How Can CIOs Become More Successful?

It turns out that what time of day we work to become more successful matters
It turns out that what time of day we work to become more successful matters
Image Credit: DennisM2

I would like to be more successful. Would you? I think that there are several points during the year that we all have the realization that we’d like to be able to accomplish more based on the importance of information technology than we are currently able to do. When one of these times swings around, we make a promise to ourselves to get more done, become more creative, etc. However, it turns out that we’re overlooking one very important factor: just exactly how much the time of day matters to our performance.

The Power Of Time

All time is not created equally. Scientists have been studying how we learn for over a century. Initial studies showed that people were able to learn things more easily in the morning than later in the day. These studies have continued and it turns out that the people doing the studies have been able to reach three major conclusions about how we learn. The first of these is that our mental abilities are not static things. Instead, they have a habit of changing over the course of a day. The normal human being’s day consists of roughly 16 hours of being awake each day. During this time our mental abilities will change in a regular, foreseeable manner. This means that at different points during the day, the person with the CIO job will be faster, more creative, and smarter than at other times.

The next thing that scientists have discovered is that how our mental abilities change can be quite significant. How good you are when you are at your best in comparison to how bad you are when you are at your worst can be compared to your change in behavior when you drink the legal amount of alcohol. What all of this means is that time of day effects can explain up to 20% of the variance in human performance and mental ability as we move through the day.

It turns out that what we are spending our time doing can also have an impact on our performance. What this means is that how we do depends on what we are doing. Scientists have shown that we are more effective at some tasks when we tackle them during the morning and other tasks when we take them on at night. I’m pretty sure that most of us can concur with this because there have been times when we’ve sat done to do something and just not been able to get started on it. At the same time, there are times when we sit down to do something and we seem to fly right through the task.

How To Become More Successful

Guess what? It turns out that each of your days can be divided up into three different parts. There is a peak, a trough, and a rebound. Most people in the CIO position experience. these different parts in this order. However, there are some of us, night owls, who experience them in reverse order. When we are peaking, our ability to focus on tasks and projects is at its best. In the morning, when we wake up, our body temperature will start to rise. This rising body temperature will boost our alertness and our energy level. This will improve our powers of deduction and our ability to concentrate. This heightened ability will generally crest sometime in the late morning or around noon. During this time we are at our most vigilant. During this time we can concentrate and keep outside influences from distracting us.

Good things can’t last forever. Our alertness and energy levels tend to start to fall off during the afternoon. This drop off is a package deal: with the drop comes a decrease in our ability to remain focused. This is the second phase, the trough, and it generally occurs in the early to midafternoon. Studies of students taking tests in classes has shown that when tests are taken in the afternoon, scores decrease almost as though the students had missed two weeks of classes. We need to understand that during the trough period of our day, our good intentions and our effectiveness will start to disappear. So what should we do? Since we know that this is not going to be an effective time for us, we should fill this time with mindless administrative work. This can include such tasks as filing papers, answering emails, and completing expense reports.

The good news here is that there is a third stage to to your day. This is the rebound stage. This stage tends to occur in the late afternoon and early evening. During this period, you will have the ability to do different types of tasks. We tend to do better with problems that require creative rather than algorithmic types of thinking. During this period of time, we are going to be less vigilant than during our peak time. However, we are going to be more alert and in a better mood than when we were in our trough. This combination of attributes provides us with some benefits. Our improved mood will make us be more open to new ideas. The reduction in vigilance allows us to experience a few distractions that can actually help us to spot connections that we may not have seen before. This is the time period in which we should have our brainstorming sessions and creative pursuits.

What All Of This Means For You

The desire to become more successful is something that we generally experience a few times each year. We have a tendency to create lists of what we want to accomplish and how we want to make it happen. However, all too often we don’t take into account what time of day we are going to be performing work and it turns out that this is very important.

Our abilities change over the course of a day. Our days are roughly 16 hours long and during that time period we are going to have both highs and lows. Our mental abilities are not static. In fact, the difference between our highs and our lows can be quite startling. What we need to understand is that we will be better situated to perform certain tasks at different times of the day. It turns out that our days are divided into three different periods: a peak, a trough, and a rebound. The peak occurs during the morning and its when we can be at our most focused and productive. This is followed by the trough which occurs in the midafternoon and that’s when we are best suited to doing busy work. Finally, at the tail end of the day we experience a rebound that allows us to be at our most creative.

The good news is that CIOs can become more successful. In order to make this occur, we need to understand that our abilities change over the course of a day. We will have our highs and our lows. Being aware of this daily cycle will allow us to schedule our activities in order to maximize our productivity and to become the success that we know that we can be!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that there is anything that you can do to extend the peak period of your day?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Based on what we’ve all be reading in the newspaper and seeing online, I think that it’s pretty clear that anyone who is aware of the importance of information technology knows that Cybersecurity is a big priority for the person with the CIO job. The number of hacks of companies has been on the rise as has been their scale. The possibility of your company being disrupted by an electronic theft is starting to seem more and more likely. Unfortunately for all of us, the line between state sponsored attacker and independent operator is also starting to become blurred. Clearly this is something that CIO’s need to deal with, but how?

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