Understanding your peak performance hours (and it’s not 2pm)

No one is productive every minute of every hour during the day. It’s impossible. So it’s okay when 2pm rolls around and all you want is a little break, a cat nap or a fresh walk. Before I began freelancing and working my own hours, I was working in an office. When 2pm rolled around, I felt like a failure for being tired and unmotivated in that moment. But I realized it was normal. Almost everyone experiences it as well. Phewf!

How do you figure out when you are most productive?

Think about your past week of work. When did you feel you cranked out the most work? When did you feel the minutes ticked by and you couldn’t focus? Note those time periods in your head — those are your peak and low performance hours.

What do you do about your peak performance hours?

Each day, discover which projects and tasks are the most important to get done. Make sure you are working on these during your peak hours. Time block your schedule during that time to devote yourself to that project to ensure you work on it when you’re at your best. Then identify the projects that are lower impact and work on them when you’re not doing your most important ones (a.k.a. when you’re not at your 100%).

It’s all give and take — but realizing what is most important and doing it during your best hours will make you much more successful and impactful in your job.

For me, the morning and later afternoon until late night are the best hours for me. I love waking up early and getting a lot done right away — it’s the perfect way to start the day. I set myself up for success by doing this. Later in the afternoon (post 3pm) I also find myself extremely energized and motivated — and can feel that way late into the night. I make sure to take advantage of that as well. 

What do you do about low performance hours? 

While in the office, it may be hard to just sit back, put your feet up and listen to some music or read a book while you’re not feeling into it. But, as society stands, that would be frowned upon. So would be napping on your desk.

There are other activities you can do during the day to refocus your mind and get through the slump:

  • Go for a refreshing walk by yourself or with a coworker.
  • Run an errand or two if they are nearby.
  • Have that coffee meeting with someone you’ve been meaning to meet up with. An energizing conversation may help you snap back into it quicker than you think.
  • Workout. Perhaps you have a gym nearby or can go for a run. Exercising produces endorphins which wakes you up and keeps you going.
  • If you do have the luxury of working from home, feel free to take a brief nap or rest and watch your favorite show. Just don’t let that go on for too long…

The moral of the story here is that we all feel it. And we all feel guilty inside about it. But it’s actually okay to not be at 100% all day. It’s just not humanly possible. Do the smart thing for yourself by discovering your best and worst hours and optimize for those.

What do you do to get through the low performance hours?


  • http://Schwendt.com Joe Schwendt

    Totally agree about peak performance times. People typically think I’m crazy when I say I accomplish more between 10PM-2AM than the rest of the day. But when you consider that it’s a time when there are both no interruptions or excuses, and the only thing between you and your pillow is getting your work done, you’re both motivated and focused.

    Motivation and Focus are perhaps the two most important factors for getting things done. One with out the other and you’re only 30% of your potential. Without either, and you might as well just be in meetings :)

    Find you place and time, and keep it holy. Don’t let anything come between you and it.

    Love to hear what your “holy-productivity” time is…


    • kristinedziadul

      Awesome points, Joe! Especially being a freelancer, I have to understand my best working hours and stay motivated throughout the day. My best productivity time seems to change a bit day to day (depending on what is going on that day) but seems to be between 8-10am or 9pm-sleep. I can certainly crank out work at any time during the day, but not AS much as during those hours.