Making decisions—especially the kind that lead to high-quality outcomes—can be wearing. And any number of factors can affect your ability to do so—including the time of day that you're making those decisions.
While there's no shortage of tricks and tips to hack your way to more innovative thinking, timing is everything, says sleep doctor Dr. Michael Breus, author of The Power of When. He believes that working in sync with our body’s natural clock is the key to unlocking success to produce our best, most creative work.
The science of "good timing"—called chronobiology—reveals peak performance is hardwired into our DNA. "An inner clock embedded inside your brain has been ticking away, keeping perfect time, since you were a baby," writes Breus, "This precisely engineered timekeeper is called your circadian pacemaker, or biological clock."
So, the next time you're feeling mentally sluggish, try tapping into chronobiology to perform at your best in these areas:
The Best Time to Learn Something New
Learning is most effective when the brain is in acquisition mode, generally between 10:00 am to 2:00 p.m. and then again from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Night owls beware: think twice before pulling an all-nighter. The lowest learning valley occurs between 4:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.
The Best Time To Make a Decision
The phrase "sleep on it" has persisted for a reason: we make our worst decisions late at night and first thing in the morning. Your cognitive powers are strongest once your brain has a chance to shake off sleep inertia.
Save important decisions for when you feel most alert, generally within one to three hours after waking up.
The Best Time To Brainstorm
Ironically, research has found that people are at their least creative when it's demanded the most: at the heart of the workday, between 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Breus suggests leaning into "moments of groggy greatness" when we're slightly tired and easily distracted. During these times, right and left brain communicate, which can trigger new and novel connections—and spark innovative ideas.
The Best Time to Ask for Money
Friday afternoon. While this is the least productive day of the week, people are generally in a good mood. A positive outlook bodes well for asking for a raise or making a sale. Avoid Monday mornings—when people are the most stressed and grumpy—at all costs.
As new discoveries in chronobiology are proving, timing may not be everything, but it is extremely important if you want to create and perform at your best on a consistent basis.
Melody Wilding is a coach, licensed social worker, and Human Behavior professor who helps ambitious high-achievers master their mindset for success. She also gave a TEDx talk about how to overcome self-doubt. Get free tools to go from stuck to unstoppable at work on her website, melodywilding.com
A version of this article previously appeared at Melody's site.
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