Just because the standard workday runs from 9am to 5pm, does not mean you are your most productive during these hours. Sometimes, no matter how many cups of coffee you sink back, you just can’t get into the flow.

There will be times in the day when you are super productive and other times when your productivity slumps. If you are like most people, you will push through those slumps even if the work you are producing is not top quality. Often you will find yourself working late into the night to make up for the hours you did not use productively during the day.

So how do you make the most of your work hours so that you don’t have to burn the midnight oil? The best way is to plan your day is according to your productivity peaks.

Working Out Your Productivity Peaks

Your brain can only focus for 90 to 120 minutes at a time. After that, you will need to take a break to reset your productivity. But which 90 minutes of the day are you most productive at?

Pay close attention to your daily habits and routines. Take note of the times when you feel most alert - are you an early bird, or a night owl? Also, examine your energy and focus levels throughout the day.

Now it is time to explore the things that hold you back from being productive. Time management is often a big one. Some are naturals at it and others are not. To improve your time management skills we recommend:

  • Setting some clear priorities
  • Making a practical plan that you can stick to
  • Not letting trivial things distract you
  • Fully understand the time and effort a task will take
  • Stop procrastinating
  • Focus on one task at a time instead of trying to multitask
  • Don’t leave things to the last minute

If you are struggling to find when your productivity peaks are, then it can help to keep an informal diary of what you achieve in each day. After a week or so, you will begin to see productivity patterns emerge.

Use The Peaks To Your Advantage

Now that you know when your productivity peaks are, it is time to use that information to your advantage. You can plan out your day accordingly.

The first step is to complete your most important and urgent tasks during a time when you will be productive. Once you have those key tasks scheduled in, then set designated times of the day for your other tasks.

Don’t fall into the trap of answering your emails first thing in the morning. This can derail your plan for the whole day and cause you to be in reactive mode. Instead, have a certain time of the day that you check and respond to emails. If you are worried about missing urgent communication then you can set an out of office message with an alternate way to contact you for emergencies.

Take note of the tasks that drain you and don’t schedule two of them in a row. Also, schedule at least 3 breaks in your day to give yourself time to re-energise and to reclaim your productivity.

Finally, see if you can align your work hours to your productive hours. There is a growing trend for flexible working conditions, so why not explore this option.