Let’s talk about peak productivity hours.
Look – not all working hours are created equal, and no one should be expected to be productive throughout their work day. The way the traditional 9-5 work day is created does not lead to the most productive workplace because you are given a daily time frame in which to complete tasks, but with that comes no roadmap on how to navigate that time frame and get the most out of it.
Our energy levels fluctuate throughout the day, directly impacting our ability to focus and be productive. In this article, you will find out how to identify your peak productivity hours and how to best use them to your advantage.
How to discover your peak productivity hours
In order to discover what your peak performance hours are, you will need to collect data about the way you typically work. This will serve as a basis for understanding how to maximize your time.
To collect the data, keep an hourly log of your workflow throughout the day for an extended period of time, for at least a week or two, ideally a month. Keeping this log over time will help provide an accurate representation of what a typical workday looks like and when you are the most productive.
What metrics to use in your productivity log
On an hourly basis during your work day, focus on tracking these items:
- Tasks you are working on
- The time it takes to complete those tasks
- How alert, energized, focused, and productive you feel
- How long you are able to focus, and what possible distractions are around you
Overall, you want to find out when you feel the most energized and productive on any given workday and what might contribute to your daily wins and losses.
Some sources suggest that we are the most productive within the first few hours after waking up, while other studies have found that peak productivity happens around lunchtime. This shows that some people can be productive right at the start of the day, but others need some time to dive into deep work.
More broadly speaking, researchers have also found that Monday and Tuesday are the two most productive days of the week, whereas Thursday and Friday are the least productive. In simple terms, this means that you have more energy after a recharge at the beginning of a time period and less toward the end.
Regardless of what the consensus is, you should not assume when your personal peak productivity hours are, but rather collect evidence in real-time and act accordingly. To get a more nuanced picture of how exactly you are spending your work day, consider using a time tracking software, such as DeskTime, on top of your daily log.
How to maximize peak productivity hours
Now that you’ve got the data on when you are the most productive, the work doesn’t end here. Even if you know when your peak productivity hours are, there are still potential mistakes you can easily make that might be stalling your progress, such as taking on too much work, wasting productive hours on mundane tasks, starting your day off in the wrong way, not having task management systems in place, or not allowing yourself to take enough breaks.
Here’s what you want to do.
Plan to do the most important, labor-intensive tasks during your most productive hours. If you’re the most productive in the early hours of the day, block off that time for the highest-priority projects and leave the more non-essential tasks, such as answering emails, to the afternoon.
If you are able to, try to plan out the next work day at the end of the previous one so that you have an outline of what the day ahead will look like and not waste precious productive hours figuring out your to-do list.
Limit distractions during deep work. This is an essential component of maximizing your peak productivity hours and increasing your ability to focus. Email, phone, noisy environments, and impromptu meetings and chats with coworkers are all major distractions at work, so make sure to eliminate those when working on critical tasks that require full attention.
Know when you are likely to feel unmotivated and how to pivot. Sometimes there are external factors outside of your control that might be hindering your ability to be productive, so have some strategies in place to be flexible when necessary. For example, if you know you feel completely drained after stressful meetings and one happens to take place in the middle of your productivity window, don’t push yourself to be productive if it doesn’t seem like the best use of your efforts. Instead, switch to doing tasks that require less brain power, which will allow you to still do work even if you don’t have a lot of energy.
Avoid multitasking. Simple as that. Again and again, research has shown that we actually get done less, trying to do more and splitting our attention between multiple tasks at once. Maybe it creates a false sense of feeling like a superhuman, but multitasking is known for negatively impacting our productivity levels, and there is no need for trying to prove the science wrong in this case.
Once you’ve implemented some changes, make sure to track your progress and evaluate whether or not they have made a difference. Do you feel like you’re getting done more? Do you feel like you’ve nailed identifying your productivity window but still struggle with cutting out distractions? Assess how your work day has changed and see if there are any further adjustments necessary.
Keep this in mind
Remember that working longer hours will not directly correlate to getting more work done. Instead, the most effective approach is knowing when your peak performance hours are and using them efficiently.
Organize your tasks from highest to lowest priority and disperse them across the workday based on your energy levels throughout the day. Collect data about how you operate at work and, based on the data, strategically plan for deep work hours, breaks, and less important work, and you will notice your work day become more enjoyable. Good luck!
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