In one post here, waking up early was linked to increased productivity during the day. Productivity in people, however, is relative in the sense that people have now recognized that there are specific times of the day when their productivity is heightened. Linking cortisol levels in this post to increased productivity may demonstrate that the mornings would be the peak productivity hours for almost every normal human, but even during the day, observations still show otherwise. Your peak productivity period is that time of the day when you are more active in your work, or when you accomplish more tasks in your activities. Have you noticed that you do not produce equal results at all times? But it will take a step further to identify when that peak period is and maximize every single second you have within that time. Here in this post, you will learn how to better identify your peak productivity hours and maximize them.
Identifying peak productivity periods
In the post on how to make your day productive, early risers are shown to be more productive during the active day because of some endocrine factors that are released in the morning and more importantly, because of the active mindset that is established when you wake up early and as you get ready early in the morning. The advantage of identifying your peak productivity periods is that you get to have more time for other things outside work that matters to you, including family, play and other leisures. The joy you derive when you are working in your peak productivity is unsurmountable and you would wish it stays that way always, but as time goes on, you begin to wear off from your peak productivity hours. Knowing when to stop and do something else is key to living a balanced life.
Most employers and business people know well about productivity but very few people actually recognise its importance in our productive lives. We will also recognise the fact that peak productivity hours of the day could actually be in the late hours of the night to some people, the early morning or the late evenings for some other people. In a world where “the early bird gets the worm”, you hear things like, “early to bed, early to rise”. But what if you are not an early bird and you identify yourself as a “night-owl”? Let me take this subsection to clear some misconceptions about early-risers and late risers. According to the post here, rising early have absolutely nothing to do with peak productivity hours. Rising early have only been shown to have some beneficial effects on your productivity during the working hours of the day. However, that entails that you need to go to bed at an appropriate time to ensure that you have adequate sleep when you wake up in the morning.
What peak productivity hour means is “there is an exact hour when you are most productive during your 24-hour period and not just in the working hours of the daylight periods.
In a recent tweet with the hashtag #100DaysOfCode on Twitter, computer programmers were replying to the question of “what is their best time to code?”. Random answers showed different views as expected. Some would say they are at their best in the early mornings. Some others would insist on the evening. Others said the afternoons are their best times. There are peak productivity hours but many factors have influenced how people use their time to their best productivity. In this article, you will learn how to maximize your peak hours, how to maximize your day without burning out.
Day Birds and Night Owl
In the world we live in, employers and business leaders still believe the conventional 9 to 5 working hours must continue to be adhered to. But within these hours, individuals still have their own peak productive periods and that means they just pass out some of the time at work. In a world where activities fully burn out the whole day, many productive people have learnt to cut out some of their night hours for their work. Research has shown that people who work at night are able to circumvent the 9 to 5 schedules for their own productivity. It is quite understandable that there is a need to carve out some hours from the night since the whole day is used up with some other activities, most likely with the job you are doing for your employer. If you are the employee, you would need to make yourself available for the job at the periods specified whether you are productive or not, but when you return, you must try to find ways to maximize doing your own work at your peak productivity hours as much as possible.
Before we go on to how to identify your peak productivity hours and maximize productivity, let us first look at some factors that affect productivity.
Factors That Affect Productivity
Rest and Sleep
Rest and sleep form the core of the body’s restoration engine. It is like refuelling after a long ride. Adequate rest and sleep boost brain functions, repair the brain’s interneuronal connections and help to restore the brain to its maximum function. Most people think they can maximize time by completely taking away sleep and rest from their lives but they ultimately run to the dead of inescapable body breakdown and lack of productivity. Sleep has been shown to;
Help the brain work faster and more accurately,
Facilitate your understanding of new information,
Solidify old memories and information,
Help remove unwanted memories for better productivity,
Helps your brain think more creatively,
Help clear out harmful toxins from the brain,
Helps regulate appetite and,
Help keep your body looking good.
Lack of sleep is dangerous to your brain and to your productivity in general. Excessive sleep is also a sign of some emotional or mental disturbances that may also hamper your productivity. But deliberately depriving yourself of some quality sleep is detrimental to your productivity. No matter when your peak productivity hours falls, you need adequate rest and sleep to function maximally. Studies have shown that most people are more productive within few hours after sleep or rest. Such that it now appears that the peak productivity periods are not fixed but depends on the amount of rest and sleep you have received.
