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What If You Could Choose to Work When You’re Most Productive?

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Work when you're most productive

How many times have you heard someone sigh and say, “If only there were more hours in a day…”?

You may even be guilty of uttering these words yourself; I know I am. But what if the number of hours in a day wasn’t the issue? Instead, what if it was the ways (and times) we’re choosing to spend those precious 24 hours?

Last week, The Wall Street Journal posed an interesting question: Could you pack more into each day if you did everything at the optimal time?

Sue Shellenbarger, author of the article, examines a growing body of research that suggests paying attention to the body clock can pinpoint the times of day when we’re at our best.

It makes sense. For example, I know I’m most alert and creative early in the morning, so I often wake up long before most people to answer emails and write blog posts and freelance articles. While it’s great that I’ve identified this specific time of day as when I’m able to complete my best work, it also means that I’m dragging by 3 p.m.

Apparently I’m not the only one with this problem. The article points to recent research out of Penn State University that shows most people are easily distracted from noon to 4 p.m., which we often attribute to the post-lunch slump. We’ve all been there, right? That fuzzy feeling after a good mid-day meal when you’re sitting at your desk but dreaming of your bed. Don’t worry. That’s normal too; Circadian, a training and consulting firm, found sleepiness tends to peak around 2 p.m., which makes it an excellent time for a nap.

If only we could take that 2 p.m. nap or move that pesky recurring conference call from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., a time when most “evening people” are beginning to peak. Of course, the traditional nine-to-five job calls for employees to be seated at their desks, working for those eight business hours. But what if there was a way to schedule our work day around when we’re at our personal best?

There’s definitely an argument here to be made to employers. Wouldn’t you want your employees working at the times when they’re most productive, even if it doesn’t fall within traditional business hours? With more Gen Y employees seeking non-traditional work arrangements and personal freedom, could flexible work hours be the answer to keeping them around longer?

Think about it this way: if you allow your employees to work when they‘re most alert and creative, they’ll certainly be more satisfied with their jobs and in turn, their work will likely improve, making your life easier.

Win-win, right?

What do YOU think? Could you pack more into your day if you did everything at your optimal time?

Jessica Lawlor is a public relations professional and freelance writer in the Philadelphia area.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=317752194950479 Alison Elissa Coaching

    This article brought to mind an earlier Brazen post about how disruptions affect a day’s productivity: http://blog.brazencareerist.com/2012/09/24/avoiding-your-coworkers-the-feelings-mutual/.

    The combination of these two articles makes me think the best scenario would be to schedule work according to your body clock and to also minimize interruptions during these times as well.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1484010002 Jessica Lawlor

      That’s an awesome point, @[317752194950479:274:Alison Elissa Coaching]! Distractions are so prevalent in an office environment…and can easily drag down your whole day.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=544291405 Julia Elizabeth Muldoon

    Except I would rather use my peak times to complete things for me than have it bought by someone who doesn’t appreciate my skills.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=502049495 Shawn MacDonell

    Love when folks think about time and work a little differently. Thanks so much for posting this article. Here is one I wrote a little while back that generated a bit of a debate in the comment section and then lots more in my inbox:

    http://professionalasskicker.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/when-do-i-work-an-entrepreneur-asks/

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1484010002 Jessica Lawlor

      Thanks for your comment, Shawn! I’ll be sure to check out your post.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=289776854410230 Stuckaholic

    Well, all good if you do your work alone. But to play devil’s advocate I can tell you people in companies tend to work in teams. Teams’ productivity depend on forecasting workload correctly (often forecasting correctly is even more important than having the job done quicker). Forecasting becomes tough if a team member is waiting for you to do stuff and you’re taking a nap. So here’s a question. Your article takes into consideration one person working at optimal time. But what would happen if ALL in a company (or in a team) did the same? How would the output be affected? (I know, it’s two questions!)

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1484010002 Jessica Lawlor

      Thanks for posing these questions. Really good points here that I hadn’t considered before.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=303874722048 Humor That Works

    Great article. I tracked my productivity for a month and found I was most productive from 3pm to 7pm. Results plus more productivity stats: http://www.humorthatworks.com/learning/create-consume-monthly-challenge/.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=583180637 Daria Golubeva

    I feel I’m getting quicker, more creative and productive after lunch or even closer to the evening. But this productivity peak can’t last too long, because the evening plans are waiting for me outside work :) In the morning, I sometimes need time to mobilize and fully wake up. By the way, in our recent survey on working habits we asked people when they feel the most productive (http://www.wrike.com/blog/Snapshot-Work-Life-Balance-Realities-Wrike-s-New-Fascinating-Infographic). And I’m not with the majority. 64% voted for morning hours (before noon).

  • jranodm421

    Great concept. Never going to happen, because your customers need you when THEY need you, not when you feel most productive. I don’t know of any customer who needs stuff at 9 AM who’s going to wait till you’re most productive at 6 PM.

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