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“What if You Were at Your Best?” Productivity Advice from Jason Womack

If you want to be more productive tomorrow, there is just one thing to do. Not 5 things, not 30 things. And, this one thing may surprise you.

I’m not going to say “get your inbox to zero.” No advice to download a new free app (that will upsell you after a few uses). You don’t need to unplug your devices or set an out-of-office message telling people you “only check email at 10 in the morning or 2 in the afternoon.”

Most people think that their productive day starts when the alarm clock jolts them to “wake mode.” From the moment you wake up, there are random – often fleeting – thoughts about what needs to be done throughout the day.

The race is on to be and do your best.

Getting Started: Habits and Essentials

Every day of the week (yep, as someone interested in productivity, that means Saturday and Sunday too!) gives you the opportunity to repeat and strengthen the habits you have to get things done. What are some of your habits?

Did you know that your productive day tomorrow actually begins…right now? Of course, now is when “old” time management techniques would have you make a to-do list, or re-prioritize your most important things for the day. But I’m going to take a 21st century approach.

Do you know, I mean really know, when you’re at your best?

Okay, stop. There you go again, bringing the 1990’s in to the discussion. Please don’t tell me you thought, “I’m a morning person.” Or, “I work best at night after the kids are asleep.” I’m not telling you to think about what you would do if you had free, or ‘down’, time.

I’m not talking about THAT when; I want you to think about what it would take for you to be at your very best. I want to know what the ‘essentials’ are that make it possible for you to give all you’ve got to what you’re going to do. Take time right now and ask yourself, “When am I at my best?”

I’ll share some of my own with you here. If these make sense to you, great. If you need to modify and make them your own, please do so.

I am at my best when I eat a complete and balanced breakfast.
I am at my best when I say thank you to someone who helped me that week.
I am at my best when I ask for help right before I get frustrated or stressed out.
I am at my best when I exercise at least 45 minutes, 4 days a week.

The Productivity Inventory

I recently spent 6 months coaching a client with a very focused goal: she wanted to get her most important work done during the first half of the day. Over 20 years of building her business, she found that what she did in that early part of the day always produced positive results.

We started a basic tracking system. For two weeks, we talked regularly (sometimes daily) as she inventoried her morning routines, starting with the sound of her alarm clock ringing at 5:00AM every morning Monday through Friday, and 7:30AM Saturday and Sunday.

That led us to the discovery that she was doing more than 30 things between the time she woke up and approximately 11:00AM. So, we began modifying that routine.

You might be wondering, “What was she doing during that time?” Here’s a partial list (for the sake of the confidentiality clause I have with this client, I’m going to omit a few things). I know you’ll be able to relate:

Starting at 5:00AM:

  • Wake up, check email, calendar, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (all from bed)
  • Get up, make a bowl of oatmeal and a cup of coffee
  • Read headline articles across two online journals
  • Feed the dog a snack, put dishes in washer
  • Shower, get dressed


  • Commute, listen to morning radio talk show
  • At office, get a latte, walk toward desk
  • Check morning numbers on Intranet
  • Check in with two direct reports

…and the list went on.

In order to start working (much) more efficiently, we started a new inventory. I always do this with my clients; once we have the “issues” written down, then we go directly to this next activity.

Getting to Your Personal Best

Where did we start? She wrote a list titled, “I am at my best when…” Before you download or print the Personal Productivity Worksheet, watch this video. Then, click here to get the form and start assessing your personal productivity.

All done? Great. Remember when I said that your productive day tomorrow ACTUALLY starts today? This is what I mean. Review your list of 8 or even 10 “At my best when…” statements, and set yourself up to review and experience them as you head into the next 24 hours.

Tell us when YOU are at your best in the comment section below; this week, I’ll pick one commenter to receive a free copy of my book Your Best Just Got Better: Work Better, Think Smarter, Make More in the mail.

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