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Productive capacity is different from what you’re actually producing. The way I think about it is that it’s the amount of productivity that you’re capable of in a given amount of time. Of course, many different things affect your ability to be productive, so there’s frequently a bit of difference between productive capacity and productivity.
But if you dig a little deeper, you’ll often see that there’s a surprising regularity in your bio-rhythms. As I was working with people on their creative rhythms, I needed a tool to visualize and track these energy states. The Productivity Heat Map was born.
Below is my heat map:
I’ll provide a quick legend for deciphering colors, in case you’re not familiar with heat maps:
Red: This is where productive capacity is the highest. All systems are operational and ready for the captain to give the signal to go to warp speed. This is where I get all of my creative heavy lifting done. I call this level the “nova” stage (from “supernova”) because it’s really hot and intense, and it’s also something quick to say to my wife so that she knows what’s going on with me (I get really, really frustrated by dealing with non-urgent issues during novas, since I am acutely aware of what else I could be doing).
Orange: This level of productive capacity is the waystation between creative awesomeness and merely puttering along. A lot of work can get done here, but you’ll only be somewhat aware that you’re working.
Yellow: This level of capacity is the idle status. Some productive work can be done, but it’s not going to be the high-level, lose-track-of-time type of productivity.
Green: At this level, I’m spending more energy trying to keep working than actually doing the work itself. Creativity, motivation, or focus is pretty much gone.
Gray: Hopefully I’m asleep at this level. Unfortunately, all too often I’m still trying to get something done or can’t sleep because some idea is teasing me.
So, you may be wondering why I decided to present this on a modified clock face rather than the standard columnar way that we normally present time. First, the “heat” of heat maps is normally mapped over something the way it actually appears. For instance, website heat maps display the relevant information over the way the site is presented to the reader. More important, though, I like to think about time in its natural, circular state since I get a better overview of the relatedness of yesterday’s activities to my state today. Lastly, it takes up less space to get the information across once you understand the paradigm.
A few other presentation notes. I use 24-hour time for convenience and so that there’s no need for two clocks. I use only four colors (plus gray) because they capture all of the information I need and keep me from quibbling about whether something’s red-orange, orange, or red. Gray is used instead of black because it’s easier to see and black is too often associated with death or some really, really bad state.
There’s a good deal of usefulness in thinking about your day in this way. For me, it helps answer the following questions:
1. Why do I have more productive capacity at some times than others?
You’ll notice on the heat map above that from 08–11 and 14–16, I go nova. Then towards meal times I start to downshift. One obvious reason for this is that I get hungry and my blood sugar drops. A second, less obvious, reason this happens is that I can sustain peak focus for only about three hours.
A lot of the same reasons explain why I’m not good for a whole lot after 1600 (4 pm). If it’s been a good, productive day, I’ve burned myself out by that point.
2. How can I move from one level to the next?
The heat map above is my (more or less) natural rhythm. With a little caffeine, food, and space, it’s what my day will generally look like. But I’ve often wondered what I can do to move myself from a lower level of productivity to the next higher one.
What I’ve noticed is that I usually can shift up only one level. For instance, I can’t get myself to go from yellow to red, although I can easily go from red to yellow. (Apparently productive capacity is like heat: it goes from hot to cold pretty easily, but it takes a lot more effort to go from cold to hot.) But moving from yellow to orange is a pretty good increase in productivity, so even making that change is worthwhile.
Here’s an example from my productivity heat map. The block from 11 am to 2 pm is the most malleable block of time, but it’s often the second most important part of the day (after the morning) because what happens during that block determines how the rest of my day will go. I have a few relatively simple methods for shifting that block up:
- Eat a healthy, balanced breakfast; usually oatmeal with raisins, yogurt, a banana, some protein (generally eggs), juice, and 8-16 oz of water.
- Drink roughly 8 oz of water an hour.
- Coordinate with my wife so that she knows I’ll not be up for going out for lunch and will probably just grab something quick.
- Turn the phone on silent, leave the phone in another room, and don’t check email.
- Eat that quick lunch – take no more than 30 minutes for prep, eating, and cleanup.
Stretch or walk for 5-10 minutes.
- Get back to work. Do not check email or your phone messages during lunch.
- Continue to drink 8 oz of water an hour.
