When it comes to productivity, are you a night owl or an early bird? You may not know the exact time of day you're most productive, but if you can identify your peak time of day, you can adjust your workday to make the most of it.
Here are a few ways to discover your own peak work times and put those to use in maximizing your own productivity.
Truly determining your peak times of day requires a serious period of self-reflection. It's important to honestly take a look at your day and note when you're feeling most and least energetic. If you can truly be honest with yourself, you may be able to identify your own peak performance times and put that information to use.
Chances are, you already are well aware of the times of day when you aren't productive, so start there. If you know you barely drag yourself to your office in the morning, only to stare blankly at your screen, you can immediately eliminate the possibility that you peak first thing in the morning.
In addition to your own personal highs and lows, take a look at your daily schedule. Are there certain times of day when you feel as though you can tackle any challenge? Are there other times when you're forced to continually nudge yourself to stay awake? It may take a few weeks, but if you pay close attention, you'll likely narrow it down.
Assessments From Others
If you can't honestly determine your own peak times of day, trust the people who are around you from the start to the end of the day. Ask those closest to you first. Your spouse, roommate or closest friends and relatives likely know you better than anyone. They'll probably have insights into when you're at your best. Do you always wake up ready to tackle the day, only to crash sometime around dinner? Or are you more likely to be up late, after everyone's gone to bed, finishing up your latest project?
Once you've asked your trusted relatives and friends, turn to coworkers or employees to determine what they've noticed. They may observe that you're at your best in the 8 a.m. staff meeting and tired out toward the end of the day, or vice versa. You may already suspect these things, but having the observations of an objective bystander can make a big difference.
If you need a little help with your self-assessment, try out a productivity tracker. These apps reside in the background on your computer, monitoring your activities throughout the day. After working as you normally would over the course of several days, you can usually identify trends that show exactly when you're most productive during the day. You can even continue to use the technology long after you've identified your peak times, since these tools help you set goals.
You don't need a special app to track your productivity, though. Using your daily planner, you can make notes on your energy levels over the course of each day. Set an alert at the top of every hour to briefly write out how productive you were over the previous hour.
Note your energy levels and how optimistic you are about getting things done over the next hour. After a week or two, look back over each day's notes and try to extract trends that can indicate your peak work times.
Once you've determined your own daily ups and downs, you can begin to make the most of them. Here are a few tips to help you remain productive throughout the day, even working through your productivity lags.
- Look at your to-do list each morning and assign the tasks that require the most brainpower to your peak hours.
- If early morning is difficult for you, spend that time cleaning out your inbox or planning your day.
- If you begin to drag in the period just after lunch, set that time aside to follow up on projects or meet with a colleague.
- Consider healthy pick-me-ups during your least productive times, such as a walk around the block or an energy-inducing snack.
- Adjust your work hours to make sure you're working during your best hours of the day.
Once you've learned to manage your daily peaks and valleys, you may find it easier to check off all the items on your to-do list. You may even discover that a shift in your daily work schedule can help you get more done while also enjoying some much-needed rest during your personal energy lows.