Maximize Your Productivity

I had the pleasure of attending a talk given by Dan Pink on his newest book When. A theme that I found particularly insightful was the idea that our cognitive function is NOT static throughout the day and therefore, we should be optimizing for our own physiologic and psychologic patterns called chronotypes. If done, ostensibly this will improve our productivity and ultimate success. Sign me up!

During the day, there are three phases we all go through, albeit at different times depending on the individual. They are the peak, the trough, and the rebound period. “Larks” or morning people, have their peak in the early morning, whereas “owls” experience their peak much later in the afternoon.  Most people know whether they’re a morning person or a night-owl, or somewhere in between, but until recently, I didn’t realize how to capitalize on these natural rhythms in a way that would best support my professional goals.

While I highly recommend you pick up Dan Pink’s book on the subject, my goal is to provide a quick summary for you. Here goes…

During your peak, when you feel the freshest and most vigilant, aim to do analytical work. This might be writing, analyzing, computing, coding, or researching. During this time, the brain is least distracted by interruptions and the most focused. You’re sharpest during your peak. If you are like two-thirds of us, your peak is sometime in the morning. Therefore, it’s an incredible waste of mental faculties to go straight for your inbox in the morning. While it’s tempting to want to catch up on what came in from the night before, the better use of your brainpower is to dive right into your most complex project work.

In the trough period, which again is commonly mid-day for two-thirds of us, complete your administrative work. This is when catching up on emails is an effective use of your time. Other administrative tasks like invoicing or managing schedules are ideal for tackling during this period.

Lastly, your rebound period is all about creative flow. Dan Pink recommends that tasks such as brainstorming, drawing insight and creative ideation be done during this time. For many, this will be late afternoon to early evening.

Considering this, I invite you to reschedule your work this week around your personal chronotype remembering to do complex analytical work in the peak, administrative work in the trough and insight work in the rebound period.

A final note worth mentioning for all those of you interviewing… according to Dan Pink’s work, the best time of day to make a lasting impression is in the morning (sorry night owls). If possible, ask your recruiter for a morning interview slot so you can maximize the potential of being received as a best-fit candidate. Also, ensure you can nail the top three interview questions. Download my strategy sheet here!