Yesterday, I shifted parts of my morning schedule to attend an early-morning networking meeting. I rarely accept invitations to early morning meetings, because they interfere with my sacred morning routine.
Although it was an opportunity to get in front of a lot of people with my work, it wasn’t a no-brainer to accept.
Opportunities are not all equal.
Costs vs Benefits
Obviously, in evaluating any opportunity you must weigh the costs against the benefits.
But what are the costs?
Most people make the mistake of considering only the time they will use, weighed against what they stand to gain from the opportunity or what they might lose if they don’t accept the opportunity.
Time — in the linear sense — is rarely one of my top considerations. The primary considerations for me are energetic.
What does that mean, exactly?
Here are 5 of the things I consider when evaluating opportunities and requests for my time.
When I’m At My Best
One reason I rarely accept morning meetings is that I’m not at my most articulate in the morning.
How effective will I be at communicating my message and sharing about my work at a time of day that isn’t my ideal time to communicate with people, in general?
If the opportunity to meet new people and speak about my work comes at a time when I’m not my best, it’s not necessarily the best opportunity for me.
I could potentially make a bigger impact on my bottom line by presenting to a room with half the number of people in the early afternoon or in the evening, which are my more effective communication times.
Several years ago I taught the dreaded last slot in a full day continuing education program for real estate agents. At that time of day agents are eager to leave the room and get back to work, so the host was surprised when they stayed until the very end. I held the room because it was a time of day when I’m in peak communication mode.
The Energy Commitment
When external stimuli infiltrate my thoughts before I’ve had a chance to focus on my deep work, I find it much more challenging to focus on my deep work.
This extends beyond limiting the shallowness of social media and web surfing; it includes even “healthy” stimulus like reading and productive conversations.
In fact, often those thought-provoking stimuli are the worst offenders of my hijacked attention. Once my mind hooks into a juicy idea, I want to marinate it and write about it; this can come at the expense of other projects I had planned.
Networking events in particular carry a high energetic cost for me. They disperse my energy, requiring me to reset myself to turn back to internal facing work. This reset takes time and energy, leaving me less available for other commitments during the day.
If I give up 1–2 hours of my morning deep work time, I have to reallocate that time to another time in my day.
But it’s not that simple.
My 1–2 hours of deep work time in the morning are the equivalent of 3–6 hours in the afternoon or evening.
Shifting my deep work to a less creative time of day adds hours to my work and results in less optimal output.
If you define productivity as “output per hour” (a crude measurement that doesn’t fully encapsulate what productivity is), the time later in the day, after my mind has been agitated by external stimuli, is not as productive.
Imagine what would happen if you needed to work on a project in your home, and you realized you were locked out of your house. You would have to call the locksmith and spend energy and time to get back into your home. An early morning meeting takes me out of my zone during my peak creative time and can potentially “lock me out” of my creative zone.
Transition and Processing Time
One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen my clients make when scheduling their days is not factoring in processing or transition time after activities.
An hour meeting isn’t an hour; it’s the hour for the meeting plus the time I need for processing and whatever followup I must do.
I need space between activities to process and reset.
I’ve learned from my own experience and through my clients that people who are highly creative, energetically sensitive, healers, often need more time for transition and processing.
Scheduling in transition time is crucial to help me maintain peak energy throughout the day. I’ve also learned that those of us who experience ADHD tend to need more transition time.
After engaging with any external stimulus, whether a conversation, a workshop, book, or talk, I need space to process my thoughts and clear out the energy before I move on to other things.
As much as possible, I build the space for this into my day. I pad my calls, meetings, and classes with at least 15–30 minutes on the end to allow myself the space to process my notes in the moment.
If I don’t do this, I miss out on harvesting the fruits of the conversation, meeting, book, workshop, etc.
This means that when I commit time and energy to a morning meeting I’m not just committing the time and energy to that meeting. I’m committing to the meeting window and the time I need to process my thoughts and ideas and clear my energy.
The Residual Effect on My Rhythms
What we’ve been talking about so far is about time, but not necessarily linear time. Time moves in rhythm.
Understanding my rhythms and when I’m at my best helps me know when to accept an invitation.
Nothing in life happens in a vacuum. I know that if I adjust my routine on one day, the impact is not limited to that day. It will impact my rhythm and take me time to recalibrate. How much time it takes to recalibrate depends on what else is going on in my life.
I woke up yesterday at 4:30 am — this is out of sync with my natural rhythm. I can sustain that for longer if I also do a full workout (a good workout can generally compensate for shorter sleep). But attending the meeting meant I had to do an abbreviated workout. And I had a full day with a comedy performance last night, so I didn’t get much downtime.
The result was that today I had to allow myself to sleep later, to restore my energy and recalibrate. Today had to be a lighter day in terms of commitments, and I planned for that.
This doesn’t mean it was easy. I had to be extra compassionate with myself today to allow for a later wake up time and a lighter schedule to reset my rhythm.