How to Have a Productive Afternoon

I’m aproductivity_cmp morning person. I get 50-100% more done in a morning hour than in an afternoon hour. My thinking is clearer and I am more creative. My second best chunk of time is often from 6-9 pm in the evening. But afternoons can be a challenge, and from what I have seen this is true for many people.

One year ago, that would have been true for me. I have since narrowed the gap dramatically, to the point where my afternoons, while still not as productive as my mornings, are now better than that evening slot. And some days, the morning and the afternoon seem pretty close.

Here’s what’s changed:

  1. Getting to bed earlier. Even on the nights before a day off. In this past year Kristin and I have moderated our getting to bed time to the point where it varies by less than an hour from our latest to earliest bedtimes. As a result there are fewer nights lying in bed awake trying to fall asleep, fewer days off that require a sleep-in due to a late night, fewer groggy mornings that slide into drowsy afternoons.
  2. Getting outside. If I am looking at a full day in the office- whether my home office or at whatever location I happen to be consulting in at the time- I will often walk somewhere for breakfast before the work day starts. This is not a workout but simply a leg stretch, some fresh air, and some thinking time. I often do the same thing in mid to late afternoon, taking my laptop with me and doing some work in a different location. For some reason that little shift makes the old brain work better!
  3. Planning my day the night before. This isn’t quite a habit for me yet, but all my years of reading and listening to Brian Tracy are starting to take hold. He is a big proponent of this practice. I tend to do this the night before my home office days, when there are no appointments and no external urgencies. If I don’t plan my focus and tasks for the day ahead of time, my planning time can take up a big chink of the morning when I should be in production mode.
  4. Eating a good breakfast. By “good” I mean something that actually fills me up and includes a mix of carbs and protein. If I am hitting Tim Horton’s on the way to the office, a Bagel BELT does the job; If I am at home, a bowl of granola with milk and a hard boiled egg is a good choice. I want something that will keep me going until lunch. This allows me to keep on task with very little break time all morning. It also sets up the next step:
  5. Eating a light lunch. This may be the most important practice for having a productive afternoon. I quit eating French fries when I turned 50, and that has helped- more salads and soup on the side if I am at a lunch meeting. It also means, sadly, less KD for lunch (that’s Kraft Dinner, what you call “mac and cheese” for my American friends.) On my home office days my standard has become bulletproof coffee. And this deserves its own point….
  6. Bulletproof Coffee. Now, there is a brand of coffee called Bulletproof Coffee, but I am not so much talking about it as the blend referred to as bulletproof: A good cup off coffee, blended with a tablespoon of butter (ideally from grass fed cows) and a tablespoon of coconut oil. If you haven’t heard about it, spend some time researching it online. One cup of coffee made this way carries me from noon until about 4:00 pm with high energy and, just as importantly, good mental focus.

In the past I would reserve all my major project work to mornings, use afternoons for less intense tasks and meetings, and then maybe do a bit more project work in the evening. Now, with this adjustments, I find that I can get in 3-4 hours of solid project work in the afternoon as well. It’s had a huge impact on my overall productivity.

Let me know what you do to get the most out of your afternoons.

If you want to explore productivity on a larger life-planning level, grab a pdf overview of my book Release.

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