I told you it was relatively simple, didn’t I? It works because it preempts all of the things that make me naturally downshift.
The good breakfast keeps energy levels high. The water does two things. First, it makes you think better. Second, it makes sure you take a break every hour or so, so you stretch, rest your eyes, and have a mini-break at regular intervals.
The coordination with Angela (my wife) lets her know that I’m going nova and removes those wasted 30–45 minutes when we’re both trying to figure out what the other is doing for lunch. The quick lunch ensures that you don’t disengage from what you’re doing.
Not checking email and phone messages removes a lot of distractions and opens up a lot of psychic RAM. Having the phone in the other room removes it from my view and keeps me from even thinking about it.
I’ll warn you that if you do this, you may not be good for a whole lot of work afterward, unless you’ve got much more mental fortitude than I do. Just make sure you do the right things during that block so that you’ll feel rewarded for what you’ve done.
The plus side, though, is that I often do an entire week’s worth of work in those six hours, so I can spend the rest of the time, all things being equal, on other pursuits. Like writing absurdly long blog posts.
3. How should I plan my day?
Knowing your rhythm allows you to plan the right tasks for the right times. I think a lot of personal planners miss this, and people look at all chunks of time as being equal. All chunks of time are not equal! (Tweet this.)
I can get more done from 0800-1000 on most days than I can from 1600-2000, even though the latter block has twice as much time.
As you can probably figure out, I try to put my writing in the morning blocks since I know that I can go nova during those periods. I may do some editing, planning, or networking during the orange blocks, and I try to check email and other low-horsepower stuff from 1600–1700.
Leveraging my day like that ensures that I’m not up at 0200 in the morning trying to work and creating a product that I’ll spend more time editing the next morning. It does that in two very powerful ways: 1) I’m normally very satisfied with what I completed that day, as I know I couldn’t have done any more than I did, and 2) I’m exhausted by 2200 (10 pm) or so, and if I’m thinking clearly, I know I’m going into a phase in which the time would be better spent sleeping.
4. Why do I get so pissed when I wake up late?
If I wake up past 0930, I’m grumpy for a long, long time because I know that the best, productive block of time is gone. I’ll be at half-capacity, and I’ve got way too much that I’d like to do for that.
So I’ll try to work late that day, go to bed at 0445 (I’m not kidding), wake up late (1000ish) the next day, get pissed, go to bed at 0330, wake up late the next day (1100ish), and not be good for anything because I haven’t been sleeping, eating, and drinking like I should. Luckily, I’ll generally be so exhausted by the third day that I sleep well and can start the right rhythm over again. But doing that loses me four nova blocks during that three-day period and those blocks are far too valuable to squander that way.
Heat-mapping your productivity is a great way to get a grip on figuring out how to be more productive and how to plan your days, and it may take a few days of recording for you to find your natural rhythm. Get out your highlighters and markers! And as we learned from G.I. Joe, knowing is half the battle!
Want the Productivity Heat Map? Download it today on our Free Planners page. If you like our Free Planners, then check out the Momentum app! Head to hellomomentum.app to learn more and to sign up for your 30-day free trial!
I like this heatmapping concept, and it’s very useful to identify and work within your highly productive hours. My problem is my natural rhythms are not conducive to being a wife and mother.
I’m a night person and if I worked only when it was best for me that would mean chaining myself to the computer from about 4-7pm and then 10.30pm-1.30am. It’s really annoying because as a writer, it’s slow going when I try to work outside my natural creativity peaks. I can sit down in the morning and end up with maybe 400 decent words two hours later. Whereas at night those 400 words will spew out in about 20 minutes.
Love your blog. I’m going to subscribe.
Kelly@SHE-POWER’s last blog post..SHE-POWER Fiction: The Missing Baby
Nicholas Ungaro says
Your breakfast is broken down to sugar w/in 20 minutes it is not a “long burning” breakfast. You need some protein like chicken, fish, pork, etc to give you the energy needed for sustained activity.
Your current regimen is causing abnormal cortisol levels, mood swings, sugar cravings etc. Link to my blog for info.
Dr. Nicholas Ungaro
Thanks for the comment, Nicholas. I need to change this post – I’ve been needing to for a long time. Thanks for the reminder.
