Nearly all of us reach our peak performance for different things at a different time of the day. An inner clock in our brain – our circadian pacemaker, or biological clock – keeps time for us. And it makes perfect sense to do our best work when we are in sync with our biological clock.
Learning something new
Sleep doctor Michael Breus, author of The Power of When, says the best time to learn something new is when your brain is in acquisition mode, usually from 10 am to 2 pm, and again from 4 pm to 10 pm. No wonder people need a stimulating cup of coffee around 3 pm every day!
Making best decisions
We make our worst decisions late at night and first thing in the morning. Our cognitive powers are strongest once our brain has had a chance to shake off sleep inertia. Save important decisions for when you feel most alert, generally within one to three hours after waking up. Try it and see.
Sleep’s problem-solving powers
On the other hand, sleep experts say if you want to harness sleep’s problem-solving powers to the fullest, think about your difficult problem just before bed. (As long as it isn’t going to keep you awake!) “This research adds to a growing literature suggesting that sleep can reorganize information to facilitate problem-solving,” says Kristin Sanders from Northwestern University.
“There was this idea that during sleep the brain is resting, but now we know there’s a lot of important work being done,” says Mark Beeman, Professor of Psychology at Northwestern. “During sleep, the brain sorts, consolidates, and stores new information. It also ‘rehearses’ recent memories,” he says. Allowing your brain a little time each morning to revisit and review what bedeviled you the night before may yield helpful insights.
“Sleep may help your brain come up with new solutions because that’s a time when it’s not bogged down with 20 other tasks,” says Beeman.
The best time for creativity
Ironically, research has found that people are at their least creative when it’s demanded the most – at the heart of the workday, from 11 am to 3 pm. Breus suggests leaning into “moments of groggy greatness” when we’re slightly tired and easily distracted. During these times, right and left brain communicate, which can trigger new and novel connections — and spark creative ideas. How about you? On reflection, are you generally most creative in the middle of the day?
The best time to ask for money
Friday afternoon. Although this is the least productive day of the week, people are generally in a good mood. A positive outlook bodes well for asking for a raise or making a sale. Avoid Monday mornings – when people are the most stressed and grumpy – at all costs, advises Melody Wilding.
As new discoveries in chronobiology are proving, timing may not be everything, but it is extremely important if you want to consistently create and perform at your best.
Have you found you feel sharper or do better work at some times or days of the week versus others? What changes have you made to allow for these dips and spikes?