How to make your days most productive and make sure you have time for what you need.

I have spent a bit of time figuring out how to make my days the most productive. Not only in work-related sense, but also making sure I have time for my personal priorities (family/friends; health/fitness; hobbies, etc). There are countless of books on this topic (just try searching on amazon for ‘morning productivity’..) and countless of ways. I don’t think there is any single approach, as each of our schedules are different (you may not be able to influence your work hours, or travel schedule) and our personalities/individual preferences are different (morning vs evening preference). And when you get a baby, the complexity is at least doubled. But there are a few things that worked for me which you may find helpful as you think about your own schedule.

Mornings. I originally started with trying to make my mornings productive. Get up at 6am (vs the 7am/7.30am I needed to be at work on time), and squeeze in exercise, reading, or some focused work for which I needed quiet time with no interruption. All noble goals, but didn’t quite work for me as I was often too tired or too distracted to do some reading, when a full inbox and to-do list was waiting for me. What I eventually settled on, especially when we got our baby, was waking up 6.30am (or rather being woken up..) to spend half an hour with our daughter, and then get out by 7.30am-ish to be ready for a breakfast meeting at 8am. I usually tried to meet people for breakfasts, which I found more efficient than lunches (which interrupt your day; take longer, etc). On those days, when I didn’t have a breakfast meeting, I would be at the office an hour earlier so I have extra time to do ‘deep (focused) work’ (more on that in another blog) before my regular day kicked off at 9am.

Evenings. I usually work longer hours, on average maybe until 10pm, and earlier in my career, was probably averaging closer to midnight. What I discovered that worked for me was going to a gym or for a swim/run at around 6/6.30pm, have dinner in the office at around 7/7.30pm, and then continue working for a couple of hours. That helped me get some energy for the evening hours, and squeeze in some exercise, which I usually did not manage to do in the morning. I also experimented trying to leave earlier (when I was little bit more senior, not in my first job as an analyst) and working from home, but usually did not find the productivity to be the same. I also discovered that there is little difference between coming home at 9pm or 11pm (unlikely you do much on that evening anyway), so I ended up doing 3 longer days in the office, and then trying to leave early on Wednesdays (to catch my daughter before she goes to bed) and Fridays (for a date night with my wife). On average, I try to be in bed by 11pm and definitely by midnight, to get ~7 hours of sleep (often aspirational, but good to have a target!).

Travel. Travel by definition disrupts your otherwise orderly schedule. On days when travelling, I tried to avoid going to the office (both before departure and after arrival), as the extra commute between home/office/airport was usually not worth it and I rather spent the time working from home/the airport. When travelling and staying overnight, I tried to take advantage of the specifics of the situation. There may be some old friends/colleagues/business contacts in the city where you are, so you may try to meet them while there. It may be easier to do exercise as there is likely a gym at your hotel. And you may end up working longer, as there is no girlfriend/family waiting for you at home – you can then enjoy the rare evening off when back home.

Weekends. I try to keep my waking time the same during the weekends (which is not difficult if you have a baby and s/he wakes you up in the morning at the same time). In my earlier career, I usually (and sadly) worked on one or both days. I always tried to make sure I meet some friends for brunch, have a date night with my wife in the evening, and do some exercise, but other than that, there wasn’t much time left for any more planning. As the hours got little bit better, the schedule became little bit more flexible. I still do some work, mostly planning the week ahead, but usually try to keep if for Sun evening (and sometimes starting already in late afternoon). Saturday is often a combination of some family/friends activity and taking care of some errands during the day. On Sun morning, I usually do a long run to clear my head, and recently started taking with me our daughter (running stroller highly recommended!) so my wife has some time for herself. I am currently thinking of reserving Sun early morning to write these blogs from a nearby café to keep it more regular – assuming (and hoping) that there will be some regular readers!

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