You probably know already that you’re more productive at some times during the day. But do you know how to work out exactly when you peak, and how to utilise this to improve your performance, creativity and problem-solving abilities? This could be particularly useful if you are working at home, without your normal routine during the lock-down.
How to identify your peak productive time
Firstly, you need to identify when in the day you have the most energy, ability to concentrate, motivation and optimism? This is your peak productive time. For some, this is early in the morning, others right after lunch and for some, late in the evening.
Once you’ve got the time of your ‘peak productivity’ pinned down, you should then work out when during this time you normally have the least distractions. Perhaps you work best at 6am at the kitchen table when the household is still in bed? In more normal times, maybe you get your best work done when the rest of the office has gone out to lunch. You might have your best ideas during your hour-long commute, or in a coffee shop after you’ve dropped the kids off at their swimming class.
How to use your peak productivity time wisely
Your energy levels and ability to concentrate are cyclical. Most people have a natural energy cycle of about 90-120 minutes, depending on our individual brain wave frequencies. This is called our ultradian rhythm. “Studies have found that all sorts of things are affected by these cycles, such as dopamine levels, alertness, and especially attention are affected by these cycles,” explain curiosity.com.
One way to optimise on your peak productive time is to work in periods of 90 minutes, with a 20-minute break, before resuming another 90-minute work period. Building breaks into the working day allows your body to recharge and prolongs your productive time.
Do your worst tasks first. There’s a saying: ‘eat the frog first.’ It came from author Mark Twain, who reasoned that if you ‘eat the frog’ in the morning, you can go about the rest of your day knowing that the worst is behind you.
When applied to productivity, this theory implies that if you get your most challenging task out of the way first, the rest of your work will breeze by in no time. In addition, it gives you a sense of achievement and momentum for your other tasks.
Don’t feel obliged by the 9 to 5, particularly if you are working from home. If your job allows you, create a work schedule that allows you fully utilise your peak productive time.
Outside of the current pandemic lock-down, some companies offer flexible working, which can allow employees to customise their schedule to fit around their peak productive time and their outside-of-work commitments.
Identifying your peak productive time and learning how to utilise it fully can help you get more work done in less time. Ultimately, you’ll be able to improve your work/life balance and dedicate more time to the other things that are important to you.