Don’t fool yourself. Afternoon fatigue is not necessarily caused by a lack of caffeine. It’s caused by the debilitating load that’s been on your back since you first scribbled down your “to do” list that morning. You’ve been hauling around an anchor all day. Your heaviest, most difficult tasks are still right there, lying at the bottom of your pack.
In climbing, there’s no ambiguity about the need to travel light. The more weight you carry, the harder your journey will be. In business, this takes on another meaning.
Think of your “to do” items as physical objects that you place in your backpack to help achieve your daily mission. When you’re climbing mountains, you carry only the precise number of aspirin tablets you need—and in business, you must learn to delay, eliminate, or reassign any activity that doesn’t help you meet your goals.
High-priority tasks are usually the most difficult ones, so they create the heaviest loads. These are the phone calls we don’t want to make, the industry research we need to conduct to understand a new client’s business requirements, or the meeting with a prospect who now seems to be leaning toward a competitor.
If you’re like most people, you may find yourself focusing primarily on easy tasks. You probably devote too much time to doing busywork, attending unproductive meetings, and in general, reacting to other people’s priorities. Just think what you could have accomplished if you spent that time meeting with prospective clients, or focusing on the tasks that bring in the most revenue instead.
To fight this afternoon fatigue, spend thirty minutes at “base camp” every day. Create a list of every activity you could conceivably focus on during the day. Include everything, especially the difficult tasks that are keeping you up at night.
Envision where you need to be at the end of the day in order to consider it a success. What tasks must you accomplish to meet that goal? Make sure they’re all listed. These are your high-priority items.
Transfer only the high-priority items to your daily calendar. Carefully evaluate how long it will take to complete each one. If they don’t fit within your time constraint, reprioritize until you get it right. Don’t overpack. Be realistic.
On the mountain, it seems as if we’re continually packing and unpacking, and repacking in our ongoing attempts to find the optimal load. During your thirty minutes at base camp session, try to pack and repack only once. Don’t over think it. Now, start climbing! When you plan your day well, you’ll find that afternoon fatigue turns into an afternoon boost that will carry you through your successful day.