Gold Pocket Watch

Don’t you just love those days when you wake up on time without an alarm? It’s no coincidence, that’s your body’s internal alarm clock—known as your circadian rhythm.

We now have the technology to wake up at whatever time we choose—albeit through a somewhat primitive method of blaring sharp noises into our bedrooms—so why would we need to take any notice of our internal body clock?

Turns out being more aware of your circadian rhythm could be the key to improving your sleep, your productivity, and your overall quality of life.

How it Works

The circadian rhythm is roughly a 24 hour cycle in the physiological processes of humans, as well as many animals, plants and even fungi. It responds primarily to light and darkness, and is involved in controlling your patterns of sleep and associated functions like hormone production and body temperature.

Much like the way in which our bodies influence the time we get up and go to sleep, they also have a big affect on what, when, and how well we get stuff done in our waking hours. Being smart and working with your circadian rhythm can help you get the best out of your day, and finish it primed and ready to start the next one.

Let’s take a look at a few time-specific productivity tips driven by cues from our body’s circadian rhythm:

6 a.m.

Checking our emails has taken over reading the newspaper as our early morning dose of ingesting information. For this reason, it comes natural to many of us, so it makes sense to get it done in this time slot and quickly push it aside for a day free of inbox distractions.

Before 12 p.m.

Right before lunch hour is the time when our brains are working at their highest capacity, with optimal focus and attention. Make best use of this power by scheduling your most cognitive-heavy tasks of the day before your lunch break, and even set a reward such as an extra glass of wine (perhaps deferred to later!) or sweet treat to charge your motivation.

1 p.m.

Post lunch is when a nice case of postprandial somnolence usually sets in, or in other words, a food coma. Use the time to your advantage and take a mental break. Read light and pleasurable content and watch baby animal videos to your heart’s content.

2 p.m.

The afternoon lull comes around this time, and providing your environment allows it, it’s the perfect opportunity to find a quiet place to rest your eyes. If you can’t take a nap, you can also refresh yourself for the remainder of the day by taking a stroll, meditating, or simply taking in some fresh air.

4/5 p.m.

For most, this is when their working day comes to an end. But that doesn’t mean they’re done with getting the best out of their time—our hand-eye coordination and lung capacity are now at their peak, making it opportune to head to the gym or an exercise class.

9 p.m.

Studies have shown that creative thinking comes more into play as our mental reserves become depleted. Tired of conventional thinking patterns, our brains are likely to explore new avenues and traverse down non-linear paths, offering new insight and solutions to problems which have been eating away at you all day.

Of course every circadian rhythm differs slightly from the next. The only way to know you’re working in line with yours is to listen to your body, and note when you feel most distracted, or most able to get stuff done. Soon you’ll be in tune with your body and not just being more productive, but feeling much better because of it.