Successful managers develop a knack for knowing the right time for making key decisions, brainstorming and conducting meetings, among many other aspects of meeting management.
When to make a key decision
Psychology professor Timothy Monk, Ph.S, D.Sc., from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, asserts that in the late morning, as your body temperature rises, along with your alertness, your brain is prime to be at its peak in processing information. Likewise, your problem-solving capabilities are enhanced at that time.
As your body temperature continues to rise, your mind is able to stay more alert. In any case, experiment with making key decisions in the late morning. Then, days and weeks later look back, and determine how well you appear to be doing.
When to make a tough decision
This “when to” is answered by offering the opposite: Don’t make a tough decision when you are hungry for food. Researchers say that when you have a difficult decision to make, put off that decision until after you’ve eaten…a great excuse to go to lunch!
Based on a study from the Columbia University Business School, good nutrition supplies the energy you need to stay refreshed and maintain clear thinking. After you’ve had a good breakfast or a decent lunch, you’re likely to be more consistent in your decision-making.
When to brainstorm for new ideas
Because you’re mentally sharp first thing in the morning, it seems like that would be an ideal time to brainstorm. However, a combined study from Albion College and Michigan State University suggests otherwise. If you want to attain fresh perspectives and creative solutions, brainstorming later in the day is likely to yield better results.
The researchers from the two colleges asked students to tackle and resolve six problems, at various hours over the course of a day. Among self-described “morning persons,” surprisingly, the most creative solutions occurred at 6 p.m. In other words, when the students were mentally tired.
The reverse was true among students who regarded themselves as “night owls.” When it came to brainstorming, they generated their most creative ideas in the morning. The takeaway from these findings: For whatever reason, when we are mentally fatigued, we’re better at creative thinking. How can this be? It seems counterintuitive, but the researchers discovered that since creative thinking requires participants to approach problems from different angles, when rested and clearheaded, participants will gravitate to the most logical solutions. Conversely, a fatigued or distracted brain generates more innovative ideas.
The takeaway: When you are rested and clearheaded, focus on tasks that require your deep concentration. When you are mentally fatigued, focus on innovative solutions to challenges you face.
When to start a scheduled internal team meeting
Begin as scheduled, regardless of who is still missing. Independent of your meeting’s length, it is necessary for you, as a meeting arranger or meeting host, to start meetings on time. This demonstrates to the stragglers that they are late and others arrived as scheduled. Organized managers start meetings on time!
Business meeting specialist Robert Levasseur suggests that at the start of any meeting, “Participants reach a common understanding of what they’re going to do and how they’re going to do it.” Hence, everyone needs to be present at the start.
When to read the fine print
Unbeknownst to many—except probably eye doctors—vision fluctuates throughout the day and can be somewhat blurry in the early morning. For most people, vision sharpens after a few hours.
Thomas Friberg, chief of retina services at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, contends that your vision is most likely to be at its sharpest in the early afternoon. So, when you’ve got a stack of financial reports to wade through, you’re probably better off tackling them at 1 or 2 p.m., as opposed to 9 or 10 p.m.
When to absorb instructions and new information
When you have to absorb new information, give yourself a good chance of doing so: When it’s quiet, you can relax and can devote your attention to the matter at hand.
The following advice goes against what many might advise, but I believe a favorable time for quiet study and reflection is either before or after hours. I’ve witnessed hundreds of work environments, many incorporating cubicle culture, that are too noisy or chaotic to be conducive to learning something new.
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At conferences and conventions where I speak on work-life balance, harmony and integration, I have been approached by countless career professionals who tell me that they need to find refuge to concentrate. Sound familiar?
Rather than seeking to ingest new information during the workday, especially on a topic or area where you might be a newbie, or where you might otherwise be deficient, designate one night a week, perhaps at home, and spend an hour or two in deep concentration. Or, arise super early and concentrate while it’s quiet.
You might need to bone up on software or technology being used at work. You might need to become familiar with a new process. There might be new procedures for something you’ve been doing for years, but you have to handle it now in a different way.
If you have a partner, schedule your study time in advance. If you have young kids, obviously, after they are asleep gives you your safest chance. If you live alone, the hours are up to you. No particular day of the week is better than another but it’s wise to avoid Friday after work.