Here is the best time of the day to do analytical tasks, creative tasks, make an impression, and make a decision

Takeaway: Once you determine whether you’re an early bird, night owl, or something in between, use the chart in this article to figure out the best time of day to work on analytical and creative tasks. These times will help you make better impressions and decisions.

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes, 36s.

When, by Dan Pink, is one of those productivity books you should read with pen and highlighter in hand. It contains so many golden nuggets that will change how you work and live. While at a surface-level the book is about when you should do things, I think it’s more about how to take advantage of the ways your energy and motivation fluctuate over time.

One of my favorite ideas from the book relates to when in the day we should do certain types of tasks. The best time to do tasks depends greatly on whether you’re an early bird, night owl, or something in between (as 60-80% of us are).1 (With this in mind, here are a few simple methods to figure out your peak energy time.)

I’ve adapted this chart directly from Dan’s book, with only one or two tweaks:

The reasoning behind these times vary. For example, analytic tasks require deeper focus, and most of us have more energy in the morning. On the other hand, we best perform insight tasks (ones that benefit from bursts of creative insight), when we have the least energy. This is when our brain is the least inhibited, which allows more creative solutions to rise to the surface.

3 ways to discover your peak energy time

If you want to determine when your energy peaks—and if you’re an early bird, night owl, or something in the middle—there are a few ways to figure it out:

  1. Easy enough, and pretty accurate. Think about a free day—the weekend, or a weekday when you don’t have much to do that day or the next. Ask: when do you usually go to sleep on these days? When do you wake up?Finally, what’s the midpoint of those two times? (E.g. I go to sleep at 11 p.m. and wake up at 7 a.m., so my midpoint is 3 a.m.) Find where your midpoint lies on the chart below.2
  2. Easy, but less accurate. Ask: “what time do you wake up on weekends (or free days)? If it’s the same as weekdays, you’re probably an early riser. If it’s a little later, you’re probably [somewhere in the middle.] If it’s much later—90 minutes or more—you’re probably a night owl.”
  3. Difficult, but most accurate. Chart your energy levels. I recommend collecting data every hour, for two or three weeks, so you can find a general pattern. If you really want to get an accurate reading, I suggest cutting caffeine/alcohol/sugar during this time. Here’s an article I wrote a while back on how to calculate your biological prime time.

 

If you’re looking to work around your energy levels, the timing chart above, as well as Dan’s book, When, will come in handy—they certainly have for me. As Dan puts it: “I used to believe in ignoring the waves of the day. Now I believe in surfing them.”


  1. Source for the 60-80% stat

  2. Source for this chart: Dan’s book. He repurposed it from world-renowned chronobiologist Till Roenneberg‘s research. I’ve lightly modified the chart to fit this article. 

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