State of the Mind
This plays a key role in how well your brain functions. When there is any disturbance to your mind, you would definitely not be at your best form even if you try to ignore the challenges of your mind. This is a major factor that affects your productivity because your readiness to perform is usually based on your immediate motivation, derivable long-term benefits and your emotional stability.
Nutrition and Diet
A study has tried to link assimilation to either a state of hunger and a state of maximum satisfaction. One school of thought accepted that assimilation is heightened when you are hungry because some neuroendocrine factors are released. But it is important to note that willingness and motivation are beyond just some neuroendocrine substances. Although this plays a major role in affecting our emotions and feelings, the body still needs to feel okay to venture into the task. Nutrition and diet also help your brain to develop well and function maximally. The brain needs energy on a per-second billing, and when you cut off the energy supply for a minute, your body tries to get alternative sources of energy for your brain. This you can make easy for everyone by just eating a good and well-nourished meal. Many of the vitamins and minerals derived from the food we consume also help in brain development and function.
Leisure and Play
The common saying the “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” has been universally accepted but very few people actually understand the extent of its importance. When you keep working, your productivity gradually declines as time goes by. You soon become burnt out and unable to continue. Many people try to boycott the tiredness by refusing to stop and grab some flavoured coffee or their favourite ice cream, and they end up wasting the whole time doing nothing really productive. Leisure and play are grossly important to your productivity.
This is a component of motivation that goes beyond the physical reward systems. Passion is the inner satisfaction you derive when doing something you have become interested in. When passion is not acquired or sustained for a given task, there will absolutely be no real productive hours not to talk of peak productivity hours.
Peak productivity hours are based on when people receive the most enhancing stimulus for productivity. To some people, a quiet, dark atmosphere of the night makes their imaginations go wild and their creative acumen begin to peak steadily. The whispering morning bird sends sweet melody waves down the ears of some others with associated heightened productivity. To others, the bustling atmosphere of the warm afternoon motivates them to do better at their work. Working at the odd period is like climbing uphill, the resistance you are trying to surmount is really great.
Focus and Distractions
Distractions are one major thing that determines when your peak productivity period(s) is/are. Certain environmental stimuli could enhance focus/distractions or reduce them. The more focused you are, the more productive you will be.
When it comes to productivity, there are some misconceptions out there that need to be debunked or at least, talked about. 5 common myths or misconceptions will be talked about in the following subsection.
Productivity Myths Debunked by Scientific Evidence
This is a generally accepted statement that has created a life-long debate among workers of different categories. But because the society is structured along the lines of “the early bed”, this side of the debate seems to be on the victory edge over “the night owls”. Scientists have shown that the early birds do not always get the worm, most probably because they are inherently adapted for such. Such people who do not experience good productivity in the morning hours are, as a matter of fact, the night owls.
The Internet is a Distraction
The internet has made sourcing information to become a task simply for the fingers. With a mere input of your keywords, you get tons of data without having to travel far. The internet is also considered a distraction to productivity by many people, but that is not totally true. It could be a distraction indeed, but if you know your way around it, you would narrow your search query to the best fit for your desired result. Thus, avoiding more distractions.
You Should Never Work at Home
Working at home has its own side effects. Its benefits involve easy access to recreation and refreshments. Telling your daughter, son, nephew or niece that you are busy is like telling them to do more. There are distractions in the home, but where are there no distractions. Many people decide to make offices somewhere outside the home just to avoid those distractions. Recent events like the novel coronavirus outbreak have revealed that working from home is possible and it could even guarantee greater efficiency and profitability when compared.
Keep Your Nose to the Grindstone to Get Things Done, No Stopping
This is for those who think they would rather die than stop working. There are times when you are already tired, you just don’t understand what you are doing anymore but you are encouraged to just show some willpower. According to researcher Roy F. Baumeister, willpower is a limited resource, one that we deplete through hard, focused work. He conducted a study involving college students that demonstrated this effect. One group of students were allowed to eat chocolate chip cookies. A second group was asked to resist eating the cookies (an act of willpower). Both groups were then asked to solve complex math problems. The first group of students, the ones who heroically resisted the temptation of freshly-baked cookies, performed poorly on the test. Many of them simply gave up. Meanwhile, the students who ate the cookies did fine. Baumeister opined that the first group “used up” their willpower by resisting the cookies, and had little left over to deal with the math problems.