Charles Gilkey says
Thanks for the comment and for subscribing, Kelly! I oftentimes think about how hard it must be to be a second-shifter because everyone else is obstensibly off and it’s more or less the time most people spend with families. Third shifters fare a little better, as people sleep, but second shift is the sweet spot for family and friend time.
I’m personally pretty lucky that my wife detests the morning before 1100, so I have free reign to do what I want as long as it’s quiet.
Ed Ibbafibby says
I am confused and need clarification. To me the term nova signifies repeated bursts of intense activity since that is what a nova does in nature–relatively short bursts of intense output repeated at a period determined by the ratio of external pressure to inward pressure. The key is the recurrent nature of the nova. Seems like a weekly review intended to slough off high pressure items.
A supernova in nature cannot reoccur. Das ist alles for the star. The end. Can you clear this up for me? I can be reached at sidvacuous at yahoo dot com. Thanks.
Charles Gilkey says
@ Ed: You are exactly right that I should have been more clear on this. Most conflate ‘nova’ with ‘supernova’, so I went with the reference to what more people would know. Technically speaking, however, I should have just used ‘nova’, since stars can have multiple novae but only one supernova.
I use this term rather than ‘steaming’, ‘hot’, or ‘really productive’ because it motivates me a little more. The main point is that it’s a quick reference for self-observation and it allows me to communicate quickly with my wife.
Thanks so much for commenting on this and helping me clear it up. If there’s anything other questions, please let me know.
@ Techblogger: Thanks for the link. I hope you find this helpful.
This article led me to your site, but looking though your posts has been brilliant! I’m a couple years out of undergrad, and work in theatrical Stage Management and Set Design, two fields that can be difficult to balance at times – usually I find them complimentary in many ways, but my processes can be wildly different for both, depending on a variety of factors (not the least of which is the *wide* variety of people and settings you’re expected to work in, collaboratively and under strict deadlines). Working on myself, my creative/productivity processes, and being a life-long learner are vital things for me, and your tone and words are absolutely DEAD ON with what I’ve been looking for in a blog.
I’ve subscribed – keep up the great work, and I look forward to reading more in the future!
Dustin Boston says
Hey I’m with Kelly. I’ve always been a night owl and often find that I can work until 3 or 4 in the morning without feeling tired. The problem is that I have a JOB from 7 AM-3:30 PM. So if I do my personal projects, write, or play until the wee hours of the morning I’m absolutely wasted! I’ve been reading some of those articles on “cheating sleep” but haven’t tried it yet. I think the old fashioned way seems to be the best–eat, sleep, exercise.
I love the heat map concept. It took a dry little thing like charting your time and made it a little more tolerable.
Dustin Boston’s last blog post..Happy First Easter!
Charles Gilkey says
@ Ben: Thanks for the wonderful comments and for telling us a little bit about yourself. I can see how managing those sometimes divergent roles could be tough; few people are harder to manage than creatives. If there’s anything I could write about that would be particularly helpful, let me know! I look forward to hearing from you.
@ Dustin: I think the “old fashioned way” is the only one that’s sustainable over the long haul. I haven’t tried polyphasic sleeping, either, although it’s an option. It’s hard to use the second shift to fuel the third shift when everyone else is active on the second shift. Maybe we can think about ways to help keep you working during your peaks without hurting your performance at work…
Thanks for the comment, the link, and subscribing! If you can think of anything that would make the heatmap concept and aid more useful, please let me know.
@ Honest Holly: Thanks for the link and review!
I am really enjoying your site. But I always questioned why society can not accept and open space for us, the owls? Why struggle ourselves if comprehension and management can open space for higher productivity? Would be ask to much?
Another owl, crazy about sleep in the morning and write at night.
John B says
Love the idea of the personal heatmap. Not too crazy about pulling out the highlighter and markers.
Are there any programmers out there that can develop something that we can click on over the period of a day and then generate our personal heatmap?
Charles Gilkey says
@ John: Thanks for the comment. There are a few ways around having to program something new without pulling out the markers:
1) Use the codes R, O, Y, G, and Gy to represent the colors. It would still get the information across without having to color. I figured people would just make ticks with markers, but I’m sure the parents wouldn’t mind letting their kids color them in completely.
