If you’re hungry to do your best and achieve your goals, you’ve likely asked yourself this question before: “What time of day do I do my best work?”
Your answer is likely, “I work best in the morning” - but the reality is that if you’re confining your best work to only the mornings… you’re missing out a much bigger opportunity.
This is because WHEN you do the work is not necessarily the defining variable of whether or not you’re operating at peak performance. There is something else at play here….
General Types of Work
Before we take a look at when is the best time to work, let’s take a step back and first identify the different types of work we encounter each day. Generally speaking there are two major types of work that you encounter on a regular basis.
Get Shit Done [GSD]
It is the type of work where you’re going to simply sit down and CRUSH creating some type of document [a blog, report, slide deck, etc] or crank through your task list.
This type of work requires your brain to be “ON”... firing on all cylinders with a very high level of energy and focus from your analytical brain.
P.S. This is NOT email. 95% of email is mindless busy work and communication. It is nothing more than distracting you from the real GSD work.
Creative Big Picture Thinking [CBPT]
This bucket is drastically different than the first. Here we’re taking a step out of our daily world and taking a high level, strategic view on a topic -or- simply slipping into a creative brainstorm.
This type of thinking is much less focused and slower. You will be “turning off” the analytical brain and instead, opening up your subconscious to a creative, free flow of ideas.
So When is the Best Time to Work at Peak Performance?
It’s pretty common to say, “I do my best work in the morning”. Although this may be true, in reality the variable that affects your performance is actually NOT the time of day.
Yes - The time that you work can play an influential part in your performance depending on how you’ve structured your day, habits and recovery patterns, BUT - Time is not the actual “lever” those who operate at peak performance focus on.
What the Hell Do Peak Performers Focus on?
The question becomes, if time isn’t the variable that peak performers focus on, what is it?
The answer is state of mind.
The state of mind that you are in while performing is often times the #1 contributing factor to how well you will perform and the quality of the outcome. [this holds true not just for work, but everything in life]
You’ve likely been in this scenario - Some tragedy happens [a death, breakup, an injury, etc] and you feel horrible… you slip into a low mental state. After the initial tragedy, you return to work and try and accomplish tasks. The tasks you’re working on take longer, they are harder to complete and the final product is not your best work. - “Arghhh.”
On the flip side…
You’ve probably had a time where we were feeling at the top of our game. Something inspired you to take action [returning from a conference or networking event, you just got a promotion, etc.] and when you sat down to work you simply CRUSHED that shit.
Although these are extreme examples, they helps illustrate how important your state of mind is for working at peak performance.
How to use your state to work at Peak Performance
[you’re saying] - “Ok Luke… I get it… but how do I use all of this?”
Generally speaking, there are two ways you can start leveraging your state of mind to perform at a higher level; a beginner approach and peak performer approach.
[we will get into specifics in future blog posts - make sure to subscribe now to get them emailed to you]
The Beginner Approach: Leverage the mindset you’re ALREADY in
Through out the day, our normal rituals and habits [eating, sleeping, working out, etc] help put us in various states of mind.
This is why most people say “I do my best work in the morning”. Because their habits and sleep patterns from the night before and early morning have primed them to be at a high state of mind for the “Get Shit Done” bucket of work.
The beginner's approach [what I would recommend most of you to start with] is to not make any drastic changes to what you’re doing, rather, be conscious of the state of mind you’re already in throughout the day and adapt the work you’re trying to tackle to that state.
Action Items and Next Steps:
Use a journal for a week [or more] to document activities you did through the entire day and describe how your mind was feeling before, during and after those activities.
After this week, look back to find a pattern of the periods of the day that you’re in a state of mind for “Get Shit Done” [GSD] work and “Creative Big Picture” [CBPT] work.
Then organize your blocks of time on your calendar and tasks to complete in those block to match the state of mind you’re often in at that time period.
If you’re like most people, here’s what your peak performance state daily timeline looks like:
- 7AM - 11AM = Get Shit Done
- 12PM - 4PM = Collaborating Period (a mix of GSD & CBPT with others) - This is where you should have all your meetings, email, data entry
- 5PM - 9PM = Creative Big Picture thinking
Comment below - with what your state of mind throughout the day, what activities affected it and how you’re adapting accordingly. We can learn from what each other is discovering.
The Peak Performer’s Approach: Create the state of mind you WANT
The advanced approach to this topic is to be proactive in creating the state of mind that you wish to have.
Those who are at their absolute top of their game will not let their mindset be up to chance. They take the time to invest in themselves to learn how to create and trigger the desired state of mind needed for the tasks they want to complete.
This includes [but not limited to]:
- Identifying existing activities they are doing that help trigger states of peak performance. Then finding ways to doubling down on those activities and do them in more depth, at a higher quality and more frequently.
[a simple example] - Breakfast… you’re already eating breakfast [hopefully]. Research options and then test and measure in a scientific way what you eat, how much, when you eat, etc. to find an optimal breakfast pattern that will help push you into a better state of mind.
- Developing new daily habits that have proven to help push your mind into a peak state.
[a simple example] - Finishing your showers with ice cold water helps shock the nervous system and cause the brain and body to start making all sorts of interesting reactions. What you’ll find is that this shock will help change your state of mind. I typically go back and forth between hot and cold a few times.
- Mental training to know how to trigger certain state of mind at any given time
[a simple example] - In your mind, recall a time when you were in a peak performance mindset. Make sure to incorporate all of the five senses into this “video” playing in your mind.
Associate yourself to this memory by putting yourself in the prospective of your own eyes. Then amplify all your sensory inputs. Make things bigger, brighter, louder, more intense.
Then open your eyes and do a mental check on your current state of mind. With practice, you’ll find this will bring your current state back to the state you were in during that memory when operating at peak performance.
I’ll be blogging about ways to mentally train your brain for peak performance. Make sure to subscribe to the blog so you can continue learning how to do this for yourself.
A Secret Ingredient: Reset and Refresh
For all peak performers a small, yet extremely important daily time period involves allowing their conscious mind to “check out” so it can reset and refresh.
This may seem very counter productive to tell you to “turn your mind off” in an article about accomplishing more work - BUT - this is the secret ingredient to compliment your periods of high production, peak mindset. They work hand-in-hand in an almost 1+1=3 affect.
There are many activities you can incorporate to help do this. Some examples include meditation, fitness/working out, lucid dreaming, martial arts, free flow painting, etc.
Countless psychological and neurological studies have been recently published around how important this type of time is to your mental state. Additionally, if you look at the top performing people in the world, there’s a clear pattern of incorporating these “reset and refresh” time periods into their daily routine.
Look at your schedule and build in regular activities to reset and refresh your mind. This could be as simple as building in a 15 minute block mid-day where you take a relaxed walk and listen to relaxing/soothing music.
I would recommend building this time between the spots where you switch between GSD and CBPT activities. Think of it almost like a palate cleanser between mental function.
Wrapping This Up
The time of the day you’re working on tasks only matters because of the habits and rituals you’ve already created in your life. BUT - you don’t have to leave this up to chance. The people in this world who are truly peak performers are proactive in triggering a peak state of mind at any time.
[moment of transparency] Personally, I’m currently working between these two periods. ~1.5 years ago I adapted my schedule and types of work around the patterns I saw in my state of mind.
Since then, I’ve been working on the second peice of being proactive with creating states of mind. I’ve been extremely successful with this and it’s made huge performance improvements in my life. But as always, I still have a lot to learn and work on.
… with thoughts, ideas and activities you’ve found to help spark peak performance. How have you structured your day based on your state of mind? - Let’s discuss