How to make to boost your productivity by hacking your body clock

If you need several cups of coffee in the morning before you can function at work, then you’re not alone. We surveyed people from all over the nation to reveal the time of day that Brits feel most productive and it turns out that most of us don’t feel at our best until almost lunchtime at 11:54am!

When it comes to creativity, morning is the best time to think outside the box, as 10-11am (15%) and 11am-12pm (11%) are the most inventive hours. On average, women are most creative slightly later in the day than men are, at 12:54pm and 12:24pm respectively.

Despite not reaching our creative and productive peaks until lunchtime, we feel most energetic at 11:06am. Over a fifth (21%) of workers say they feel most active between 10 and 11am, before slowly fading as the day progresses. Workers feel laziest in the later hours, with 3-5pm being the least energetic hours – just 3% of us feel most energetic at this time.

To help you get the most out of your body’s natural rhythms, Dr Alka Patel, GP, lifestyle medicine physician and founder of Lifestyle First, has some tips on how to hack your body clock and use it to increase both your productivity and creativity:

1. Work out your sleep pattern

Sleep is actually the beginning of your biological day. It’s a time of intense preparation for the day ahead – repairing the body, processing emotions and consolidating memory. While eight hours is the magic number needed for restoration and preparation, the optimal timing for sleep is not the same for everyone. Do you rise with the morning sun, full of vitality? Or are you at your most energised when the rest of the world seems to be sleeping? Your preference for morning-ness or evening-ness is all down to your chronotype. About 40% of us are morning larks, preferring to wake up early, and about 30% of us are night owls, preferring to go to bed late and wake up late, with the rest somewhere in-between.

2. Do your most important tasks between 10am and 3pm

For most, the best window to combat difficult tasks and make hard decisions is between 10am and 3pm. This is when the brain is at optimal function for solving complex problems, as well as navigating social and emotional challenges. During these hours your mind is also at its most creative, so try and schedule your day so that more difficult tasks are done during these hours and leave simpler jobs for later in the day. Our neurotransmitters, which act as chemical messengers in the body, are regulated by our clocks so that, by and large, we are alert in the morning, motivated during the day and calm in the evening. For night owls however, productivity and energy levels usually peak after 4pm and up to 12 hours after waking. 

3. Exercise during sunrise or sunset

Exercise is best in sunlight, ideally within two hours of sunrise or within the two hours before sunset. This helps to set the clock for later sleep. Exercise increases the production of haem – the pigment in our blood that carries oxygen to cells. Haem also influences metabolism and the production of muscle fibre. Exercising in the morning improves your mood and stimulates new brain cell production, while working out in the late afternoon is also beneficial as this is when muscle tone increases.

4. Drink plenty of water and limit caffeine

We require more water in the daytime but many of us don’t drink enough, or mistake the thirst stimulus as hunger. Hydrating with water, rather than caffeine, is also important. Caffeine may provide a short burst of energy, but it interferes with sleep by inhibiting a molecule called adenosine which is what signals the body to become drowsy and sleepy. Caffeine can last a while in the body – six hours after your last cup of coffee, half of it is still around to disturb your sleep – so I recommend avoiding caffeine after 2pm. Your sleep cycle has the most effect on your productivity and energy, so it’s important to keep it in check.

With all this increased productivity, you’re bound to have some extra time on your hands. Click here for eight useful ways to spend it.

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