I’m sure you’ve noticed there are times of the day when you perform better than others.
Most people are either morning or evening people, though there are some with no discernible preference. I, for example, have a strong preference for the morning hours. I’m at my best from 8:30 till 11:30 a.m. I don’t waste that time reading emails. I rebound for some work from 7:30 till 9 p.m. And I never make important decisions after 9:30 at night.
Now there’s research to support the preferences most people experience. “The time of day when you think, matters,” University of Charleston psychologist Cynthia May says. If you’re a morning person, those hours yield significant performance differences from non-peak hours. The same principle holds for evening people. If you’re not sure which preference you can take the Morningness Eveningness Questionnaire (MEQ). It will provide data to determine your peak times. You can find the questionnaire online, at https://sleephabits.net/morningness-eveningness-questionnaire.
These preferences identify the times when you can repress distractions that so often break concentration. Your circadian rhythm — your body’s daily cycle of peaks and valleys — is not only important to know but it is also genetically determined. Ever wonder why people in other countries and cultures stop working or close shop between 2:30 and 4:30 in the afternoon? We, in the U.S., typically schedule important meetings and seminars in the afternoon and perhaps wonder why we have more heart attacks than other countries.
What about creativity? When is that time of the day is most conducive to that? Psychologists suggest that it’s best to schedule time for creative tasks at non-peak times for morning or evening preferences. This means very early morning or very early afternoons for most people.
All this information suggests you must have a healthy respect for biology during your daily work schedule. Yet the demands of business and the work day don’t necessarily respect your daily rhythm or your peak times for creativity and decision-making.
You have some options at work. You can daydream a little at off-peak times to boost idea generation. Use your productive time to prepare for key decisions. Use meditation and the practice of mindfulness exercises to stay focused and to refresh your business skills.
Holidays — like the so-recently passed Fourth of July — vacations and brief illnesses can get you off track in your productivity cycles. Personal discipline and routine can help maintain those peak hours that research shows are important for sustained productivity.
Protect your best decision-making times.