How to Be Productive at Work If You’re a Lark or a Night Owl

The early bird may get the worm, but what if you're a night owl? Not everyone works best during the typical 9-to-5 workday. Some are most productive in the early morning, while others hit their peak creative time at night.

Here’s how to be your most productive during the traditional workday shift and how to negotiate work hours with your boss if you need to.

Understand your peak time
If you don’t know when your peak time is, consider when you feel the most energized, creative and enthusiastic. Also determine when you have the fewest interruptions. Part of being productive involves limiting distractions.

Maximize your peak time
Follow these tips to get the most out of your peak productivity time:

  • Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation can impair cognitive processes and, therefore, productivity. Get your rest.

  • Plan ahead. If you’re an early bird, don’t wait to do challenging projects at the end of the day, when your energy is spent. If you’re a night owl, you may not want to tackle them first thing in the morning. Use your less-energetic periods to catch up on routine tasks, such as responding to email.

  • Work in 90-minute increments. Studies show that your brain can focus for up to an hour and a half or two before it needs to rest. Try to work in 90-minute increments with short breaks in between.

  • Eat well. Make time for lunch and nutritious snacks throughout your workday.

  • Track your progress. Keep a to-do list to stay focused, checking off items as you go. Nothing is more motivating than making progress on your projects.

  • Switch gears. If you're struggling to focus, work on something new. Changing tasks can help increase your productivity.

  • Exercise.  Studies have shown that you focus better after 30 minutes of vigorous exercise. Schedule a workout to increase your productivity.

Adjust the 9-to-5
Discuss with your boss how your productivity would improve if you worked a flexible schedule or telecommuted. As you negotiate, remember that the change should benefit your employer, so be sure you emphasize how you would fulfill or even surpass your current responsibilities. If your boss isn’t sold on the idea, suggest trying a modified schedule for a month or two to see how it works.

Are you an early bird or a night owl? When is your peak productivity time? Let us know in the comments section.