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I am not a morning person. I’m sure some of you with a 9-5 work schedule can relate. It can be a real struggle to wake up early in order to make it work on time. I’ll admit, I’m one of those people who set up 10 alarms on my phone before going to bed (and sometimes more). Yes, it’s that bad.
But – everyone is different, and there is a reason why people are often divided into “night owls” and “early birds.” There are some of you who are ok with being up in the morning, and I totally envy you. My husband is actually one of those people who gets up at 3:30 AM every day. And to this day, I still cannot understand how he’s able to operate at that hour.
Considering research, not everyone’s productivity is equal at different points in the day. So when in the day are we the most productive given that some of us are “night owls” or “early birds”? Read on.
How Productive Exactly Are We?
A Little Bit of History
Historically, most countries adopted 10-16-hour work days due to industrial requirements to maintain a 24/7 working factory (with workers cycling through the grueling work shift). With time, given high requirements and brutality of working long hours, workday requirements changed. In fact, until recently, medical interns were often required to literally work days on end with little or no sleep.
In 2003, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) imposed restrictions limiting the number of hours worked. What was the resolution? The limit was set to 80 hours a week, averaged over 4 weeks. What! My real question is how productive can medical professionals be provided this “resolution”?
Ok, for some of us who are not doctors, we do not work 80, or 60 hour weeks. Sometimes even a 40-hour week can seem like a struggle. Are we as productive as we think we are? Where does all of the time go?
According to Research, We’re Not Very Productive (as we think we are)
According to this study, researchers collected surveys from approximately 2,000 workers about their workday activities. Here is a break-down they came up with:
- Checking social media – 44 min.
- Reading news websites – 1 hr.
- Discussing out of work activities with colleagues – 40 min.
- Making hot drinks – 17 min.
- Smoking breaks – 23 min.
- Text/instant messaging – 14 min.
- Eating snacks – 8 min.
- Making food in office– 7 min.
- Making calls to partner/ friends – 18 min.
- Searching for new jobs– 26 min.
- Productive Work – 3.2 hours
There are so many distractions in the workplace that we spend a little over 3 hours on productive work! This is so mind-boggling. Let’s times this time by 5 hour work week, our productive week tends to be approximately 15 hours.No wonder this company cut their workday to 5-hours and are claiming to be just as productive.
No wonder this company cut their workday to 5-hours and are claiming to be just as productive.
How Can You Thrive with a 9-5 Job?
I have been very fortunate in my career to have the understanding and accommodating bosses, and I have the flexibility with my work hours. I find myself most productive during downtime when I literally shut my door and turn the lights out so no one sees me (seriously), or after-hours when no one is around to distract me and I can really focus. My prime “focus and productivity” time is actually later in the evening, and for this reason, I do occasionally bring my computer home to work on important projects.
No, I’m not implying that everyone should take their work home, but if you are able to “escape” from your noisy and distracting environment during the times that are you the most productive – you should totally do it.
So next question naturally follows – how do I know when in the day that I am most productive? Well, here are some key steps to identifying your peaks times of productivity:
1. Figure out your prime focus and productivity time by asking yourself:
- When am I most productive? In the AM or PM?
- Do I get more accomplished when others are around or in when I’m in a more quiet environment?
- Some people really flourish working in a collaborative environment, and some do best in a quiet atmosphere (me!)
2. Schedule your “peak productivity” times around meetings.
- Can I move my meetings around to work during my “peak productivity” time?
- Block your peak intervals in your calendar to do productive work. This will remind you not to schedule meetings during this time.
3. Make sure that these “peak productivity” times are no longer than 90 minutes.
- According to this article, we operate optimally for about 90 minutes, after which our body dips into our energy reserves
- If we work at high intensity for more than 90 minutes, we begin to draw on these emergency reserves to keep us going. During this time interval, our attention shifts from higher to lower alertness and so does our productivity.
4. Spend 10-15 minutes at the end of the week to schedule “tasks” for your peak productivity times.
- Think of all the things that you need to accomplish in the week. Maybe it’s to take care of:
- Drafting a proposal for work
- Completing a report
- Respond to emails
- Prepare a presentation
- Personal projects
- Spend some time brainstorming the assignments and projects for the week, and assign time for yourself to work on them during your peak productivity time (as suggested above, these should be approximately 90-minute intervals).
- You can do this planning session at the end of your work week, or anytime before the next week begins. I do this on Sunday evening before the week begins.
5. Rinse and repeat (each week).
We are not as productive as we think we are on any given day. To be most productive, figure out which time of day that you tend to be more productive. Then schedule assignments and “busy work” during those times to be most effective and efficient.
And most importantly, give yourself some breathing room – do not schedule this time blocks for more than 90 minutes. Our attention fatigues and we tend to lose focus, so our productivity tends to decline.
I recognize that these tips may not be for everyone, as different work environments allow you some flexibility to plan, while others do not. Maybe you can use these steps to take advantage of your peak productivity time on weekends or work on projects that you’ve been pushing out.
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I love hearing from you and as always would love to learn your ideas, perspectives, and comments. You don’t know, what you don’t know and I am all ears to hear about what you have to say. And if you just want to say “hi” – would love to take the opportunity to say “hi” back!