2) This was created in Omnigraffle. I could make that file easily available. With OG, you could just drag the color into the wedge and it’d color it for you. It gets bonus points for being really easy to use and aesthetically pleasing.
3) I could make it as a Powerpoint file for (nearly) universal compatibility. Wouldn’t be as pretty or as easy to use as OG, though.
Lastly, whether I’d go the full route to having it programmed would depend on how popular it becomes. I’d probably make the app donationware. If anyone wanted to get this going, I take donations, and you could just comment on the donation that you would like the money to be earmarked for app development.
While one size very rarely fits all, I’m worried that having an app that does this would be more distracting if not pulled off correctly.
I’m willing to pursue any of these avenues if people are interested. Just bump it if you are.
We’ll see where it goes. Thanks for the feedback, John!
Here’s a technique that would make this heatmap even fancier… i’d make it, but im far to busy.
Create a excel spread sheet with each column broken down into each hour of the day. Set a reminder on your outlook or egg timer to remind you once an hour to “rate” your level of productivity. Enter a number between 1 and 10.
Complete this over the course of a week each day on a new column of data.
Take the average at the end of each week and apply that data to the heatmap (or graph or pie chart).
Conditionally format the graph so that low averages are green, medium numbers are yellow and high levels are red.
Then it will be always updating and super fancy schmancy 🙂
Charles Gilkey says
@ Justin: Great suggestion! I could make a whip up a template to make it (mostly) fiddle-proof, too, as that would probably counter productive. I’ll put it in the queue. Thanks for taking the time to give some input!
This is a great idea — don’t get me wrong, I love this particular concept — but this needs to be automated. IE a sensor you can wear for 24 hours that tells you, based on electroimpedence or other measure, when you are most alert and focused.
Self-rating isn’t accurate enough. I know, for instance that between 230-330pm I am next to useless without a lot of artificial wake-me-up drugs, but beyond that the granularity of my day is beyond my ken.
Independent verification FTW
John F says
Love the idea, and you saw where I posted about it on my own blog. John B made a comment about wanting some type of app that you can use for tracking your productivity during the day, and I’m curious if that has ever gone any farther. I would love to see something like that come to fruition.
John F’s last blog post..Decisions
Charles Gilkey says
@ Thirtyplus: Thanks for the feedback. I’m still having a hard time telling whether you’re serious about the automation of this. Let me know if you are or whether you were just kidding.
@ John F: You’re the second person that has expressed interest in the creation of an app. I’ve got a good picture of what needs to happen to balance simplicity and usefulness, but I have zero programming skills and thus will have to outsource the actual coding of it. I also have ways that it can plug into the Daily Productivity Planner. With more feedback I’ll move it from concept to reality. I’d LOVE to pursue this further. Thanks for the feedback.
@Charles Gilkey: I love the idea of the heat map but I have the same concern as @Thirtyplus over subjectively measuring this. I’d be curious to know how you measured/decided on your coding of your different levels of productive capacity at different times.
Charlie Gilkey says
Hey Mac Bike Geek, I’m not sure I agree with ThirtyPlus’s premise that independent verification is more useful than self-assessment on this particular measure. A five point scale on this one is good enough to show patterns – i.e. I think most of us know when we’re red-hot creative vs. steady flow creative vs. engaged but not really creative, etc.
An additional concern I have about over-granularity is that the tracking of it becomes more work than it’s worth, in much the same way that a focus on efficiency can sometimes lead to a decrease in effectiveness.
But perhaps I’m not adequately understanding the concern. Is the concern that you might be inconsistent in how you gauge yourself or that you might be inaccurately gauging yourself? Or both?
John F says
@Charles: I’m afraid I can’t be of much assistance for programming. However, if there’s anything else I can do to help, feel free to let me know. I would love to see this become a reality. Drop me a line at ki4hrg /at/ gmail dot com
John F’s last blog post..Pop Music
Francis Wade says
This is a great application of the idea that our daily productivity follow a kind of rhythm. Now and then I have had an insight into my own productive capacity, and I moved my most creative work to the morning,and my errands to the afternoon.
This worked MUCH better for me, and helped me to schedule my day with better skill. I now do my best to protect my mornings from intrusions, including email, and try to get my best work done before 12:00pm.
