If you want to work on your terms, I highly recommend designing your work day in alignment with your available energy.
The foundation of your work day is what I call your “peak performance period”.
It’s the 3 to 4 hour period of your day when you feel most energized, have mental clarity and your sharpest focus.
How Do You Identify Your Peak Performance Period?
You might already know when it occurs.
If you’ve ever identified yourself as a “morning lark” or a “night owl,” then you are well on your way to understanding your peak performance period.
If you have no idea, I recommend tracking your energy levels for at least one day every hour from the time you get up to when you go to bed.
Here’s a very simple energy tracking experiment:
- Make a note on your phone with a list of the top of the hour from the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep. For example, I wake up at 7am, so that would be the first time on my list. Next would by 8am and so on until I went to bed at 10pm.
- Set a reminder at the top of each hour. To make it easier, search for a free hourly alarm on whichever app store you use.
- At the top of each hour, rate your energy level as either:
- 1 for high energy
- 2 for medium energy
- 3 for low energy
- At the end of the day review your energy levels to see which period of the day when you had your highest level of energy.
You might want to try this experiment over several days to get better data and as you get better at identifying your energy levels.
If you want a more nuanced look at your energy levels, expand to a 5-level rating system:
- 1 Invigorated
- 2 High energy
- 3 medium energy
- 4 low energy
- 5 lethargic
Most Common Peak Performance Periods
The two most common peak performance periods are morning and evening, followed by midday.
Some people experience a “split” in their peak performance period, feeling energized for a couple of hours in the morning and again for a couple of hours in the afternoon.
The majority of us, whether you are a morning lark or a night owl or somewhere in between, experience a slump in the afternoon. This is a natural rhythm of humans as identified in Daniel Pink’s recent book When.
Our days start off with a peak of energy, followed by a trough and then a rebound of our energy toward the end of the day.
Redesigning Your Workday
Why is understanding your peak performance period so important? It’s the foundation of designing your ideal workday.
Rather than looking at productivity in terms of available time, I’m advising your to look at your productivity in terms of your available energy.
You should reserve your peak performance period for your most important work that requires your sharpest mental focus and your peak energy.
You will be able to accomplish your most important work more quickly and at a higher level of quality.
You also need to relentlessly defend that some from all distractions and what I call “busy procrastination” activities. Work that needs to get done, but it’s not your most important work.
For example, my peak performance period is from 7am to 11am.
I reserve that time for my most important work for writing, building trainings, producing podcasts or shooting videos.
I don’t use this time to check email, social media, performance administrative tasks or to even schedule calls or meetings. It’s for content creation only.
If I tried to write a blog post after 8pm, I can barely find the motivation to do it! The quality sucks compared to waiting until the next morning at 8am when my blog posts practically write themselves!
The goal of using your peak performance period is to align your highest quality energy with your most important work.