Tips for identifying (and maximizing) your most productive hours

Everyone has an internal groove that determines the outcome of each day. For example, some of us skip lunch because that’s when we’re most focused. Others are morning people who do important tasks before 9 am. And finding yourself working better at night doesn’t mean you hate your co-workers. On the contrary, it could be the ideal time of your day when you are most productive.

Unfortunately, some have yet to discover these productive hours. This may be because their traditional work schedule never overlaps these periods or they are too distracted to recognize the pattern.

If you’re one of those who haven’t figured out your best time to work yet, there are ways to find it. This article covers tips for discovering your most productive hours and how to maximize them.

So how do you calculate your peak times?

According to a paper published by the IZA Institute of Labor Economics, 1:30 p.m. is the peak time for taking the tests. However, this is based on a study which analyzed around 500,000 UK university student exams taken at 9am, 1.30pm and 4.30pm.

Your golden hours are unique to you, whether or not they match someone else’s. Follow the steps outlined below to help you determine when you’re most energetic to work out:

1. Start observing

As we mentioned, you might be too distracted to notice that you are working better during a specific period. So start commenting on your work.

Document when you start and finish tasks. This way you can have a record that shows how quickly you completed specific jobs and the times of day you completed them fastest.

Keep tracking your performance this way, and after a while, come back to find a pattern. There should be specific times when you are repeatedly productive.

2. Track your productivity

In addition to observing your start and end times when performing tasks, tracking your work hours can help. This way you measure how quickly you complete jobs against the time you allocate to each one.

You can start by using a sheet of paper to draw your daily schedule. Write down the tasks you need to manage throughout the day and allocate a block of time for each.

As you get things done, indicate end times for each job. Take notes to see if you finished with free time or if you added extra minutes or hours.

After a week or a month, go back to your notes to find the times when you finished your work in less time than expected.

If using the pen and paper method is too hectic, you can digitize the process. Spreadsheets can make everything easier than manually drawing lines on many sheets of paper. That said, you can opt for time tracking software apps designed to help you monitor working hours.

Time tracking tools are now versatile productivity apps that collect useful performance metrics. They are no longer generic tools that only generate timesheets and record billable hours. Instead, some programs provide tools to help you organize and analyze your workflow. You can also check the apps and websites you spend time on, helping you know what to avoid to reduce distractions and increase productivity.

Once your work week data is generated, drill through it to find your peak hours. You’ll find that figuring out your peak hours is as satisfying as knowing how to track work time when you’re working.

3. Collect data from your patterns

Most employers use remote employee monitoring apps to gauge the productivity of their employees. They collect data by tracking how much time employees spend on their projects and how well they perform on specific tasks. This means that they have information that could help you find your main work period.

Since most employers engage in ethical oversight practices, your supervisor probably won’t object to sharing specific data with you. You can use these analytics to find out when you regularly post your best work.

4. Work outside regular hours

Your golden hours may fall outside of your regular 9 to 5 work schedule. For example, it could be your lunch break, shortly after your closing time, or during the dead hours of the night when you normally sleep.

Suppose you did not feel this energy during your normal hours. It’s time to do some spinning. Start adjusting your schedule to allow yourself to work outside of working hours. For example, you can skip lunch or turn on your computer at midnight and log a few billable hours.

Of course, it would be easier to try different times if you have a flexible work schedule. If your office maintains a strict 9 to 5 policy, you can contact your supervisor to work things out. Take permission to defer work that can be done outside the office and deal with it at home.

The situation is different for teleworkers. You can fast-charge your computer at 3 a.m. or 1 p.m. to get things done as long as you’re not behind on a deadline. So take your time tinkering with different periods and track your productivity during that time.

5. Establish a work environment conducive to performance

You could be wasting your productive hours without knowing it. Workplace distractions and disorganized schedules could cause you to burn those golden hours without recognizing them. To make those working times shine, set operating hours and optimize your day for peak performance.

Start by removing distractions such as social media apps and websites. Some productivity apps can help you keep an eye on the websites and programs you use often. This way you can identify distractions that take your attention away from the ball. Then it will be easier to know what to block and when.

Next, create a dedicated workspace if you work from home. This will help you avoid household distractions and separate work from your life and personal pursuits.

Working within a set schedule also helps you stay focused. You can then let your friends and family know that you are working and that they must respect this work limit.

Deal with commitments that could disrupt your work in advance. For example, if you have an event that you can no longer meet due to work, be sure to clear it in time and reschedule it.

It is also useful to separate personal and professional devices. This means no annoying notifications and pop-ups at work.

6. Finding anomalies and dealing with them

You might think you found your hours productive only to end up struggling during those times. In some cases, you might be facing specific issues that lower your energy and affect your focus. For example, you may have changed coffees or changed meals on certain days.

You need to follow every detail to find out what went wrong. So, keeping a diary to take notes on updates like a different bus route, meal order, or schedule change will help you gauge what went wrong.

Top Ways to Make the Most of Your Golden Hours

Once you find your golden hours, you need to use them properly. You can’t just waste them on less important tasks and non-work related activities.

For starters, you need to save your energy for your peak hours. This is because your body has a threshold after which it stops functioning optimally.

For example, a Stanford University study report that performance decreases after 50 hours of work. Moreover, research indicates that working after 55 hours would be pointless.

So make sure you haven’t already passed your energy peak before your golden hours.

Then, reserve essential and challenging tasks for your productive hours. Priority jobs that require critical thinking and decision making should be tackled when you are at your best.

Keeping distractions away during those busy times is another rule you should follow. For example, you can keep a list of nearby distractions to jot down ideas, reminders, and notifications that pop up while you’re at work. This way, you can deal with them later without completely ignoring them.

In conclusion

Keep maximizing your productive hours and finding the best way to use them. There might also be other prime times in your day, and you can keep discovering them.