I love the heatmap — it’s a great representation of the idea and one that I think I can use immediately. It would help me as I schedule each day, as I could tell at a glance what my energy is likely to be like in any given day (although I know there are fluctuations.)
There is a concept I remember reading about called biorhythms, which deals with how our energy levels shift during a given month, but that’s not a concept that’s as useful as the daily rhythm.
Francis Wade’s last blog post..How I Do My Capturing
Charles Gilkey says
@ Francis: Thanks for the feedback. I’m like you – I firewall and fight to have my mornings distraction-free, because that’s when I’m at my peak. Let me know how if it helps or if there’s anything I can do to improve the tool.
Franco Cedillo says
I’ll try heatmapping my productivity 😀
Nathalie Lussier says
I always knew my mornings were my most productive. Like you, I get pretty grumpy if I don’t wake up early enough, or if I can’t get to work right away. Your post really helped me realize what was going on, and how I can plan for it better. The visuals really help clarify how it might be possible to increase from a yellow to an orange.
I think I will spend some time figuring out what type of tasks I can do during the non-nova periods, that will still provide traction. Thanks Charlie, this was really insightful and useful!
Nathalie Lussiers last blog post..55 Green Budget Tips to Show Nature You Love Her
The most innovative use of heatmap I have seen: http://www.scoregrid.com . These guys create heatmaps from the data derived during a soccer game.
Reginald Reglus says
I really loved your post! I plan to check out your heat map. I like this concept. I have also personally found that using the 80/20 rule during my most productive times has accelerated my productivity and multiplied my results. When I consciously look for the 20% of the activities that will bring me 80% of my desired results and then work on them in my most productive times, I find that I get more done and I want to work longer. I want to work longer because I am getting great results. Thanks for your post.
@Nathalie: I’m glad this helped! Did you learn anything you weren’t anticipating?
@Reginald: Stacking creative time with the 80/20 has really helped me do the same things, as well. Like you, I’ve also found that I tend to underestimate my capacities and that the line between work and play blurs considerably.
Holy smokes, Charlie, I’m in trouble! It’s 11:30 pm, I need to go to bed as my toddler will not let me sleep in and dang it if I didn’t just stumble upon your website. I think I’ve hit the motherlode…. graphic organizers, planners and templates, oh my!
Can’t wait to check more stuff out tomorrow!
@Sherrill: Yikes – that’s no good! I am glad that you’ve found some stuff you like here, but I hope you can grab some goodies and run. Let me know if I can help orient you to PF.
Avatar Koo says
I’m glad I came across this post – and your website!
My most productive times: midnight to 8am.
My least productive times: 11am – 6pm.
This heatmap reaffirms that my day job-centered life is NOT conducive to my writing. Thanks for this tool.
Nick Ungaro says
Nice post. One thing though. Your breakfast is not at all the slow-burning fuel you think it is. In fact, everything in it has plenty of sugar or is converted into sugar quite easily. You might try to add some protein like fish, chicken, pork, cottage cheese etc.
Try eating several small meals based around a protein and a vegetable and snack on nuts and seeds and smaller portions of the meals. It will only take a few days before you notice a big change in the consistency of your energy.
Give it a try!
He did mention eggs. I like to have eggs with salsa, spinach with flax oil and lemon juice. Though I find I do need a bit of carbs as well – some fruit or yogurt is enough.
@Nick: Thanks for adding this information. I can confirm your comment here, as I’ve changed my eating patterns substantially. I need to change that information, as it’s just not solid.
At the time, though, it was better than cereal or nothing at all. :p
Why an employee can be more productive if the employer give him some (free) space and not puting pressure on him him during the day? According to my question, is there a difference if the employee has a managerial position or if he works at the lower levels?
Endy Daniyanto says
I was referred to this post from Aliventures. A quick glance at it made it look interesting, and it is – I’ve never considered the idea of heatmapping and am curious to try this out for my schedule.
However, the way that you describe the process (and even create your own language – nova), makes me feel somewhat uncomfortable. I think this is because we come from different cultures: you come from a Western culture, which emphasizes productivity (as stated in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat Pray Love), while I come from an Eastern culture, which emphasizes more on abstract matters.
