Most of us know when we perform at our peak. Some are early risers and get their best work done in the morning while others peak up steam later in the day or even into the evening. How does that translate when you're running a business?
According to Daniel Pink, author of When: The Scientific Secret of Perfect Timing, protecting your peak time, based on your "chronotype," is imperative when it comes to performing our best and being productive. What's a chronotype? It's a definition of your circadian rhythms. In other words, it's a fancy way of saying whether you're a morning or night person.
Pink recommends five productivity strategies, based around when you're at your best:
1. Figure out your chronotype.
There are several online quizzes to help you figure out your preferences, although I'd guess most of us know it instinctively. Still, I took a test to confirm.
Sure enough, my best time is early morning. By 1:00 pm, I'm slowly losing my momentum. By 3:00 pm, I'm struggling to stay productive.
Pink recommends I don't even try. While I may believe that I'm being productive in the afternoon, I'm fighting my natural inclination which results in sub-par work.
Instead, he says to focus on non-essential work. In my case, I switched to completing more mindless tasks like clearing out my always-overflowing in-box.
2. Drink the nappuccino.
Pink even advocates for what he calls a nappuccino. Drink some coffee (yes, coffee) and immediately lie down for a 10-20 minute nap. Caffeine takes about 25 minutes to kick in and the nap will help you re-charge your batteries.
So drink up, take a nap, and wake up both alert and refreshed. This is something I've not tried because once I'm up, I'm up--but I'm willing to give it a shot (pun intended).
3. Schedule meetings in the mornings.
There's another reason to be mindful of time and the importance of when things happen. Early in his book Pink shares the story of a corporation that is holding quarterly shareholder meetings. Those companies that shared them earlier in the day fared better than those that held them in the afternoon. Judges who heard cases in the morning were generally more lenient than on the cases they heard in the afternoon.
"An important takeaway from the study for corporate executives is that communication with investors, and probably other critical managerial decisions and negotiations, should be conducted earlier in the day," Pink writes.
4. Encourage flexible schedules.
If you manage people, you should understand their patterns and allow them to protect their peaks. It'll result in greater productivity, reduced stress, and higher job satisfaction, according to Pink's findings.
How can you do this if you manage a large number of people? I used to work for a marketing agency, and it wasn't uncommon for account directors like myself to come in earlier while our creative teams strolled in later in the day (sometimes even after lunch).
Our vice presidents knew we all knew we needed the space to be creative and do our best work, and that didn't always fit into a 9-5 workday. As long as the clients were happy, our vice presidents were happy. For what it's worth, it wasn't unusual for many of my creative counterparts to go home around 2:00 a.m.
This situation may not work for everyone, but it's worth exploring ways in which you can work with your employees.
5. Replace your to-do list with a break list.
Finally, Pink advocates creating a "break list" to replace the to-do list. A restorative break gives our mind and body a much-needed mental break.
You can use it to write thank you cards, something Pink advises in his book. Or, you could take a Fika break, a full-fledged coffee break meant to re-connect with those who are important in our lives. As long as you're not thinking about work.