24 Hours of Productivity
Technically, it’s impossible to be productive 24 hours a day. Sleep and regeneration are, after all, key components of an integrated performance system. But by recognizing the importance of sleep and the rhythms of the day, it’s possible to establish a system that will spark your success around the clock. Just think in terms of protecting, building, and fueling in everything you do. Here’s how:
A morning ritual should begin with drinking cold water upon waking and eating a power breakfast (fueling), engaging in some Movement Prep exercises (protecting), and spending a few minutes visualizing your perfect day (building).
The best time to train (building) is whatever time works best for you. For many people, the only time is first thing in the morning. An early workout gives you a sense of accomplishment and energy that sets a productive tone for your workday. And if you finish the day wondering what you got done amid a flurry of meetings, phone calls, and e-mails, take consolation in knowing you at least got in a workout.
If training before breakfast, you still want to “break the fast” from not eating since the previous evening. Consume a “shooter” (fueling) with 15 to 30 grams of carbs and 5 to 10 grams of protein, along with 16 ounces of water. A small scoop of whey protein and watered down orange juice will do the trick. If you don’t have time for a traditional breakfast, at least have a post-workout shake with a good mix of carbohydrates and protein. At this point, your cells are wide open and screaming for nutrients, and by drinking one of these shakes, you expedite the recovery process.
Skipping breakfast or settling for a combination of coffee and a sugar-laden donut or pastry is no way to start the day. Fuel your body for a productive, fat-burning day with a healthy breakfast such as oatmeal, lean meat, and lowfat, low-sugar yogurt.
Follow a calendar or to-do list.
Without a list of priorities, it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of putting out fires via the phone and e-mail. Prioritize your morning with must-do action items and leave the afternoon for planning, returning calls and emails, work-related reading, and other business housekeeping.
Have a mid-morning snack.
There are likely five to seven hours between your breakfast and lunch. Keep your metabolism firing (fueling) with a nutrient-dense, mid-morning snack that will keeps hunger pangs at bay. Go with fruit, veggies, nuts, sunflower seeds, or beef jerky. If you have access to a blender or shaker bottle, a shake or smoothie consisting of fruit and whey protein also is a good option.
Check your posture.
It can be difficult to maintain good posture while spending the bulk of your day sitting down. That’s why it’s important to check your posture a couple times each morning (protecting). Are your shoulder blades pulled back and down? Is your chest elevated? Have you kept your tummy drawn up and in? (Click here to learn how to maintain 24 hours of perfect posture.)
Training (building) around the lunch hour can be a productive use of time – if you have the opportunity and flexibility to do so. A pre-made lunch or leftovers brought from home should free up the extra time. Working out mid-day also will re-focus you and help hold off that mid-afternoon sleepy feeling. Assuming you had a mid-morning snack, you can use lunch as your post-workout recovery fuel.
Do you work from home? That’s even better since you might have preferable training options at or near home. Plus, showering at home is probably easier than it is at even the most convenient corporate fitness centers. (Click here to read about ways to boost your health when working at home.)
If your schedule permits, try training before 3 and 4 p.m. Studies suggest that this is your body’s best time to train, which explains why high school and college athletes train during this period. This could postpone your departure from work an hour, but the tradeoff is that you might avoid traffic.
Have a mid-afternoon snack.
Assuming lunch falls between 12 and 1 and dinner between 6 and 7, the 3 to 4 p.m. window is the perfect time for a light snack to keep your metabolism firing and your mind sharp (fueling) Good options to stash in a desk drawer include nuts, beef jerkey, meal replacement bars, and apples. (Click here to learn 10 energy-boosting snacks for the office.) Continue to drink water. A good rule of thumb is to consume at least half your body weight in water per day (i.e. 85 ounces if you weigh 170 pounds).
Check your posture (again).
We want to maintain perfect posture throughout the day (protecting) but mid-afternoon is an especially good time to double check that your chest is elevated, tummy tight, and shoulder blades pulled back and down.
Late Afternoon/Early Evening
Schedule calls and meetings.
Rather than schedule meetings and conference calls in the morning, when you’re likely most productive, put them on the calendar for late in the afternoon. With the day winding down, they’re likely to be kept short and on topic. With action items done in the morning, this should feel like more of a planning session for tomorrow and beyond (building).
Reactivate your body.
If you’ve gone the entire day without working out or at least performing some simple movements to counteract the effects of sitting all day, now is the time to activate the hips, core, and shoulders. Even if you’ll soon be on the way to the gym or an outdoor workout, it’s vital that you address a body that’s been sitting hunched over a computer. Jumping into a workout otherwise is a recipe for injury and long-term ailments (protecting).
Maintain a sleep ritual.
New parents quickly learn the importance of a sleep ritual for their children. This consists of a bath, reading, ideal sleep environment, perhaps some prayerful reflection, and a consistent time to turn out the lights.
As adults, we tend to get away from that successful formula. A hot shower/bath still helps with sleeping. Reading—in paper form as opposed to on electronic devices—helps us wind down. A blacked-out room free of television and other screens provides the perfect sleep environment. And regardless of your religious persuasion (or no persuasion), a few moments reflecting on the successes of the day and envisioning a perfect day tomorrow goes a long way to maintaining the proper mindset (building).
Before winding down completely, jump-start the recovery process with some foam rolling or AIS stretching (protecting). Hungry? Fuel with a low-carb, high-protein option, perhaps a small piece of chicken or fish left over from dinner (fueling).
Like kids, we want to establish a consistent bedtime and aim for eight hours of sleep a night to complete our 24 hours of productivity.