We need to take regular breaks to restore our flagging willpower. That’s how we’re built. It’s how we’re designed. Ignoring that fact will only hurt your productivity in the long run.
Multitasking makes you more Efficient
Multitasking means different things for different people. To one it may mean doing drafting an electronic memo while simultaneously answering a phone call. To another, it may mean dropping the phone before you continue your memo. But either way, multitasking involves making mental switches. These switches are infinitesimal but as small as they are, the energy lost in the switches could accumulate to cause a reduction in mental power in the long run.
Multitasking makes you do more things within the shortest possible time, but efficiency is not guaranteed to be greater.
How To Identifying Your Peak Productivity Hours
To identify your peak productivity hour, I will spell out the following steps:
Keep track of how you spend your day
Note down factors that affect your energy levels/motivation
Aim to accomplish a significant task at intervals
Create a pattern
Understand your ultradian rhythm
Record your data on a spreadsheet/notes/graphs, etc
Keep Track of How You Spend Your Day
Keep a journal and list down everything that happens throughout the day. Start from the time you wake up and end when you go back to bed. A practical way to achieve this is by keeping a diary of your activities at the end of the day.
Note Down Factors That Affect Your Energy Levels/Motivation
These factors could be environmental or associated with work-related stress or caffeine intake. It is important you identify the factors that are grossly affecting your energy level or motivation to work. Certain environmental factors like wind ambience, silence or bustling noise, cold, warm or hot atmosphere are associated with certain times of the day and they could affect your motivation states. Once you identify the factors that affect you either positively or negatively, it will be easier to identify which time of the day you receive the maximum positive conditions.
Aim To Accomplish A Significant Task Every 1.5 – 2 Hours
When you do this, you are trying yourself at different times with the aim of identifying when you perform best. It is important that you rate your performance or assign a score to it based on your motivation, energy and focus.
Create A Pattern
The best way to achieve consistency is to form a pattern. Even when you identify your peak productivity hours, you must do so against a pattern. In other words, you should try different schedule patterns and record your performance. Take, for instance, a pattern of sleeping or doing some activity after some regular intervals or after performing a task, but don’t forget to observe your performance trends. Keeping track of your productivity throughout the day may seem like a tedious process. But once you have a month’s worth of data, a pattern should be visible enough.
Understand Your Own Ultradian Rythm
Even without actively doing some personal experiments, you can sometimes visibly see when you love working most. Your body naturally sets its own ultradian rhythm based on how much motivational stimuli it receives at such points. Just like the circadian rhythm of sleep that occurs periodically once every day, ultradian rhythms are periodic only that they occur more than once every day. Your peak periods are more than one on each day, and you must study yourself to find them out and maximize them. For me, I have understood that I could buy a lot of time from the night. So when I realised this, I have learnt to maximize my nighttimes. There are also times of daylight hours that I also flow, that is the more reason why it is important to find out the specific periods or stimuli that motivate you.
Record Your Data On A Spreadsheet
This enables you to easily notice the times and days when you have the most energy. The patterns will be clearer and you will better understand the optimal time to take the most challenging tasks and when you should be taking a break.
The essence of identifying your peak productivity is that you will be able to understand more about your own personal productivity so that you can optimize it. You will then be able to understand how to arrange your daily tasks in order of importance or to suit when you will optimally perform them. To maximize your productivity hours, ensure that you protect your peak hours from distractions, intrusions, play or frivolities. Set other times for play instead.
Now that you have known how to identify your peak productivity hours, let’s see how you can maximize your productivity with this knowledge.
How To Maximize Your Peak Productivity Hours
If you want to be productive, the single most important piece of advice you need to remember is that you should learn to do your most important, tasking or high priority jobs during your peak hours. Such that you master the ability to synchronise your activity based on your best moment vis-a-vis. More than knowing how to measure your productivity, it is important to track your motivation, energy, and focus. This is the purpose of identifying peak productivity hours and the major reason for doing this is to align yourself to effectively work with your body and not against it.
It doesn’t mean you will not have to work against the body at some times based on deadline requirements or volume of work you still have to accomplish but it is best to listen to your body and work with it rather than always tell it what to do. At your peak, you should be working on tasks that involve creative brainstorming, problem-solving, top-level reasoning and critical thinking, while routine and less complex tasks should be done when your body is not as engaged or focused and leisure reserved for other times when your body is worn out.
