You’d think I’d know better, considering how I write a great deal about productivity. But it’s a funny thing being human, sometimes you forget.
It reminds me a lot of this quote by author, James Clear:
“People keep reading self-help and revisiting the same ideas because that’s precisely what we need: to be reminded. The problem is not that information is unhelpful, but that attention is fleeting. Nobody focuses on one idea every minute of the day.
Good books refocus the mind.”
In my case, it’s not a specific book that helped me realize my error, it’s the fact that it’s 11 AM and I’m exhausted. I’m sleepy, cloudy, distracted. I’m sitting here trying to figure out what to write and I got nothin’.
Which is actually kind of meta considering that I’m now writing the post that I was struggling to write, but we can just ignore that. Instead, let me tell you where I went wrong and how you can avoid it in the future.
Cardio in the morning
Many people enjoy exercising in the morning. They love starting their day with a challenge. Or getting a sweat in while most people are still asleep. And, to some degree, I’m one of them. It’s nice to get out there early to do something challenging.
Sometimes it does more harm than good though.
A light walk or casual exercise routine is totally fine. No issue. But it’s on days like today, days where I push myself, that I end up wasting more time than it’s worth.
Variety bested my productivity
I need variety. In my food, books, exercise, etc.
So when I decided to do an intense spin class this morning, I thought nothing of it. Just a fun way to mix up the week.
The class was great and I got the sweat in that I was hoping for. But now, sitting here, writing this to you, my energy is near-nil and continues to dip further. A nap is sounding better and better with every passing second.
In my pursuit of variance, I forgot about the cardinal rule of energy conservation.
The rule of energy conservation
I’m not talking about physics, I’m talking about productivity.
Each of us has varying energy levels throughout the day. For some, they reach peak productivity and focus in the evening. For others, it’s after lunch or first thing in the morning.
In my case, the first handful of hours are my most productive. My energy is at its highest and my mind is sharp. If I’m writing, the words come out quickly. If I’m reading, the concepts are that much easier to understand.
And then as the day progresses, my energy declines.
Where I went wrong
So where did I go wrong today?
Well, instead of using my most productive hours for a focus-intensive task (like writing this to you), I did cardio. Which, ok, not a big deal. The class was fairly quick and I had plenty of time to still effectively operate within the window.
However, the form of cardio I chose to do was energy-intensive.
Meaning that if I’m a battery, the class used up 60-75% of my power. Leaving me with less than 40% for the rest of the day (assuming I don’t take a nap which bumps me up by, let’s say, 15-20%). It’s not a lot of energy to have left.
Now here I am, sleepy, doing my best to move through the day in low-power mode.
What I’ll do differently next time
Generally, as long as I do cardio after my peak window, there’s no problem. I get my important work done in those early hours and can coast on the remaining energy from there.
But by burning through it before getting the important things done, I’m stuck with fumes.
So moving forward, I have two options:
- Either protect that peak-time and do cardio later on in the day
- Or, for the sake of variety, do the challenging workout but know that the rest of the day will be a slog and plan accordingly.
Moving forward with energy in mind
Looking at your own life, consider how you can avoid making the same mistake I did.
Determine when you are most productive. Is it in the morning, the afternoon, late at night once everyone’s asleep?
With that newfound awareness, you have two options. Either protect that time for important work, or give it up knowing that you may not be as productive when you need to be. Oh and in that latter case, be sure to revise your schedule appropriately.
I’m going to go take a nap.