So when you talk about coordinating with your wife and getting upset by trifles during novas, for me that just seems a little bit freaky. I mean no offense, but for me some of the key events in my life and the key to happiness that I’ve found is actually in learning to let things go and take their natural course.
Of course, doing my best and planning and preparation I still do, but I suppose there is more of a spiritual element that I apply to my productivity. So if things fail or don’t go my way, I don’t get so upset (and I can’t even imagine “coordinating” with a loved one – that’s because for me spontaneity is such a luxury and a key component to keep me happy and healthy!).
I mean no harm, Charlie. I just want to share a different cultural point of view, from a culture that doesn’t take productivity as serious as yours does, I suppose.
I hope this can be of some insight to you and the readers of this blog. And I’m still going to try out heatmapping my day.
I take no offense to what you’re saying, Endy, and I’m really glad you bring the points up. I’m not so sure it’s an East vs. West thing as much as me just writing like an asshole.
Since writing this a year and a half ago, I’ve made a lot of personal changes, and my holistic system is much more “spiritual,” as it were. My understanding is much more in accord with Tao and does emphasize flow and spontaneity instead of rigid structure. Ironically, this post was one of the ones that got me really thinking about structure vs. spontaneity.
When I say “trifles” in this post, though, I really meant it. I don’t mean her needing to talk, needing a hug, or wanting to spend some time with me, but we’re both creatives and can distract each other easily without meaning to. “Coordinating,” then, keeps us from telling each other how awesome a YouTube videos were when we’re trying to work.
So this coordinating is nothing more than saying “Honey, I’m in the zone and am working this [project],” and she does the same thing with me. While my quick coverage here makes it seem control freakish, it’s actually the opposite.
The worry with leaving everything to spontaneity is that some things require a ramp-up. You have to give enough room to allow things to happen – figuring out when you’re the most productive and giving that space is letting things take it’s natural course.
For a more humane discussion of the key ideas from this post, check out When It’s Not Worth Planning To Do Something Worth Doing.
Again, thanks for commenting, and I agree with many of the things that you say – this earlier incarnation of the idea is not expressed very well.
Citizen Campanola Watches says
I have never seen a heat map before, but I found it very interesting. I know that there are only certain times that I am able to concentrate, but I didn’t think about my blood sugar dropping before meals and that making me really unproductive. I would like to sit down and do one of these maps for myself!
this is really interesting. I am doing a MOOC course on mindfulness at the moment and am learning about how to deal with distractions, multi tasking, stress levels and fight and flight response against being mindful and letting go of some of the issues. I am creative but also a mum and a wife and juggling all of that when it doesn’t always suit my optimal or/and natural patterns is quite hard at time. this conversation between you Endy and you Charlie with our difference experience and upbringing has been very useful especially as i am planning to write a book at some point and it shows how hard it is to find exactly the right word and then what is right to us might be the wrong one for someone else. English is my second language (even though I now consider it my language) but I can’t count the amount of time when I stumble on words or even cannot find them for the life of me. All I can hope for is that the person on the other side can see beyond that and “get it” maybe help me finding the words. Thank you both and Charlie a big thank you for an amazing blog. Your work is amazing.
What a wonderful idea. Though as I read through, I realized that, for me at least, it isn’t just a matter of whether or not I am productive, but focusing on what times of the day are good for different activities. For example, I find that I’m much more amusing in my writing when I do it either really early in the morning or late at night. The extra editing time when I’m more coherent is usually worth it. And I’m sure there are better times for teaching (we homeschool) as opposed to DIY projects around the house. I just haven’t figured those out. I know I’m making it more complicated that you intended, but overall I’ll try to remember to schedule things that don’t require much concentration and effort (like knitting, washing dishes, reading with my kids) to those low times and not waste my energy by doing them when I’m peaking in energy.
.-= Wendy´s last blog ..J and J =-.
OK, I know you originally wrote this post about the heat map a while ago, but I finally REALLY read it. I also downloaded the blank heat map and I’m going to color it in.
I’ve been fighting my natural biorhythms for years, and it’s got to stop now.
I am naturally a very early riser, and I have been good for nothing in early and mid-afternoon for as long as I can remember.
But I have been spending a lot of time trying to fit my freelance schedule into a traditional 9 – 5 and feeling guilty about not working when I literally can’t keep my eyes open.