Schedule your Tasks
You need to stop scheduling your tasks based on the time of the day and start scheduling them around your energy level. Time may be seen as a valuable resource, but energy is actually your most valuable currency. Even if you have all the time in the world, you won’t be able to get anything done if you don’t have the energy to do it. This is why it’s important that you listen to your body and try to figure out what time of day you have the most energy. Remember, peak hours differ from one person to another. Hence, there’s no reason for you to feel bad if you can’t catch up with the early birds.
It is also important that you time yourself and obey the timing as much as possible. Even though it is not the best to work against pressure, you still need to set targets for yourself. Timing yourself is not much like when someone else is the one timing you but it still works to ensure that you finish your tasks in time by maximizing your peak productivity periods as much as possible.
Even if you don’t finish the task before the time target, which you must try to achieve, you should go get some few minutes rest after which you must move on to your next project or task.
Develop a Consistent Routine
You should understand that routines are important because they help build a sense of semi-automated workflow such that, with time, you find yourself working subconsciously at the right times. After knowing your peak periods, it is time to train your body to get used to working with it. For example, I could plan to go to bed early, say 10pm, because I want to keep up with one of my peak periods at 5am. If I do this consistently, I would have succeeded in building a routine or sleeping habit that favours my productivity.
Catch Up On Sleep
Sleep is one important modifiable factor as far as daily routines are concerned. It is highly required that you sleep for at least 6-8 hours every day but the exact hours you would sleep depends on your sleep cycle. Many different factors can modify your sleep cycle including emotional and stress-related factors. Though sleep is important, many people have often been caught sleeping over their peak periods for several reasons. However, it is important to understand how to get the best sleep without encroaching into your peak productivity hours. The two important things to note here are;
Adopt a good sleep pattern that favours your productivity
Get at least 6-8 hours of sleep daily
Set Daily SMART Goals
In order to make the most of your day, you need to set SMART goals. SMART goals mean they have to be (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely). This ensures that you maximally optimize your time for the most achievable tasks. You can also break your complex tasks into smaller and achievable units and tackle them from there.
Quit Multitasking as much as Possible
Many people like to think of themselves as amazing multitaskers. I think I am one of such people but the simple secret to quitting unhealthy multitasking is to know the right time to end a task before you go on to another. This is because the brain has different algorithms for different tasks and when you change too frequently or too early, you force the brain to switch its logic of operation too often and this will affect your productivity in the immediate long run. Multi-tasking does not always ensure efficiency. It’s true, you can get better at multi-tasking with time but you must realize that some tasks are in themselves “heavy-duty” and are not required to combine with any others.
Go With The Flow
The flow is when you have become so absorbed in what you are doing that you do not realise that time is passing anymore. Getting in the flow is something that is more difficult to achieve but the moment you find yourself in the flow, you must train yourself to stay absorbed in it until it elapses.
There is really no fine control over when you get in the flow but one simple hack to get in is to keep steering your focus and minimize distractions, especially when you have the right working environments until the flow comes to catch up with you.
Eat The Frog
Eating the frog means changing the priority to tasks you dread the most. It means doing seemingly more difficult tasks first before going on to the seemingly less tasking ones. When you eat the frog, your mind would be at ease knowing that your day will only get easier from that point on.
Visualize Your Desired Success
Motivation comes when you visualize the desired end product of your projects. This helps you to keep the flow and keep working when you are at your optimal motivation and energy level. This makes you think of your tasks at all times even when you are not actively working. That way, you generate new ideas for your project that you will explore when you enter your productivity period. You can even write out plans and ideas pending when you will get on the table. This can also build your motivation when you imagine some beautiful ideas you really need to execute as soon as possible. Thus, extending your peak productivity period.
Say No To Time-wasters
Your productivity periods are special hours that you should guard jealously. You should spend these hours trying to accomplish important tasks rather than wasting them on frivolities with friends whose peak periods may not be the same as yours. Other things like binging on TV shows for extended periods will not be considered a productive activity, except if you absolutely need to take such breaks. When you identify that it is time to begin work, say an absolute “NO” to procrastination. So there is a need to identify your time-wasters and make the conscious decision to choose productivity over procrastination.
