Humans tend to be intentional about logistics — especially when it comes to managing our calendars. We are very particular about meetings: with whom we’re going to meet, where, and how long the meeting will be. But we rarely take into consideration the impact the time of day will have on the effectiveness of the meeting or the productivity of the people during those meetings.
When is the right time to have the meeting, in the morning, mid-day or late-afternoon? If it is going to be a half-day or full-day meeting, when and how often should we schedule breaks? While those questions are basic, they are rarely considered as it relates to quality of the meeting.
On this episode of the What’s Next! podcast, I talk with Dan Pink about how the time of day plays into setting and executing a company’s strategy. Having him on the show was amazing. Dan is a great teacher and his book, To Sell Is Human, is one that I often refer people to read.
When making big life or strategic decisions at work, we all need to do a better job at listening to our own bodies for guidance on when we are the most productive and clear-headed to make those important decisions.
Time of Day Matters
Most people — the non-night owls — move through the day in three stages: peak, trough, and recovery. As you become more aware of your own response to this cycle, you can use these stages to your advantage.
- Peak: the morning is better suited for analytical, focused work.
- Trough: this time should be spent answering routine emails.
- Recovery: the late afternoon or early evening is when we’re less focused but in a better mood. Brainstorm when you’re in recovery.
Of course, there isn’t a universal, foolproof system, but when we observe our behavior and align our day with what works best for our bodies, we can improve our odds to be more productive, engaged and available to contribute — a win-win for everyone.
A Productive Day Is Incomplete Without a Break
We need to start thinking about breaks as healthy parts of our days and not a way to ‘slack-off’. Dan’s research shows that we need breaks more than we think. If you can recognize when you’re in a trough, you can be more productive after taking a break. He even suggests to have a ‘shot of Espresso then take a quick nap’ (in that order) to recharge — which I really need to try!
In fact, Dan takes it even a step further saying taking breaks is a sign of strength. “Professionals take breaks. Amateurs are the ones who don’t take breaks.” If a solid 20–30 minute break isn’t realistic, take a short, micro-break. Go outside. Walk. Stretch. Breathe. Don’t talk about work or play on your phone. Let your mind decompress.
If you want to be more productive at work, be more alert and contribute real value, you have to be able to bring your best self. Create a solid strategy for how best to do this, listen to your body and take the time to adjust your habits so you can maximize what you need to be successful.
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