The best time of day to do everything at work, according to science
At work, a calendar filled with meetings and deadlines often dictates the cadence of our days.
But despite what tightly-timed agendas might try to insist, our internal body clocks are secretly running the show. Scientists call this personalized, daily pattern of sleep and wakefulness a circadian rhythm.
Whether you know it or not, our bodies have a specific, set programming schedule for the best time of day to concentrate, spark new ideas, and experience peak performance.
Scientists have tracked how cognitive abilities rise and fall, and found that most of our brains follow a neatly predictable pattern of cognition that fluctuates hour by hour, throughout the course of a day.
Author Daniel Pink revealed his formula for a perfect, science-backed workday in his 2018 New York Times bestseller "When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing."
The strategy for your own perfect day might differ from this (depending on if you're more of an early riser or a night owl), but in his book, Pink reveals a basic formula for a better work schedule, whatever time of day you tend to plug in. We've added in a few other science-backed ways to make your workday better, too.
Take a look.
Almost all of us fall into a predictable mood pattern each morning.
Our attitudes brighten in the morning. As we wake, we become happier, warmer and enjoy work more. The good feeling typically peaks somewhere around noon.
So it might be best to schedule important meetings and earnings calls during these happier morning hours.
You're likely better at keeping distractions at bay in the morning.
If you’re taking a break from work and going to the doctor, you might want to make it a morning appointment. Studies show that's when caregivers are more likely to wash their hands and diagnose more problems.
Your stress hormone levels also tend to be higher right after you wake up in the morning — putting the body on high alert — so it's a good time to soak in the advice of others.
Do any critical analyses in the morning, when your powers of logic and deduction are also at their sharpest.
Morning is generally not a great time for more simple tasks, however. Keep the email-checking, online shopping, and errand-running to a minimum.
Instead, you might want to do more of those mundane chores in the afternoon.
Afternoon drowsiness is no small thing. The effects of an afternoon slump can be as strong as a stiff drink.
Take a lunch break at some point.
Not all good work gets done in the morning. The so-called afternoon slump is actually a great time to solve problems that rely on insight and creativity.
So go ahead and get those creative juices flowing in the afternoon.
However, If you need to keep computing and doing more vigilant cognitive work in the afternoon, adding in a few well-scheduled breaks can help keep you going.
Or get outside.
The worst time of day for your brain tends to come crashing in around 2 or 3 p.m. During this rough patch, you may want to recharge with a little coffee and then a 20-minute power nap.
If you’re a pro athlete, work out in the afternoon to boost your performance.
Finally, take time for a little pause to reflect on the day before you flee the office at night.
Of course, not everyone’s internal clock is wired the same way.
Generally speaking, around one in five people is a night owl, while roughly 60 to 80% of us do our best in the mornings.
Whatever time of day you work best, it's important to keep in mind that energy levels rise and fall throughout the day. Give yourself a break every now and then to recharge and refocus.
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