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When the Creativity Clock Strikes 12

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As students, we could pull all-nighters, cram hours before exams and prepare for weeks for one term paper. As humans and adults, we know whether we are morning people or night owls, if we can awaken without an alarm clock or if we are simply gluttons for sleep. In other words, for the most part, we know our internal body clocks…whether we choose to listen to them is another story entirely!

As workshifters, knowing your body and mental clocks is more than just human habit – it’s a necessity to maintaining work flow and ensuring productivity. Over time, as we age into adulthood, we all know on some level (be it conscious or not) when we think best, when we write best, when we perform in meetings best, etc. This self-knowledge becomes more than interesting trivia when we become the managers of our tasks and we are our own employee. In fact, one of my greatest challenges as I transitioned into a workshifting lifestyle, was prioritizing my time. Initially, I thought it would be easy! I had worked 8-18 hour days for the previous 11 years and always performed at the top of my game, so my productivity would surely be limitless once the limits of the office cubicle walls were removed! Right?

WRONG. Managing client demands and deadlines were not the problem. But, managing my personal productivity and maximum performance would be. No longer confined by clock-watching, office hour tunnel vision quickly cleared, and my time was my own and certainly wide open. I could respond to email with the Today Show keeping me company and my laptop propped up on my knees; I could work from the moment I awoke to the minute my head hit the pillow at night, taking as many breaks or running as many errands in-between as I needed to. Wow! What a life!

…An unproductive, undisciplined life, that is. I had always prided myself on discipline and never missing a deadline. But now that my schedule was flexible, so, too, it seemed were my efforts and results being affected. I simply could not afford for my work to suffer nor my project deadlines to slip; so I realized that I had some reflecting to do:

  • Did I really concentrate best with the company of Oprah or was my mind trying to do double duty and absorbing nothing nor producing anything…? When I put soft music on instead, how is it that I lost track of time and wrote some of my best proposals?

  • My brain always freshest and sharpest in the morning, should I waste that precious window of clarity to respond to banal email or could I use that time more wisely to strategize, research new concepts, sales techniques and perform new project brainstorming? The email could, and always would, come later.
  • Would sleeping in just one extra hour assist me to stretch that morning clarity into the late afternoon, thereby not only extending my output but also providing me a whole new work window within which to operate?
  • And, was working 16 hour days really the best thing…? Sure, I could, but why would I? As workshifters, often times we are our own Finance, Marketing and Operations departments in addition to trying to get actual work done. So there is never enough time…Closing my office door after a certain hour or moving my office to a different room in the house farther away would signal a mental light switch to go off, so my brain could rest and rejuvenate. Sometimes, we need to disconnect to connect….

I still do not have the exact recipe for the ideal workshifting schedule, but I do know that it’s more about my unique and personal mental rhythms than it is about a clock or a deadline. When you are on your own schedule, responsible for your own hours and output, success is solely determined by how effectively you work. So go out there and get your PhD in YOU, listening to your body and mind for its most alert moments, and watching out for the productivity which will surely follow.

When are YOU at your most productive? What unique scheduling tricks have you put into place to reap the greatest benefit from your workshifting schedule?

Photo Credit: comedynose

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Natalya Sabga is a project management professional and operational efficiency expert turned author, consultant and executive education advisor. Fascinated by the study of human behavior, she has parlayed this into a successful writing career. Ms. Sabga is also the author of "From Secretary to CEO: A Guide to Climbing the Corporate Ladder Without Losing Your Identity" (2010). She is also the President of DNterprises, LLC - a firm specializing in project needs' analysis, and project management from implementation to operation. Ms. Sabga is currently working on her next non-fiction narrative, "A PMP's Guide to Project Managing Your Life," and authoring the blog 'ASK N'.