Some of us are born to binge on box sets in the early hours, while others leap out of bed at 6am looking refreshed.
Research suggests we can’t choose to be an owl or a lark, as our biological clock, or chronotype, is largely genetic. But we could all achieve more if we tweaked our days in line with our body clock.
So when are YOU most productive?
Only about 15% of us are true morning larks, 20% are natural owls, and the rest of us are in-between.
For the larks and in-betweeners, our days follow a distinct pattern, believes author Daniel Pink, who examined 700 scientific studies for his book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing (Canongate).
There’s a morning peak of productivity from about 8.30am to 12pm, followed by a mid-afternoon trough, then a “rebound” energy peak from about 4pm.
However, for owls it’s in reverse: rebound, trough, then peak.
The idea is to get your cognitively demanding work done in the peak, when the brain is most vigilant and best able to repel distractions. Research shows four hours of solid morning work is more productive than spreading it over 12 hours.
Pink also found that even among larks, creative tasks were best done during the early evening rebound.
“If you’re a strongly night-time person, you can’t suddenly become a morning person,” says sleep researcher Dr Neil Stanley. “For most of us, around 11am is when we’re at our peak, even if we don’t think we are.”
5 ways to make your mornings more productive
If you’re part of the 80% of the population who fall into the morning lark or in-between categories, here’s how to get the most out of your morning productivity peak…
1. Drink a glass of water as soon as you wake up
This will rehydrate the brain and increase alertness. But make sure you wait 90 minutes for your first coffee, as if interferes with the body’s production of cortisol, the hormone that kickstarts alertness
2. Go outside first thing in the morning for at least 30 minutes.
Exposure to bright light prompts the body to produce alertness hormones.
3. Don’t waste your peak on tasks that don’t need much concentration
Things such as emails, social media and housework should be saved the for the after-lunch trough.
4. Make to-do lists and lay out clothes the night before
That way your brain isn’t overloaded with micro-decisions at its peak.
5. Stay off all screens for at least an hour before bed
The blue light they emit stops the body producing the sleep hormone melatonin.