Hacking Productivity

This is not a paid infomercial.

Lockdown was a challenging time for all of us — but it offered us a chance to make changes that wouldn’t otherwise be available to us. Like a daily productivity schedule, aligned to our circadian rhythm.

I’ve been a Sleep Nerd for years, and have written many posts on the topic. One thing that’s always been lacking with sleep apps is advice on *what to do* to sleep better. One app I found last spring changes that, Rise. Not only does it tell you what to do, it tells you when to do it.

This means it’s an *energy* app more than a sleep app. The sleeping part is a means to an end. Having an optimized waking life is what makes Rise so powerful.

My sleep cycles starting getting weird during lockdown (like many people) and after I found Rise, I decided to follow their algorithms to the letter to improve my sleep habits. In return, I got better sleep PLUS an “energy schedule”.

This energy schedule is a detailed journey of your day — energy peaks, when to stop coffee, when to rest, etc. This is what mine looks like, and how that translates into a work schedule:

6 am-10 am, Morning Peak, when my brain works best. These 3–4 hours are my deep work window: problem-solving, spreadsheet analysis, writing investment papers, drafting important emails (or blog posts) — all done during this window. Sadly for much of my working life, I was busy doing non-work related activities like hitting the gym early or doing school runs during most of this window 😦 Now, I know I need to focus on what I truly need to do each day during this window. Thanks, lockdown!

10 am-1 pm the Downhill Journey. This is when I schedule my calls (it’s a hospitable hour to interact with others). Thanks to lockdown it’s all virtual so I transition from “me” time to “people” time seamlessly. No commute eating into my productivity. I could call it a day here and would have done more than any other working day of my life probably, but I can still pick up a few bonus points in the afternoon.

By 1 pm my brain is at its worst — my midday dip. Lunch, walk the dog, hit the gym, etc. This is great for your circadian rhythm anyway (especially living in the UK — you need light exposure during the day). My brain doesn’t work, and neither do I.

2pm-4pm. This is when I’ll look at email (aka Other People’s To Do List), catch up on newsletters, industry news, etc. I’m consuming, not producing.

4 pm- 6 pm, the Afternoon Peak. I’ll tie up any loose ends, sync with my team, or have calls with the US, etc. Engaged stuff, but again not maximum output. More “people” time.

Then sign off for the day, do my evening wind down (as prescribed by the app!), and hop into bed at 8:30 pm. Yes, I’m in bed at 8:30 pm, 9 pm at the latest. (Before you snicker at me, *The Rock* goes to bed at 8 pm. You’ve seen the Rock, right?).

Intuitively, I’ve known most of this for years (I’m famous for pumping out emails at 6:30 am. People notice time stamps.). But that wasn’t the best use of my time. And the whole “Get to work by 9 am” schedule meant I was missing the best hours of my day. (Just after I wrote this, I noted that Salesforce just announced that the 9-to-5 workday is dead.)

Thanks to a combination of lockdown + Rise, I’ve found a schedule that’s 1) optimized for maximum productivity and output and 2) makes me feel great. I’m also lucky in that other members of my team have a DIFFERENT schedule, which means we ping pong things back and forth between us. Efficiency squared.

As I said at the start, this isn’t a paid infomercial, and, no, I’m not an investor in Rise (Twitter will ask), it’s simply an app that I’ve found to be hugely helpful in my quest for better sleep and wanted to share my findings. Unlocking an optimal work /energy schedule was an unexpected side effect that’s actually what we’re all after anyway: the best version of ourselves. Happy, healthy, and full of energy.

Shout out to Team Rise (and maybe to lockdown?). Go grab the app, and see if it works for you!

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