When I need to get things done, I come back to a helpful motto I recently came up with as an anchor: you have to know your peaks to reach your peak.
What kind of "peaks" are we talking about here? Mount Rainier? Everest? No. I think of peaks as those moments of productivity during our daily cycles of work.
But like any intrepid mountain climber, you have to know where your peaks are ("Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania, right?"), know which peak you're going to climb ("I think I'll climb that trail today"), and then prepare for the ascent ("Has anyone seen my crampons anywhere?").
Before you start your journey toward your goal, you need to lay the groundwork. Follow these three easy steps to help you trek through the day to reach your greatest peaks. These three tips are all you'll need to reach that final overlook point at the end of your journey, aka the successful attainment of your goal.
1. Make a mindful, determined effort to identify your peak times.
Most of us know the times of day when we are most productive. Some of us are vaguely aware that in the morning we would rather stare mindlessly at our breakfast on the table than do anything remotely productive. But maybe around 10 am, something kicks in, because now you're firing on all six cylinders. Others may find the morning sunlight inspirational, a call to leap out of bed and get going!
So am I simply saying you should identify your peak periods so you can be productive during those periods?
Well, not exactly. The operative phrase here is "make a determined effort" to locate your peak times. Having a vague notion of when you're productive isn't good enough. Get out your notebook and jot down those periods, or if you're a bit more tech-y, enter them into your smartphone.
So when you wake up tomorrow morning (why wait?), be mindful about how you're feeling in the context of productivity. Turn on your "peak alert" system, and keep it humming throughout the day, the evening, and right up until the time you plop back into bed.
2. Identify the things you're going to focus on during your peak times.
What good does it do to identify your peak productivity times if you don't know what you're gong to focus on? If you're like me and you have a lot of projects going on at the same time, this is especially important. So which project are you going to tackle (or embrace) as you scale your productivity peaks?
I identified the early morning hours as being one of my more productive periods. After doing so, I leapt out of bed the next morning and excitedly raced to my computer. I sat there, sipping my coffee, and determined my concrete goals for the morning hours. Because I gave myself the opportunity to celebrate the morning as a time when I feel strong, focused and motivated, I felt even more on track as I began my work that day. Productivity increases with self-trust. Who knew? Well, now you do!
3. Get yourself ready for those peak times.
Now that you've identified your peak times, and have figured out which projects you're focusing on, it's time to prepare for those productive, "I feel inspired to work" moments. You're a mountain climber, remember, all set to ascend your daily peaks.
But what good does it do if you're standing in base camp, staring up at the day's formidable summits, having forgotten your crampons and climbing rope? That's not going to get you to where you want to go. The night before is when you should lay out your crampons and climbing rope.
When I decided to work on the introduction to my forthcoming book Your Motto, Your Story, the crampons and climbing rope that I laid out the night before included an email draft to my potential agent with a brief description of my project, and a book with a great introduction for me to use as an example.
So there you have it. You probably didn't know this, but you are now one of the best mountain climbers around. At base camp, you know how to identify those peaks that extend into the horizon. You are fully capable of knowing the times during the day when you're best suited to ascend them. When you reach the second camp, you're free to choose one among the many trails available to traverse, just don't flit among them. At the third camp, you may now realize that you've reached the hardest, yet most exhilarating, part of your day's journey. With these things in mind, lay everything you need out the night before your journey and get a good night's rest.