When are you at your most productive?

Why is it we seem to get more done sometimes, whereas we can have periods where we get very little achieved? Usually it’s not a fluke when we’re working more effectively - there’ll be some pattern to it.

The Behavioural Scientist Dan Ariely says “…it turns out that most people are productive in the first 2 hours of the morning. Not immediately after waking, but if you get up at 7am then you’ll be most productive from around from 8am - 10:30am.”

I sort of agree with Dan as I do my heavy thinking work early each morning, but I think it’s deeper than just a time of day.

It’s like the Olympic Games – have you ever thought about the number of personal bests achieved at the Olympics? Why was it on that day and that particular time and not just in a regular training session? The preparation leading up to the games, the sense of the occasion etc must influence the level of performance.

When it comes to how we work, I believe everyone’s got a working rhythm, it’s just that some are better than others. Have you ever had a conversation like this with your partner?

Partner: “How was your day?”

You: “Busy”

Partner: “What did you do”

You: “I didn’t really achieve anything; I was just busy”

A large multinational I consulted to surprised me with the number of people who stayed at work until 8pm as they felt that 5.30pm – 8pm was the most productive time for them to do the real work of their job. In reality what was happening with the rest of the day was filled with attending meetings, responding to emails and generally dealing with interruptions. Talk about the grind of work!!! It was those behaviours that had to be addressed for the team to be more effective during regular work hours.

Additional to Dan Ariely’s “productive 2 hour morning”, other factors to consider regarding what helps you to be more productive are:

  • Deadline – like the Olympics, do you need a deadline to bring out your best?
  • Motivated are there particular tasks you like to do more so than others?
  • Organised – are you more focussed when you have a plan?
  • Taking breaks – do you have a preferred length you can concentrate for? If so, plan short breaks accordingly
  • Where to work – is there particular work you need uninterrupted time and physically where would be the best place to achieve this?
  • Sleep and food – did you get sufficient sleep or is your energy impacted by what you ate or even drank last night?
  • Self belief – are you confident you can do what’s required?

The other angle to this is when you find the time that you’re most productive then don’t waste it on low value tasks like checking emails. It’s at this time we need to be doing the work that makes the biggest impact, which might require a reasonable level of thinking to accomplish.

Take note of when you’re at your productive best, determine the conditions that made this possible and then try to frequently repeat this so that every day is productive.