Want to supercharge your productivity? You may want to start by finding your “biological prime time.”
The concept of a biological prime time has been around at least since 2011, when Sam Carpenter wrote about it in his book, “Work the System.”
It’s the time of day when you have the most energy and are therefore most productive. Everyone’s is different, depending on their biological makeup.
Chris Bailey recently wrote about finding his in “The Productivity Project,” which describes the year he spent experimenting with different productivity strategies.
Bailey suggests that finding your most productive time could be crucial to your success at work, because you’ll be able to give as much energy and attention as possible to your most important tasks. Similarly, you can save relatively easy tasks for the times when you’re tired and when you have a hard time focusing.
To find his biological prime time, Bailey cut out all caffeine and alcohol, minimized the amount of sugar in his diet, and woke up naturally for three weeks. Then he tracked his energy levels every hour. As a result, he learned that his optimal work time was between 10 a.m. and noon and 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Biological prime times are closely related to “chronotypes,” the scientific term for whether you prefer waking up early or staying up late, according to your internal clock. Learning your chronotype could help you figure out when you should ideally wake up and go to sleep, start and end work, and exercise.
Presumably, if you arrange your daily schedule according to your chronotype, you’ll be less tired and more focused during the workday.
One way to find your chronotype is to take the Horne-Ostberg questionnaire. This 10-minute survey asks you questions including when you’d go to sleep and wake up if you didn’t have any commitments the next day, how tired you feel after you wake up, and when you’d prefer to work out.
I took the survey and found I’m a “moderate morning” person and my ideal bedtime is 11:15 p.m.These results suggest that I should aim to get to work earlier rather than later, and jump right into my most important, attention-consuming tasks. It’s also probably a good idea for me to leave work on the earlier side, instead of trying to focus and be creative when I’m mentally exhausted.
Of course, our society is generally geared toward early birds — for example, most of us are required to arrive at work around 9 a.m. But if you take the questionnaire and learn that you’re an evening person, or figure out that your most productive time starts at noon, you’re not necessarily out of luck.
One strategy for coping with the demands of the modern workplace is to plan for an energy boost during those times you know you’re low on energy. Bailey says he drinks a cup of green tea.
Another strategy is to simply talk to your manager about working slightly different hours. According to work environment sociologist Tracy Brower, you can remind your boss that starting later (or leaving earlier) will benefit the company, because you’ll be producing better work.