I am best very early in the morning, yet feel that I need to work out.
So, I am now going to get up, do a quick 20-minute workout to get my body going, and eat breakfast, get dressed and get to my writing work about 7 or 7:30 am.
Then, when I start to fade about 1 pm or so, do the rest of my workout and shower/dress again, and do all of the *other* stuff I need to do to run my business.
I’ll get more done of my *real* work from 7am to 1pm and then I won’t feel guilty.
I have a global clientele anyway, so why I am trying to work 9 – 5?
Again, thank you Charlie!
Your description of what happens when you wake up late resonated with me.. I always get cranky and it blows the entire day off for me.
I only experimented with a raw food diet and it has also helped with productivity a lot. It’s not for everyone, but anyone that’s curious should give it a try for a few weeks and see what effect it has.
Jef Menguin says
I love the idea of personal heat maps. I think it can also help those who attend my time management seminars. I have to try it first though.
…and here I was thinking there was something wrong with me for losing steam at 11 AM. I am definitely going to look more closely at my productivity levels and see if there’s a better way to manage it. Thanks for this great insight, and the chart too.
Great strategy of a time management tool Charlie, this is very useful. I would like to try this soon. There are also different ways and strategies to be productive; all we need to do is figure out what we needed most. It happened that I work often in front of the computer can you imagine how vulnerable I am from distractions online. What I do is I read some time management tips like Tim Ferriss book the 4-Hour Workweek. I also use a time management tool that tracks time accurately when working on each task like this one.(
http://www.timedoctor.com/blog/2010/07/25/how-is-time-doctor-different-than-rescue-time )Using this tool I set an estimated amount of time when working on each task. My key to follow my schedule habits and finish tasks on time is discipline. With discipline I would say that I can be more productive.
Wow, really cool. I’ve done a lot of alertness audits on myself to try to put together something similar, but never thought to map it that way. So easy to visualize all at once!
Excellent way to explain what hours are more productive and which are least. Actually, from my personal experience, we have found a great increase in productive hours since we started using employee time tracking software.
Heidi Thompson says
I love this post! I’m pretty much useless in the morning so maybe I just need to accept that and stop trying to fit my work into a 9-5 schedule. Maybe from 11am would be better. Thanks!
I love this idea but I’m having trouble figuring out the basic steps to filling this out for myself. Can you please post or point me to where this is already explained? Thanks!
Dr Karen says
I’m just trying to figure out how to do my own productivity heat map. I noted you have both red and orange going all the way to the outer border. I was thinking that the colour and the distance reflected energy levels – kind of a redundant, but more easily grabbed visual. But this makes me think they are different information bits — can you clarify for me please? Thanks!
Jess Sommers says
Hi Dr. Karen! See the response below for the answer to your question 🙂
Like Dr Karen, I am wondering what the other dimension is for. I understand the colours, and the clock, but how do you decide how far “out” to fill in?
Jess Sommers says
Thanks Dr. Karen and Louse for reaching out! The little increments are for intensity, in case you wanted to use those rather than coloring them in. You can color up to the line or just mark the line – use whichever method works best for you!
Elaine Pang says
Hi! I just stumbled across this thanks to the Quo Vadis blog. Interesting and captivating idea! I just discussed all this with my husband, that it seems like I am most productive in the afternoon; and he confirmed that he perceives that my productive time is definitely in the afternoon, judging by how I often find it difficult to leave the office at the end of the day. However I have also noticed that on weekends, when I switch to creative pursuits, I tend to be most productive in the morning (after a leisurely breakfast)… and this can actually extend over the whole day if I get the chance to be in the zone. Hmmm!
I find this idea really interesting and one of the most useful tools when it comes talking about productivity on a realistic and practical level.
Before I get started with using the heat map though, could you just explain what the levels 1-5 mean? I see each colour is usually at a certain level eg. red 5, orange 4, however for green there are two different ones.
Jess Sommers says
Hi Eduardo! Using whichever color is right for you for that time of the day, you can fill in as much or as little based on intensity of the task. – JS
I don’t remember how I found your website but I remember what I was researching when I found it – productivity and getting things done.
