It’s a Monday afternoon at the office. The most you can do is send a few emails and browse LinkedIn while you try to stay awake. Fast forward to Tuesday afternoon and your mind is boggled with the amount of work you have because it wasn’t done yesterday. Full of energy and regret, you actually have a productive afternoon and manage to have spare time to get started on work that isn’t due for a few days. What gives?
It turns out there are peak times to be productive during the workday. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you when your most productive work hours are because they are different for everyone. However, I CAN tell you that it is possible to figure out what your productive hours are by tracking your day and paying attention to your mind and your body. Follow these tips below to become a more productive worker.
Find Your Rhythm
If you remember your days in biology and psychology class then you might recognize a term called REM sleep, which are sleep cycles that run 90-minute periods throughout the night. Throughout each cycle of REM, your body goes through periods of light and deep sleep, hence why sometimes you wake up in the middle of the night more easily than others. Opposite to the REM cycle, the Ultradian Rhythm is a 90 to 120-minute period that affects how alert and productive we are. Each period starts with arousal then wanes to fatigue. To find your rhythm, set aside a period of 120 minutes to try the following method below.
Find Your Method
There are a few methods that might work for you, but one method in particular might be the easiest. Take that 120-minute period I talked about earlier and break it down into smaller segments of time. Called the Pomodoro Technique, this method breaks your day into half hour segments of 25 minutes of focus and five minutes of rest. After completing four half-hour segments (that total 120 minutes), take a 15 to 20-minute break. Splitting your day into smaller bits of time will make your tasks more manageable and will provide you with a better work flow. The day will fly by before you know it.
Find Your Flow
Logging your productivity in time tracking apps or in a spreadsheet will help you to systematically understand your workflow. This chart can easily rate your energy, focus and motivation levels on a scale of 1-10 while you’re working. You may also want to consider adding a column for distractions such as social media or time spent standing at the water cooler. The spreadsheet can also be turned into a journal by documenting how you’re feeling throughout the day and how often you’re reaching for the coffee.
Collect data for a few weeks – the more data you have, the more accurate the representation will be. Be honest with yourself and your hours – this will give you a more accurate representation of your work habits and will help you in the long run!
Find Your Hours
The nice thing about a spreadsheet is that it can easily be turned into a chart or graph that visualizes your workflow so you can see where your productivity peaks and crashes. After a few weeks of collecting data, you should see a pattern and you can adjust your work accordingly.
To optimize your productivity, do high maintenance tasks when you’re the most alert. If you notice your productivity is low on Wednesdays from 2 to 3 p.m., reserve that time for doing low-maintenance tasks like organizing paperwork or catching up on industry news.