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Let’s divide work into two categories.
There’s “work,” and then there’s real work. “Work” is email correspondence, and group meetings, and other administrative tasks that are technically necessary, but don’t meaningfully contribute to your professional success.
Real work, on the other hand, encompasses those bigger projects and tasks that help you achieve your goals and your organization’s. It’s the kind of work that drew you to your job and your line of work in the first place.
That’s according to Laura Vanderkam, the author of several books on time-management and productivity, including most recently, “I Know How She Does It.” Vanderkam stopped by the Business Insider office in October and shared a practical tip for doing more real work and less “work.”
Put simply, schedule a “power hour” first thing every morning, when you work uninterrupted on a top-priority project.
This isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially when you arrive at the office to find your inbox overflowing and your boss on your case about a new assignment.
But if you don’t at least plan to spend the first 60 minutes of your day on something that matters, you may easily find yourself spending multiple hours wading through your inbox, attending to things that aren’t necessarily important or urgent.
“Recognize that certain aspects of work will expand to fill all available space,” Vanderkam told us, referring to email in particular. “We have to consciously choose to spend less time on email and carve out time for the important work that matters to us.”
For most people, the morning tends to be the best time to work on high-impact tasks. As psychologist Dan Ariely has said, we tend to be most productive in the first two hours after becoming fully awake.
A “pro-level” version of this strategy, Vanderkam said, is dedicating all of Monday morning to a bigger task that’s more speculative and requires some deep thought. Vanderkam likens this technique to “paying yourself first,” or putting money into your savings account before you spend it on anything else.
“The week can get away from you – and it will,” she said. “Stuff is going to come up. But at least you will have devoted that time to stuff that matters to you.”