.
What is the 1 3 5 Rule?
The 1 3 5 rule is a simple yet effective framework for managing tasks. As the name suggests, this rule encourages you to focus on one big task, three medium tasks, and five small tasks each day. By prioritizing important tasks and breaking them down into manageable chunks, you can avoid feeling overwhelmed and stay focused on what really matters.
To apply the 1 3 5 rule to your own work, start by identifying your most important tasks for the day. These may include tasks that are urgent, high-priority, or require a lot of time and energy. Next, identify three medium tasks that can be completed more quickly or require less energy.
Finally, identify five small tasks that can be completed easily and quickly, such as responding to emails or scheduling meetings. By breaking down your tasks into manageable chunks, you can avoid feeling overwhelmed and ensure that you are making progress towards your goals each day.
3 - Fuel your focus and energy
Don't let your energy levels fall flat! Make sure you’re following the secret sauce to firing up your focus:
Regular, high-quality, breaks are essential for maintaining focus and productivity throughout the day. Short breaks have been shown to improve concentration, reduce stress and fatigue, and increase overall job satisfaction. One study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that taking short breaks during the workday can help reduce exhaustion and increase job satisfaction. Another showed brief mental breaks improve creativity and problem-solving skills.
But not all breaks are created equal. 20 minutes scrolling through Instagram is not going to energize you I’m afraid. Why not try breathwork techniques on your next break, such as deep belly breathing or alternate nostril breathing, can help to oxygenate the brain and increase blood flow, to improve your focus and energy levels.
Studies have found that loading up on whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, and veggies can work wonders for cognitive performance and overall well-being. In one study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology, researchers discovered that people who ate more fruits and veggies experienced greater levels of happiness and well-being over time.
And when it comes to exercise, it's not just about sweating off the stress - it can actually increase the volume of gray matter in your brain, leading to sharper cognitive function and better memory retention. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Physiology found that regular exercise was linked to improved cognitive performance in people of all ages.
Try an awe walk today
Awe Walks where you intentionally seek out and appreciate the beauty of nature around you, are also a great way to add movement into your daily routine and recharge your mind.
Experience the restorative power of nature with Flown Awe Walks
Connect with nature, reduce stress, and feel more grounded.
No context switching
You haven’t spent all that time defining your specific peak productive period only to spend it replying to emails, have you? Context switching is the act of constantly shifting between different tasks or projects. A study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance found that task-switching can result in a time cost of up to 40% per switch, leading to decreased productivity and increased stress. The study also showed that individuals who frequently switch between tasks have a harder time blocking out distractions and maintaining focus.
In other words, when we switch between tasks, our brains must expend additional energy to refocus and get back into a productive state, which can ultimately drain our energy levels and decrease our ability to focus. To avoid the negative effects of context switching, it's important to prioritize and plan out your most important tasks, minimize distractions, and take breaks throughout the day to recharge and refocus.
Peak productivity requires a combination of focus, energy, and effective planning
By understanding your personal peak productivity hours, prioritizing your most important tasks, and consistently fueling your focus you can make the most of your energy levels and achieve your goals more efficiently. Remember to minimize distractions, and use productivity tools such as the 1 3 5 rule to help you stay on track, and you’ll be firing on all cylinders in no time.