Do you find yourself reaching for an energy drink around 4 p.m. on a work day? Or are you just revving up for your day’s work? Finding your peak work hours is a great way to boost your productivity. We usually do know our own energy body/mind rhythms of energy, but if you examine your work/productivity patterns, you can maximize those times.
Morning Person vs. Night Owl
People usually describe themselves as a morning or night person. But you don’t have to buy into your own stereotype: you can take some control over those energy cycles and be more productive at supposedly “down” times, because that self-talk can become self-fulfilling.
In the “Flow”
Published in 1991, Mihaly Csikszenmihalyi’s book “Finding the Flow – the Psychology of Optimal Experience,” is a concept that’s still applicable to work styles today. When you’re in the “flow,” you are so absorbed in a task that you lose sense of time, you feel in control and things just click. A University of Chicago psychologist, he’s done numerous of studies on this phenomenon.
It doesn’t mean that to be your most productive, you constantly need to be in the flow. But approaching your schedule of work, goals, etc. with focused intention might just get similar results.
Pacing and Shifting your Rhythms
If you’re the night owl, experiment and start getting up earlier to begin shifting those rhythms. Have a goal to focus on getting more done before lunch than after. If you’re the professed early bird, try tackling more complicated, brain-engaging stuff later in the day when you’re fading. Do some of the mundane, “I’ll do it when I get time” tasks earlier in the day.
Be Purposefully Non-Productive – Take Breaks
You don’t have to change your entire work style or make yourself nuts trying to force something that’s not natural for you. Just be open to paying mindful attention to your most productive times, but allowing for flex.
Taking breaks or being non-productive is healthy. Research has shown that we’re only at our top performance in 90-minute segments. Even though it feels like “I have to finish this now while I’m on a roll (in the flow!),” you’ll be more focused after a break. Set time limits on non-productivity, too. (“How to LookProductive While Goofing Off”). If you don’t get back to it, you may blow off the rest of the day.
What are your peak working times?
Written by regular Jobacle contributor Nancy LaFever.