Understand Your Role
This is very important because very often, you see people take up responsibilities that they are not supposed to take up. Try not to play good or nice to the detriment of your own achievements. You will end up not being appreciated and you may not even be considered in the end. Even if it means that you will be seen as rude or truant or even annoying, learn to sneak out when you realise that whatever you are standing up for is not actually your role.
In a business setting, when you understand your role in the company, you will less likely take up tasks that you should not be taking in the first place and this wastes your productive time both for the business group and your own personal development.
Group Tasks and Achieve Them Together
When you group tasks together according to similarity, it makes the job a lot easier and efficiency is maximized. For instance, try processing your paper works together within a time window after which you can move on to clear your emails and do other soft jobs. The more similar the tasks are within a group, the better.
Take Your Breaks Seriously
In your ideal work schedule, what does taking a break look like? If you answered “working over lunch”, then you need to start taking your breaks easily. Instead of rushing through your day, take time to eat a quiet lunch or have a cup of coffee without looking at your phone or computer. Taking a real break will renew your energy and refresh your mind for what’s up ahead.
Create a Conducive Work Environment
There are some generally justifiable determinants for what constitutes a conducive working environment. Adequate ventilation, space and noise regulation are important factors that should be well controlled for maximum productivity. These little environmental factors may not seem like a great deal but they can seriously mess up your creativity and productivity. You can more easily get in the flow and sustain it than when your immediate working environment is not conducive. As far as the environment is concerned, it is worth noting that it is not always about neatness or messiness because some people can actually get more work done in a messy room, while others need to have a pristine stainless space to accomplish their tasks.
Take a Previous-Week Review
It is important that you track your progress as you go. Monitoring your progress can help you better understand your peak productivity period. It can also help you recognise how you can step up above some lapses and limitations to your productivity habits.
A daily evaluation is better but if you can’t frequently do that, a weekly review would be just sufficient. This is time to reflect on your schedule and find out areas you can still improve upon. The evaluation process should take the following into account;
Which new projects can I take up?
How can I achieve my desired goals faster?
After a thorough past-week evaluation, you normally discover two things. First, your lapse that you need to work on. And next, your achievements that you may not have commended. But there is a need for you to recognize your small achievements and reward yourself for them. This can go a long way to boost your motivation and in turn, productivity. As an example, what is wrong if you go out to see a movie with a friend after achieving a feat in your projects?
Develop Habits That Make You More Productive
One would say that going for a jog in the morning not only keeps him/her physically fit but that it also keeps them mentally alert all through the day. But for you, does taking a morning coffee trigger you to start your day with enthusiasm? Then, that means it is a habit you could develop for more productivity. You should make a list of your habits and look out for those that are hindering your productivity and uphold those that boost your productivity. This will mean that you could have a “Don’ts List” containing things you should not do. For example, playing mobile games all day or going on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook for extended periods without actually doing anything meaningful there.
Focus On The Now
This is almost the same as going with the flow but it is not exactly the same. This entails that you stay focused on what you are doing at the moment without letting your mind wander off to some of your future tasks. It is normal to have new ideas wander into our heads while doing something else but to avoid messing up that period with your current task, just scribble down your ideas on paper and continue with your job at hand. There is also the temptation to let vague and negative thoughts of the past occupy your mind but you must find ways to keep positive energy at all times. Yoga, meditation and other mind exercises can help focus your mind.
Maximize Gap Time
Do you remember those little blocks of time that pass when you are at the ATM or driving to work? There is a post here on four domestic activities that are taking your time. One of a few of them are actually hilarious there but on a serious note, you could steal a lot of time from those gap times. Learn to maximize your gap times to be productive. You could read up some news or research an idea while waiting on the ATM line, or listen to a resourceful audio material or an inspirational TED talk while driving. It’s more like multitasking but it’s actually not. It is you putting your gap time into maximum use.
Be Kind To Yourself
Last but not the least, you must be kind to yourself. The fact that you miss out on some periods does not mean you have to beat yourself so hard for not meeting up. It may even be possible that you are deficient in one or more of the tips above but that is not enough to crucify yourself. there is always room for improvements but you must be kind to yourself while realising that even the best and most productive people out there also had their downtimes too. Free yourself from crash programmes, that is, having to achieve every single task perfectly within a very short time. Be kind to yourself, take some breaks, review your progress, and never forget, let every day count.
I am a seasoned writer, not because I am some genius but thanks to many years of trials, failure, and near successes. I curate the most content on this website; all geared towards making you a better and happier audience.