I am a Special Education Teacher, teaching Littles who are significantly and profoundly physically and intellectually disabled. I love my job but it’s emotionally exhausting at times. My days are often long. I briefly got into the routine of going to workout at the gym after work and I found that this allowed me to “sweat it out” so that I could home and be a wife and mother. But I flaked out when the stress got to be too intense at work (the irony is not lost on me).
This year, there are personal projects I want to tackle and the heat map is guiding me on how to take them on. I wake up at 4:30 now to do personal study and reflection as I’m drinking my cup of coffee. I’m a slow starter so I try to get out of the house by 6:30. My Littles get to school at 7:30 and it’s go-go-go until 1:30 when they leave. At the beginning of the school year, I’m able to work until 4:30-5:00 because I don’t have to pick up my daughter from school until after band practice. But after football season is over, she is out of school by 3:15, so I’m leaving school by 3:30.
My daughter (a junior this year) typically doesn’t need a lot of help with homework and my husband (disabled/stay at home dad) cooks dinner. This leaves me around 2 hours for personal projects before dinner and hanging out with the family. I’ve made the decision to completely unplug by 8 or 9 o’clock so that by 10, I’m asleep. (I try to go to bed by 9 and read before I drift off to sleep). Then I’m up at 4:30 to do it all over again.
Just taking the time to type it out (thank you if you’ve stayed with me during my narrative), I see where I can get a few good blocks of time to work on personal projects. That is if I don’t completely crash upon coming home from work (some days are very challenging). Of course, I realize – as you mentioned above – that accomplishing personal goals begins with taking care of my body – plenty of water, nutrient-dense whole foods, and yes, even exercise.
Thanks again for providing such a valuable resource. I’ve downloaded a few of your worksheets to guide me in laying out my planner (I use the Uncalendar which I see aligns perfectly with the Momentum Planner). I’m looking forward to learning and APPLYING (key point) some of these components.
Chris W says
This was originally written in 2008, is this now updated anywhere in how it’s developed, like the app concept, of a Xls file etc?
Jess Sommers says
Hi Chris! We are only offering this planner as a PDF at this time, but will take your feedback into consideration!
Best – Jess @ Team PF
Chris R says
My thoughts as I am trying to implement the whole Momentum Planner process.
1. I have a 9-5 job, plus 1.5 hours round trip commute. Living alone, I also have to make time for maintaining my apartment, from groceries to car maintenance, laundry, cooking and cleaning up, and housekeeping (I have lower and lower standards on that, but I can’t totally stop doing any of that). My day job involves working across departments and functions, and it’s hard to see how I could possibly structure my day around time blocking and heat mapping when I have little control over my hourly time and have to coordinate with OTHER people’s time blocking.
2. This sounds like a dumb question, but really, how does one assess how “productive” one is during a block of time? Productive in what sense? Getting assigned work tasks done? Again, hard to see how this applies to a job that involves multiple people working in concert.
3. Outside of my day job, I am a craft artist/designer. Perhaps I should just do the heat mapping and time blocking for that aspect of my life. But again, what is “productive”? Is it getting a craft piece done, or doing marketing, writing a blog post, etc. Can one be very productive doing admin tasks? Perhaps what would work for me is to accept that during the work week, I focus on stuff that requires low levels of creative energy but moves the ball on building a business, and leave the weekends for blocks of creative time. The problem with that is that creativity needs a regular daily practice to keep the muscles supple.
In short, I’m having a hard time flourishing productively when I still have to “punch a clock.” Would love to hear others in a similar situation.
Hi Chris R,
I’m in the same boat. I have a 9to5 job where I punch the clock. My passion is to create artwork as well & I want to get a business started selling my art so I can eventually quit my day job. When I get home it’s dinner time & all I want to do after dinner is relax. I’ve blocked out 6.30pm to 8pm as project time. But some days I’m just so tired I don’t use the block for doing my projects. I can do some stuff on the weekends but that leaves me with my project going very slowly because I only do the occasional work night & weekend work.
Charlie do you have any suggestions for this kind of situation? I can’t quit my job at this point. While I would be comfortable without my day job for a little while a business like the one I want to start would probably take years before it’s profitable.
Zulqarnain Khan says
Very informative. Appreciate your work. Good work!
Just Me says
If I’d show you my productivity heat map you’d freek out…but I’m crazy productive.
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