How To Find Your Most Productive Hours
We all have 24 hours in a day. But not all hours are created equal. Sometimes
an hour is enough to blaze through a massive project, and other times all you
manage is to tiredly send a couple of unimportant emails.
Motivational speakers, performance coaches, and CEOs advocate finding
and leveraging your peak hours of the day as the key to being more
productive. Following a schedule that utilizes your most productive work hours
will ensure that the important projects receive the energy investments they
Here’s an official plan to help you harness those productivity power hours:
1. Follow The (Ultradian) Rhythm
Like anything in nature, humans run in cycles. The growing body of research
on ultradian rhythms – 90-120 minute cycles that run within the 24-
hour circadian day – suggests that our day is driven by cycles that affect how
alert and productive we are.
At the beginning of the cycle, we experience heightened energy and focus,
and at the end, we may feel absentminded and fatigued.
Use your peak time, when you feel alert and excited, for projects that involve
problem-solving, complex thought, and critical decisions.
Routine, unimportant, and less complex tasks can be done when you are not
as focused and engaged.
If you know exactly when to expect your next energy surge, you are more
certain that you can and will achieve your goals for the day.
2. Take A Systematic Approach
While you could go with your gut feeling and your lark/night owl tendencies to
identify your peak hours, taking a systematic approach is best. A Life Of
Productivity author Chris Bailey took a year off to engage in several
productivity experiments, including tracking his productive hours. He suggests
recording focus, energy, and motivation scores for 3 weeks, taking
measurements at the same times every day so the data isn’t skewed.
The following spreadsheet, based on Chris’ workflow, will help you track your
productivity: (download it here)
Tracking these three metrics should only take you about 30 seconds every
hour. Don’t obsess over the numbers you assign to each metric. Usually the
first number that pops into your head is the correct one. The spreadsheet will
automatically calculate the averages and build out your personal productivity
You will see trends even after one week of tracking, but the more data you
gather, the more reliable your trends will be.
This spreadsheet calculates the Daily Score as the sum of all the metrics for
After two or three weeks you might see trends showing your most productive
3. Journal For Better Insights
Often you will find your focus, energy, and motivation to be highly correlated,
and that makes sense. Occasionally, however, you will find out these metrics
don’t go hand in hand. For example, your energy is at a 10, but you have
trouble focusing. In this case, note the reason for this variance.
The Notes column of this spreadsheet is created to capture those insights
daily and serve as a mini-work journal. Here you can write what has been
accomplished, what motivated you, and what was a roadblock. If a task
seems particularly challenging at a certain time of the day, make a note of it –
and then schedule it in a different time slot.
Besides the daily notes, you can also add cell comments when using this
spreadsheet. These are convenient to mark the hours when you drank coffee,
had lunch, exercised, or did something else that could affect your energy flow.
Chatting with your loved one or playing with a pet counts, too.
While the graphs show you the WHEN of your productivity cycle, the notes
and the cell comments may give you clues to the WHY.
4. Leverage What You Find
Use your peak time carefully. You want to be solving problems, getting
answers, and making decisions in your most productive time. Writing, deep
thought processes, and strategizing all come easier when you are focused
and alert. These activities are a longer sprint, so you need to bust out some
Usain Bolt level concentration to win.
As much as your work environment allows, protect your peak time from
intrusions and commitments that don’t require your full brain power.
Dig into the questions, “What makes me more productive? What activities,
foods, or even people drain my energy?” Then apply that knowledge, even if
it means saying goodbye to double cheese pepperoni pizza for lunch.
5. Learn To Work The Right Hours
Keep in mind that some of the productivity valleys are just our body’s natural
way of saying, “Hey, I need a break.” You shouldn’t expect to eliminate all of
your energy dips. However, being aware of them and working during your
power hours already makes a day more enjoyable and productive.
Here’s to logging in the right hours, not the longer ones.
This is interesting. I am a morning person and accomplish much in the morning – my productive hours. I hate starting the day late coz I know that I shall accomplish very little.