Maintaining a surge of productivity during regular office hours isn’t always easy. Everyone has their own natural schedule, whether they’re morning larks or midnight oil burners. I often have to work around awkward hours of the night to get some serious writing done. I also look forward to flights to accomplish hefty word counts—no wifi, no distractions, no kettle to boil repeatedly.
The good news is there are some ways to optimise your work schedule around regular office hours, and it doesn’t mean drastically changing how you work or racking up lots of air miles.
Everyone varies in how much sleep they need and there are probably some days you can get by on less. What you do need to keep consistent is the time you wake up. If you have to wake up early to be productive, keep doing it. Varying when you get up will put you out of whack. Try not to have a coffee as soon as you tumble out of bed. Wake yourself up with a shower and some breakfast. Your body’s production of cortisol—a hormone that promotes alertness—peaks on average between 8am and 9am anyway (or about 30-45 minutes after you wake). So try to listen to your body, as clichéed as that might sound.
Before Leaving for Work
If you need write emails first thing, only send ones that don’t require a response straight away. Most people sleep with their phone next to their bed and check their emails first thing in the morning. Online marketing company HubSpot reported in 2012 that emails sent at 6am tend to have higher open rates. But don’t freak your colleagues out first thing by making them hurriedly type emails as they leave the house. Send them something to read, not respond to.
Zone out on your commute. That’s right – glaze over and have a good think. There’s some good research to suggest that innovation and creativity peak when your alertness dips.
Peak coffee time is between 9:30 and 11:30am. Your cortisol levels start to dip after 9am and don’t pick up until noon, so a caffeine boost is most effective during your first couple of hours at the office.
Work Hardest Before Lunch
Most adults do their best focused work in the late morning. Rising body temperature gives concentration, memory and alertness a boost. All of those benefits start to decline around noon—especially after you’ve eaten your lunch.
Take Real Lunch Breaks
Taking a long break in the middle of the day will set you up for a more productive afternoon. Time away from your work will help you to process everything. In fact, try to take a short break every hour or so – even just a quick walk around the office will reinvigorate you.
Coffee and Email
Around 2pm is the perfect time for your second caffeine infusion, because your cortisol levels will start to dip again. According to email service provider MailChimp, it’s also another peak email opening time. You’re more likely to catch people sitting at their desks, so 2pm is the right time to send emails you want answered promptly.
Make your Dentist Happy
Brushing your teeth around 2.30pm will give you a little breather after checking your emails, and when you get back to the desk, your 2pm coffee will be kicking in.
Getting Tired? Think Creatively
As your attention wanes, think deep thoughts. Just as your early morning grogginess can lead to surprisingly good creative thinking, you’ll find your creative powers peaking when your body most wants to nap.
Not Working? Then Work Out
Your muscle strength and lung capacity are in a great place around 5pm, so it’s the perfect time to work out if your schedule allows for it. A workout might actually help you maintain a better balance between work and your personal life. Taking the time to get fit can make you feel like you’re more in control of your schedule, and gives you some time to yourself.
So there you have it. Consider your schedule hacked!