Engaging in Self-Reflection Will Help You Be Your Most Productive
Sometimes the most powerful and productive thing you can do is be yourself.
By Rumeet Billan
I wake up every morning at 3:45 a.m. It’s not because I have a deadline, meetings in different time zones, or an early flight. I do it because, initially, I had to as a result of the pandemic in order to have uninterrupted time and get work done. Over the last two years, I’ve found that my magic hours are between 4:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. It’s unconventional, and I’m reminded of this anytime someone comments on how early I go to bed or how early I wake up.
As a mother to a young child, I’ve learned that uninterrupted time is sacred. But that’s not the only reason why I wake up early. I’ve never had to guilt myself into waking up at a certain time — my decision to do so was always based on personal observation. Those early morning hours are when my thoughts flow; my mind stays focused, and I feel I can get the most challenging work completed. I honour that window of time each and every day — even on weekends — because it’s when I’m ready to pour over research, dive into new subjects, and engage with the material in front of me.
While I can speak about how my magic hours have positively impacted my schedule and ways of working, this piece isn’t about getting you to wake up earlier — it may just be intended to do the opposite.
When we’re looking for a new routine or healthy practices, we often look to what others may be doing for insight. We want to know their secrets, what tools they use to be productive and make the most of their days. But there can be danger in that. In following the footsteps of others, we forget that we have our own.
Many of us often make the mistake of focusing on what we should be doing rather than who we are. The most important productivity hack isn’t getting up with the sun; it’s learning to work with your body’s natural rhythms and your learning style.
The key to maximizing your productivity is personal observation and self-reflection. Take the time to know yourself and understand when you feel the most equipped to handle daily tasks. To maximize my productivity, I schedule my most intense work between 4:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m., and then schedule my client-facing engagements, calls, and meetings after school drop-off and before pick-up. By prioritizing the most taxing task each day, I can maximize creativity and efficiency.
Ask yourself, when do you feel most ready and equipped to tackle challenging work? Is it first thing in the morning? Is it after a workout? Or, is it in the middle of your day? By looking at how you structure your day, your energy levels, and your productivity, you’ll be better able to understand when your mind and body are best equipped to handle your daily tasks. For some people, taking an inventory of where they spend their time and how they feel throughout the day is helpful in understanding how they can optimize their day.
There’s no one-size-fits all approach to productivity. The problem is, we’ve been fed that idea for so long that we get frustrated when “proven” methods don’t work for us. Time blocking, time management techniques like the Pomodoro method, and waking up early are all excellent ways to maximize your productivity — but only if those are the methods that truly work best for you.
The only way you can understand what works for you is through trial, error, and observation. If it takes you 30 minutes to focus, the Pomodoro method may not be the best option, but time blocking could be. In a culture that’s hyper-focused on productivity hacks and efficiency, sometimes the most powerful and productive thing you can do is be yourself.