If you’ve ever struggled to get something done, you may have noticed a pattern. At certain times of the day, it’s easier to push yourself through projects than others. I definitely have noticed this in my work as an Executive Coach, and I’ve seen many clients struggle with it too.
It’s not just in our imagination: research has shown that it’s actually easier to motivate yourself to do tasks in the morning, when willpower is at its highest. Psychology Today reports that as the day wears on, willpower dwindles. Think of willpower as a depletable resource much like energy that gets used up as the hours pass.
This process has been termed decision fatigue as we’re faced with more decisions and distractions over the day, our strength over our motivation and self-control dips. Studies show that like a muscle that gets tired after exercise, our ability for self-control gets depleted over time. Efforts feel harder, difficulties seem greater, and fatigue increases with projects tackled later in the day.
While it may feel discouraging to realize that you don’t have unlimited ability to motivate yourself into the night, there is power in this as well. The power comes from understanding that if you manage your peak times for motivation based on science, you’ll be able to get more done with less effort. Focusing your most challenging tasks in the morning can ensure that you sail through them with relative ease, rather than saving such tasks until later in the day.
If you’re a morning person, this is good news: your peak time of the day corresponds with the most effective time to get work done. But even if you’re not a morning person, there are ways that you can shift your habits toward maximizing certain efforts earlier in the day.
Here are three ideas to get you started on making the most of each day’s motivation:
Go to bed earlier. One reason you may feel like an owl rather than a lark is because you’re staying up too late, which makes anyone feel groggy in the morning hours. By resetting your internal clock and crashing earlier, you will likely find it easier to get going at the time of day that’s best for productivity.
Choose something meaningful to work on first. It’s often easier to get started with email or busy work when you wake up, rather than plunge into a significant project. But to avoid doing your most important work when you’ve started to suffer from decision fatigue, make your morning projects count by choosing something significant to tackle while you’re fresh. Whether it’s your hardest task or the one that will get you closest to your goals, don’t squander your highest motivation time on the trivial.
Prepare the night before. The evening hours don’t have to be wasted just because you’re less motivated. In fact, you can grease the wheels for a smooth start the next morning with some prudent PM planning. Each evening before bed, write down the tasks that you need to do tomorrow. Choose the most meaningful one, and put it first. Revisit your list first thing in the morning to keep yourself focused. Don’t get hijacked by minutia; stick to your priorities. Repeat this ritual daily.
you’ve experienced success with making the most of your top times for productivity, you’ll be sold on the idea of managing your motivation through strategic planning, day and night.
Mark Strong is a Life Coach, Career Coach, and Executive Coach based in NYC. You can find more information at www.markstrongcoaching.com.