The Quest to Make Afternoons Not Suck

I'm one of those annoying morning people. I generally wake up at 6:30 without hitting the snooze and by 9:00 I've usually knocked out some high level creative work. I can generally work at a pretty productive clip until lunch time -- and then everything changes. 

In the afternoon I feel like a waste of space. 

It's hard to say how much I'm objectively sucking in the afternoon as opposed to comparing it to my somewhat abnormal normal hours. Either way, I want to try to even out my work day so I'm not constantly experiencing the two extremes -- either I'm tearing it up in the morning or I'm a zombie in the afternoon. To that end, I've instituted a few changes to my daily routine and have a few more waiting in reserve. I'm going to try these out over the next couple of months and then I'll report back with what is, and isn't, working.

  1. Increased afternoon structure: One idea I have to make my afternoons better is to give myself more structure than I usually have in the morning. If I HAVE to be somewhere at a certain time then I obviously can't just sit around and feel unproductive. All of my classes this semester start no earlier than 1 PM. I also try to schedule client calls and meetings for the afternoon. When other people are relying on me I'm not going to just blow something off because I don't "feel like it."
  2. Pushing lunch a little bit later: This is a simple way to make the morning, my prime time, a little bit longer. If I'm in the groove with whatever I'm working on in the morning I can try to keep it going a little bit longer by pushing lunch to a little bit later in the day. Unfortunately, on days I have class I can't do that too well because I have class at 1 and I can't go a three-hour grad-level class without having lunch. 
  3. Matching tasks with energy levels: This is a huge part of one of my favorite productivity books, The Power of Full Engagement. Some of the work I have to do requires me to be thinking clearly, creatively, and with a high level of energy. Writing of all kind and intensive research with lots of note taking falls into this category. A little bit less intense is preparing for coaching calls, doing general personal development research, and most brainstorming. Finally, some of the tasks I have to do can be done with just a minimum of focus and mental energy. Filing, updating my task management software, triaging email, and most simple correspondence are all able to be done in this state. Knowing the demands of my various tasks means I can then match them up with my optimal energy. Doing my "zombie tasks" when I'm feeling fresh and awesome is a complete waste of my psychological abilities. Likewise, trying to write a detailed article late in the afternoon when I'm exhausted is also a complete waste of time.
  4. Each day has its own personality: The morning contains my highest value hours. The afternoon the lowest. You could say each part of the day has its own personality. Likewise, I think each day of the work week also has its own personality. For example, my Mondays are usually highly productive because I'm trying to start the week off on the right foot. I also do most of my emailing on Monday and that often means I'm brainstorming and moving forward many different projects. Wednesdays are usually my lowest productive day because I've pushed myself very hard on Monday and Tuesday. Fridays are usually pretty productive, but I'm also usually quite tired. Therefore, I try to save as many small/easy tasks, administrative duties, and errands for Fridays so I can free up more time earlier in the week for the more challenging things I have to do. It's the same concept as the #3 expanded to a daily, instead of hourly, perspective. Early in the week is best for my difficult and creative work and the end of the week is better for clearing my mental deck of various jetsam.
  5. Afternoon workouts: I usually workout in the morning but I'm considering moving my daily workout to the afternoon. My afternoon fatigue is usually more of a mental situation, not physical. Therefore, I think working out shouldn't be too much of a problem. A possible added bonus is that I usually feel more energized after a workout so I may be able to kill two birds with one stone (getting in a workout and making my afternoon mental state better). This is going to be tough because I love my morning workouts where I'm the only person in the weight room. I'm willing to at least try it for a couple weeks to see how it goes, though.

By systematically trying these different solutions I'm hoping I can make my everyday experience a little bit more pleasant. Where could you use this same approach to some problem in your life? 

Photo by Horace