Personal Productivity for Lawyers
This quick-start guide to Getting Things Done and Inbox Zero also includes two shortcuts for those who want the benefits of GTD without having to learn the system.
I arrived at my office at 7:00 this morning, and by 10:00 a.m. I had half my work for the day completed, and I was happier throughout the process. This is not a fluke—people are more productive in the mornings, and if you want to maximize and take advantage of that productivity, you should get to work early as well.
It is understandably more difficult to go to work early if you are a solo and set your own hours. The temptation is always there to sleep in and take it easy. More sleep means you’ll be better rested and more productive, right? Not necessarily.
Humans Are Wired To Work Best In The Morning
Much like the rest of nature, humans’ circadian rhythms are primarily tuned to daylight. That means that we get tired when it gets dark and wake up when it gets light.
Some of our hormones are also keyed to circadian rhythms. Testosterone, which can function in both men and women to stimulate focus, energy, attention, and motivation, is at its highest level in the morning, and steadily decreases throughout the day, making it harder to pay attention in the afternoon and evening. Our brains are meant to be most attentive early in the day.
Our Morning Intake Keeps Us Alert
In addition to our bodies working on their own to make us focused in the morning, we are supposed to have our largest meal of the day in the morning. Even if you don’t have a large breakfast, morning is the only time where our brain chemistry and a burst of calories combine to produce high energy and focus. Many of us tend to juice that with caffeine, which also serves to keep us awake and attentive.
Early to Bed, Early to Rise…
Rest helps us focus and function as well, and for most of us morning is when we are coming off our longest period of rest. Allowing our brains to rest and refresh and dump out all their garbage through those crazy dreams means that we are most ready to take in and process new information in the morning.
Everyone has had the experience of becoming tired and unfocused after lunch; an afternoon cup of coffee is not uncommon. By that point in the day, though, you have spent most of your best energy, your brain is tiring, and your hormones are waning. And as the light recedes it becomes progressively harder to focus because your body wants to sleep.
In my experience afternoons just aren’t as productive, so my solution is to make my mornings longer. That means going to bed earlier, and it may mean eating lunch earlier, but being able to get in 5 or 6 solidly productive hours of work before noon, and being happier and friendlier is worth it.