You may have noticed that sometimes dealing with all the tasks and issues at hand takes only a couple of hours, while other times you are barely making any progress at all. Clearly, it would be a mistake not to factor in individual aspects, such as your mood and the way you are feeling at the time. But in most cases high productivity has to do with periods of peak brain power. We are most productive when we manage to work during our peak hours, while being unable to remain as focused and productive during our energy troughs. So, how to determine your most active hours and take full advantage of them?
Tracking your biorhythms: the golden key to high efficiency
Scientists discovered that our body (including the brain) runs on cycles. Each cycle lasts from one and a half to two hours. You can think about those cycles as a sine wave. In the active period we focus on the process, eventually reaching maximum concentration, at which point it starts to decrease little by little. After the active phase we hit a trough, our body requiring some down time and switching to energy saving mode.
Having calculated your individual pattern of those naturally occurring cycles, you can clearly understand which time intervals to save for most important tasks and which ones can be used for routine work or even rest.
How to determine your peak hours?
Everything depends on your time resources and determination. If you prefer to approach the matter formally, you can even determine such periods intuitively. The result, however, will not be too precise.
If you have some time on your hands, your premiere productivity time can be determined empirically. For a couple of weeks you will need to keep a diary, recording your performance when handling different tasks. Make sure to switch the tasks around, regularly shifting them in time. That way you will be able to identify periods during which you are capable of handling most complex and intensive tasks.
There is yet another way. It is the most accurate but quite laborious. A great option for perfectionists though 🙂 For a certain period (from a month to a year) try keeping a table of your concentration, energy and motivation levels on a 1-10 scale. It’s important to keep recording your results at the same times throughout the entire period of gathering the data. That way you will be able to identify patterns and figure out your peak productivity time during the day, as well as peak productivity days during the week.
How to use the data gathered?
Once you’ve determined the length of your high productivity cycle and your most productive time, all that remains is to understand what to do with this information. It makes the most sense to dedicate your peak hours to most complex and challenging projects requiring brain-intensive work. The troughs could be used for less demanding routine work, as well as – no matter how strange it might seem – for generating new ideas. Scientists discovered that during the periods of fatigue out brain tends to demonstrate creative “out of box” thinking.
Try to take full advantage of your peak hours and increased brain power, preventing any intrusions from colleagues or family members while you are at your most productive. At the same time, make sure to use your energy troughs for short restful breaks. Ideally, your research will also help you determine time periods after which you require a break to restore your strength.
Even once you’ve figured out your peak productivity hours, keep going. Try experimenting by changing your schedule. For instance, you could move your go to sleep and wake up times. As a result, for example, you might discover the wee hours to be harboring a wealth of potential for boosting your productivity even further.
Unfortunately, not all of us can freely plan our own working hours. For example, it’s quite difficult to make that happen working in an office and running errands for the boss. But even in those cases you always have some wiggle room to switch tasks around in order to work at your most efficient without overstraining yourself.