What time of the day are we most productive?

With busy schedules, work-life balance to maintain, and work deadlines to meet – but at which point of the day should you be most productive?

Our internal clocks are based on our circadian rhythms, which define our daily energy levels – so everyone’s cycle might differ slightly.


How to prioritise tasks

Being productive doesn’t just depend on when you work, it’s how you work.

If you don’t know how to prioritise and sort tasks, then it doesn’t matter when you’re working, it’s unlikely to make you productive.

Having the right systems in place to prioritise your tasks is the first step to improving your productivity:

  • Create lists – Creating a list of all the tasks you have to do and ranking them in order from biggest priority to lowest priority means that you can clearly see which order to tackle your to-do list in.
  • Use time blocking – Breaking down your to-do list and blocking out time to focus on each point of the list.

Is waking up early better for productivity?

Waking up earlier is not always better for productivity. The most productive time to wake up is at a point where you have reached sufficient sleep. Typically, this looks to be around the 7–9-hour mark, but every individual is different and requires a varying amount of sleep in order to be at their most productive!

Trying to ensure you have a consistent sleeping pattern and are waking up and going to sleep at a similar time each night can also help to improve productivity.

The productivity slump

When is the least productive time of the day?

Typically, the least productive times of the day involve:

First thing in the morning after waking up. It can take around 60-90 minutes to feel fully awake after waking up in the morning. Although most people tend to be more productive in the morning, this isn’t necessarily the case first-thing. However, giving yourself an hour to prepare for the day by getting natural sunlight, doing some light exercise, or going on a walk can help you get into your ‘productivity zone’ quicker.

What’s commonly known as the ‘afternoon dip’ is the other least productive time of the day. Many people think this is based on when you have lunch, which isn’t always the case, but for most people this does tend to occur anytime around the 1pm-3pm mark.

During the afternoon dip, it might be best to focus on repetitive tasks that don’t take too much brain power to complete, or any admin tasks that might be further down your priority list.

When is peak productivity?

When should we be at our most productive?

  • Morning Peak – Usually before lunch, this is the best time to handle analytical tasks that require logical, focused, and disciplined attention.
  • Afternoon Dip – The afternoon slump is when a lot of people tend to crash. This isn’t necessarily based on when you have lunch but does typically tend to occur around the 1-3pm. During this time, it’s best to prioritise mindless, low-brain-power, but busy work tasks. This might include repetitive tasks, working through your unread emails, or other admin tasks.
  • Evening Rebound – For most people who have sleep patterns that are based around a typical 9-5 work schedule, this happens around 4pm. This is an ideal time for creative thinking, brainstorming, and out-of-the-box ideas.
Productivity barriers

Productivity blockers and how to resolve them:

Setting ineffective goals

Be realistic about how much work you can get done and when you can get it done.  Spend a few days tracking how long it takes you to complete certain tasks so that you have a better idea.

Not getting enough sleep

Focusing on going to bed at a consistent time and sleeping for enough hours will help you become more alert and productive.

Multi-tasking, unstructured days, and procrastination

Rather than multi-tasking and dipping in and out of several tasks at the same time, why not use lists and time blocking to prioritise tasks and block out time to complete each one?

Structuring your working hours so that you have clear boundaries between work and life can also help. Scheduling some time outside of working hours to practise your favourite hobby, spending time with friends or family, or completing some mindfulness activities can help force you to step away from work and have a good work-life balance.

Poor diet 

If you want to improve your productivity, getting a balanced diet is a great place to start. Not only can a balanced diet have a significant impact on your physical health, mental health, but it also helps to improve energy levels, concentration and focus levels, as well as work performance.

Getting regular exercise also works as a great stress reliever and can help re-focus and become more productive. Rather than working through your lunch break, why not go on a walk?

Prioritise productivity!

Don’t ruin your work schedule because you don’t know how to master your productivity! While you can’t master it overnight, take small steps to create healthy habits and your productivity should gradually increase with time.