As trivial as it seems, I have discovered that leveraging periods of high-energy during the day for most strategically important tasks greatly enhances effectiveness and performance without consuming additional resources of time or effort.
Everybody has their own high-times and low-times during the day. Some people consider themselves morning persons, some people consider themselves evening/night persons. These categorizations usually serve for identifying periods of high-energy and low-energy. Naturally, people like the high points and not so much the low points.
What I have noticed, however, is that there is a certain disconnect between daily biological clock and scheduling of important tasks. Consider this example: I know many “morning” persons that start their day with coffee, emails and their favorite news. The most productive time of their day (7am-10am) is therefore used for routine activities that do not require too much energy or concentration. If, instead, this most productive time of the day was leveraged for strategic tasks such as design, analysis, planning, then the same amount of time would give a quantum leap in terms of productivity.
I've tried it myself. Now when I come to the office, I don’t process emails, I don’t look at the latest tech news, I don’t finish off leftovers from yesterday. I intensely focus on high-priority items. The emails can get processed pretty much any time during the day, so can the news be read later. After just few weeks I have realized that I made more progress on the important tasks during these few weeks than I did in many months.
Additional benefit of using morning time for “thinking”, is that you are getting less distracted by others. Some people are not in the office yet, while others are busy reading the news:)
I don’t want to leave an impression that I necessarily advocate using morning time for strategic activities. If you’re an evening person, then by all means – leverage evenings. My point is that you need to identify your high-times and your high-importance tasks and make sure that they are in agreement.
P.S. if you're reading this in the morning, you might use this advice to improve your productivity:)