Finding Your Best Time to Work

“The early bird gets the worm.” We’ve all heard the aphorism, but is it true? Are morning people more productive? In a word, no.

There really are early birds and late owls (and people in the middle), but there isn’t one way that’s “best”. Instead, the key to productivity is to understand your own circadian rhythms and schedule your day to take advantage of your most productive times. Here’s how.

Think About It

The fact is, you probably already know when your most productive time is. Spend a few minutes considering your average day and think about how you feel at each point. Do you find yourself springing out of bed, or do you need a few coffees?

Or do you get sleepy mid-afternoon, or are you just hitting your stride? Are you perhaps someone who falls asleep shortly after dinner, or do you get a rush of inspiration as the sun goes down and work furiously into the night? Jot down a quick graph of your daily energy ebbs and flows.

Keep a Journal

If reflecting on your usual day doesn’t help, try journaling for a few days. Once every hour, make a note of how you are feeling and what you are doing. After a few days, your usual daily rhythm should start to be clear.

Pay Attention to Mealtimes

The timing, quality and quantity of meals has a tremendous effect on how focused and productive we are. Some people feel sleepy after a large meal, while others can’t think if they are hungry.

While the basics of healthy eating are well known, each person’s response to food is highly individual. Scientists are working on tests that will let them prescribe the optimum diet for each person, but until then, paying attention to your body is the best tool we have. Chances are, you already know whether that bagel is going to fuel your day or send you into a stupor. If your goal is productivity, put that knowledge to use.

Scheduling Your Day for Productivity

Once you have a good idea of your best and worst times of day, as well as how food affects your productivity, it’s time to reschedule your day. If possible, change your work hours to fit your most productive times. If that’s not possible, try to schedule your most important work for your most alert times of day. Save your easy, repetitive work for the pre-noon hangry time or the 4PM slump.

If you know hunger affects you, stock up on healthy snacks for work. On the other hand, if big lunches make you sleepy, have a salad and chicken breast rather than the pasta. As you make changes in your schedule, keep notes on what works and what doesn’t. Before long, you’ll have optimized your day for productivity.

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