Why You Should Front-Load Your Day

I recently bought a relatively expensive Garmin watch—one nice enough that I can wear it when exercising but keep it on for a business meeting. It helps me better capture, monitor, and track several health-related metrics. It also sends the data to my doctor and my trainer, to help me be more proactive about my health.

The most important metric for me right now is sleep, the number one influence on my overall health and attitude. When I tell people that I wake up at 4:30 AM, they often ask me how much sleep I get each night. My goal is seven hours of uninterrupted sleep, but I usually sleep about six and half hours—a number that Dave Asprey, founder of Bulletproof Coffee, says is the average amount of sleep among the people with the longest lives.

Running on seven hours of sleep, I am the Dalai Lama. At five and a half hours, though, I’m closer to Attila the Hun. Taking magnesium before bed helps a lot, especially when I’m fighting jet lag.

Two other metrics my Garmin captures have proven quite useful. The first is my stress level. I have no idea how the watch calculates the stress level, but mine is very low. The second is called Body Battery, which measures overall energy. It shows how much I have charged my battery (no, not the watch battery!) and how much I’ve drained it.

My metrics are always the best in the morning, and as you might expect, they decline throughout the day. That data supports a key idea: by front-loading your day, you can use your best energy on what’s most important.

The First Two Work Blocks

Personally, I have my very best energy early in the morning. To take advantage of that fact, I spend the first ninety minutes doing a big block of creative work, like writing a blog post, writing chapters of my fourth book, or developing a client project that requires maximum effort. The later it gets, the more difficult it is for me to do this kind of work.

Using your peak energy well is a question of priorities. If the outcomes of some work are critical to your goals and ambitions, it makes sense to do that work when you can give it your best effort and focus. If you’re a morning person, one way to ensure that is to work when the rest of the world is sound asleep, eliminating potential interruptions. Night owls, you’ll have to apply this idea by reversing it.

The second big block of work for me is exercise. Because my energy wanes later in the day, there is nothing worse than sludging through a workout after a full workday. If I don’t exercise in the morning, I won’t exercise at all! This block comes second, but only because I want to use my best mental energy on the first ninety-minute block. You might reverse these two blocks, starting by moving your body before you move your mind.

Creative work requires you to use your mental faculties, which has minimal impact on your physical energy.

Front-Loading Your Day

There are good reasons to front-load your day. First, doing your blocks when no one else wants your time (or at least no one in your time zone!) is an excellent way to support what Cal Newport calls Deep Work, work that gets your full focus and your best energy.

Second, most of us are exposed to more interruptions throughout the day: emails, text messages, phone calls, and people walking into our workspace to ask for our help. Because it is difficult to manage the interruptions, it’s important to do meaningful work early, before you lose control of your day.

Finally, devoting your best energy to your priorities improves the quality of the work that matters most. Whatever has your attention needs your attention. If you’re having trouble making progress on an important project, try putting it first each day, and see if it gets easier to create the outcomes you need.

Filed under: Productivity

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