Tuesday, November 17, 2015

What’s Your Best Time? by Andy Scheer

It’s one way to optimize your work.

For the past month I’ve been driving to an office five days a week, working on a special editorial project from 8:00 to 5:00. Besides helping an organization I respect, it’s given me insights into how and when I do my best work.

A team of ten editors sits with laptops around a conference table, each working on our sections of this project. Dealing with short pieces contributed by writers around the globe, we’re charged to edit the content to a particular length, making sure it’s readable and uses the organization’s preferred terminology.

Each of us around the table works differently. Some use multiple monitors, others a single screen raised well above the table top. I think I’m the only one using just the screen on the laptop and no external keyboard. It’s the way I’ve worked in my own office for years.

As soon as they arrive, some people insert earbuds and start listening. The editor on the end listens to classical; the guy to my right alternates between classical and talk radio. The editor across from me tries to protect herself from any distractions by listening to white noise. The editor to her left, who seldom speaks, says she couldn’t possibly work while listening to music.

I can sympathize, at least when the music has vocals. But the past two mornings, I’ve done some of my best work while listing to Christmas music performed by brass ensembles.

But only in the mornings. Each day as I tally how many of the segments I’ve done, I see that I almost always complete more than half my day’s output before noon. Though I take a quick lunch, I struggle to get back into rhythm. No matter how hard I try to concentrate, I’m never my most productive for the next few hours. The last couple hours of the day, I get back into the swing again. But never quite where I was first thing in the morning.

These observations only confirm what I’ve known for years. While working as a magazine editor or for the Christian Writers Guild, I had the luxury to juggle multiple projects. So I could reserve my prime hours for projects that needed my best concentration and work after lunch on tasks less critical.

But at times like now, I don’t have a choice. So I adjust my expectations for my productivity. Sometimes, that’s the best I can do.

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