Everyone has probably heard of the circadian rhythm, a 24-hour biological clock that helps regulate bodily processes. We typically talk about our circadian rhythms in terms of our sleep-wake cycle, but did you know it actually matches our productivity levels throughout the day too? To learn more about the neuroscience behind productivity and how to figure out when your peak levels are in the day, keep reading!
If you ever find yourself getting tired around the afternoon, one big explanation for it could be because of something in your brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, otherwise known as the circadian pacemaker. This is a bundle of nerves on your pituitary gland that controls the rise and fall of your hormones, body temperature and the chemicals that fire within your body. These typically reset every 24 hours and are the reason behind your high points and low points in the day.
High points are the periods of time for peak productivity while low points are when you feel like you can hardly concentrate on anything. The difference in energy between your highest peak focus and lowest point during the day is equivalent to three or four alcoholic drinks in one hour for the average person. No wonder you feel like you can’t get anything done during your low point in the day.
Each day we have a limited amount of time that our brain will focus (believe it or not, it’s less than four hours!) and because of this, it makes sense that there are three different peak times within the day. The peak times happen in two hour intervals and occur at different times within the day depending on what chronotype you are, or the specific circadian typology you have.
The three peak times are deep work, communication and creativity. Deep work is the period when your brain is best at strategic problem solving, logic and anything that requires a lot of attention. It’s what we typically think of as productivity and it’s the best time for processing ideas. The creativity peak is the opposite of deep work in which we want the brain to be strategically disengaged. This is our peak time in which we are not so critical of our thoughts in order for our ideas to flow in easily. Finally, the communication peak time is when you’re best able to articulate and express your thoughts. Here is when you would want to be having meetings, writing emails and putting your ideas into action.
There are four different chronotypes that explain the differences between the timing of the peak moments in the day. Each person will fall into one of the four categories. These chronotypes are named Bear, Dolphin, Wolf and Lion after the animals that best represent their characteristics. 50 percent of your chronotype is determined by genetics while the other 50 percent is influenced by your age, gender and the hormones running through your body at whatever point in life you are in.
There are many quizzes available online you can take to find out which type you are such as the Ideal Day Formula Quiz I took from a TikTok user (@the.productivty.coach) that introduced me to this concept. Determining what your chronotype is will provide insight on what times in the day work best for your productivity. It can also help you be more mindful when your energy levels shift and help you figure out the best wake and sleep schedule. Figure out what chronotype you pair with best and use it to your advantage to take control over your day!