I always knew I was a morning person. In fact, one of my favorite quotes is that my optimal work day is one that starts at 4AM and ends at 2PM. Other than scheduling my workouts in the morning I didn’t think much of it until I read “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing” by Daniel Pink which had an interesting impact on the way I optimize my morning time.
Without giving away too many spoilers, one of the core principles of the book is considering the question of “when” when diagnosing a situation, and being time conscious.
I’m a lark
One exercise that Daniel Pink is asking us readers to do pretty early in the book is analyzing our Chronotype (?) which long story short is our circadian rhythm analysis analysis: When do we cognitively peak and when our brain is on cooldown.
For a week, I logged my alertness levels (some arbitrary measurement I invented that takes into account happiness, focus and the ability to think clearly) on a scale of 1 through 7. Here’s how it looks like.
This fits nicely into what Daniel Pink classifies as a “Lark type”. People who are at their peak in the early morning, going through a slump the longer the day goes and rebound for a quick burst in the evening before crashing around 10:30PM.
In short, I’m a morning person and now I have a graph to prove it, big surprise. That said, I didn’t want to stop there so having a sense of my best time of day, here’s how I optimized.
morning time = prime time
From the moment I wake up which is around 5AM I have about 8 hours to do my absolutely most important tasks of the day and every second I invest in “brain on cooldown” tasks is using my brain power in a sub-optimal way.
I used to block a nice chunk of the early morning for what I called “email & admin” which is basically replying to emails, delegating work, following up on previous day items, reading news and planning the day ahead. Most of those tasks either got pushed to further in the morning (I don’t look at emails before ~11:00 unless they are from key people\projects which get pushed to me using some automation), planning goes back into the previous day and my sole focus goes into the biggest, most important set of tasks for the day.
Sometimes it beyond my control, but I try to schedule meeting for after lunch and have a morning task to prep for them. Everything else is basically noise.
noon time = social time
As a workplace extrovert, communication and interaction is one of my favorite things to do and watch unfold. That’s why scheduling meetings, following up and interacting acts as a counter to my brain wants to go on cooldown while still keeping me happy and energetic. It’s also a great time for those email accomplishments that got pushed from the morning.
By 3PM I’m basically mentally exhausted and that’s a great time for all those low-touch, passive things: Reading and highlighting, taking a walk, anything of that sort. The afternoon time is great for all those errands I have to make, notes to capture and any non-analytical tasks.
In his book, Daniel Pink suggests that this time is great for creative work as the analytical side of the brain is basically shut down, I haven’t noticed any breakthroughs there but I’ll report back if anything happens.
evening time = rebound time
While it may have something to do with the kids’ bedtime, I have a mental “rebound period” between 8-10PM. While I sometimes dedicate those two hours to do work (which I’m not proud of but life is life) I try to use those hours of alertness for leisure time - go for a tun, learn something new, code a bunch, win a couple of league of legends matches. Anything that’s fun but also not passive. That’s also the time when I try and determine what’s the most important thing I have to do for the next day.
The passive time come into play around 10PM when my body is done for today and the unwinding process begins towards the next day.