Can My Biology Predict the Best Time to Work?

Why isn’t your business further ahead?

You can spend 15 hours in front of your computer screen “keeping busy”, but if you want to be truly productive, then you need to work at the right time of day for your body.

In his new book, When, New York Times bestselling author, Daniel Pink, uncovers the hidden role that timing plays in our lives and in our productivity.

Are You a Lark, a Night Owl, or a Third Bird?

In When, Daniel Pink informs us that naturally we are at the effect of an overarching pattern. This pattern shapes our moods, interactions, and reasoning skills. This pattern is time.

Pink explains that our mood is in sync with the rhythm of each day.

For most of us, we feel happy and sharp in the morning. The book states that as the morning unravels there is a rise in positive feelings and emotional balance.

Did you know that our body temperature slowly rises in the morning? This increase is linked to a rise in our energy levels, too. And boosts our “executive functioning.”  We are more creative, more alert, and able to focus on complex tasks and reasoning.

During our peak, we experience good feelings toward others, and we can tackle the brain-busting tasks of the day. Then, typically our mood slumps at a certain time in the afternoon. This happens approximately 7 hours after we wake up.

By the late evening, around 8 pm, good feelings reign once more. Pink says that each person has a “peak, a trough, and then a rebound.”


Some of Dan Pink’s research is based on the Munich Chronotype Questionnaire (MCTQ). The MCTQ questionnaire was developed by two scientists. Its purpose is to inform us about a person’s sleep patterns on work days and on “free days.” Or, days that we aren’t required to wake up at a specific time, like weekends.

Each person has a chronotype, which is a “personal pattern of circadian rhythm that influences our physiology and psychology.”

No two human beings are the same. We all have unique biological clocks. Pink categorizes people into three categories. They are either larks, night owls, or third birds. The author says, “between 60 percent and 80 percent of us are third birds.”

You can find out your chronotype if you track your mood and behavior during the day using this tracker.

If you use the tracker, be sure to record your mental and physical alertness each hour for one week. This will provide a wealth of information for you. Once you notice a common pattern on the tracker, then take action.  Alter your work schedule. Complete your pressing, analytical tasks during your peak time. If you begin to work smarter, then you will feel less stressed about your business. You will start to develop a schedule, and see a more pronounced output.

What Do the Experts Do?

A study on the world’s experts showed that elite violinists practiced their instruments early in the day for a few hours. At midday, the violinists stopped for lunch and allowed themselves an afternoon break. Pink notes that some of the violinists even napped during the afternoon.

A nap? The horror! The shame!

Yet micro naps, naps that do not last longer than 25 minutes, have a restorative effect on your body and mind.  If you were to nap longer than 25 minutes, however, sleep inertia would creep in.

Sleep inertia demands more energy from us in order to fully wake-up. So, if you sleep longer than 25 minutes, you might be a little groggy for the rest of the day!

Back to the study, at approximately 4 p.m, the elite violinist rehearsed for a few more hours before breaking for the day.

Work 24/7

We are often exposed to the concept that in order to achieve a goal or a specific outcome then we should work all the hours of the day, non-stop. We are under the impression that if we want success, we ought to transform into a work zombie.

However, research, such as what Pink points out disputes this work-all-day mindset. A better approach may be to listen to our internal clocks. In fact, Pink notes that many experts work in 45 to 90-minute bursts and then take “restorative breaks.”

Working smart is not a one-size fit all leather jacket. It requires an individual to test which method works best for them.

Some of us are early birds, while others experience our peaks as the evening rolls in.

Once you unlock the best work method for you, then you can begin to wisely source your peak-period. In return, you will become a more productive person.

To Break or Not to Break?

Throughout the book, Pink gives quick morsels of information that we can use to push forward. Some of the best ones are:

The Nappucino: Like I mentioned before, the best nap is under 25 minutes. Anything more will cause sleep inertia.  “The perfect nap” according to the author  is to drink a cup of coffee before you sleep.  The reasoning is that it takes approximately 25 minutes for our bloodstream to respond to caffeine. At the end of your 25-minute snooze, you should wake-up to feel your caffeine-jolt spike. So drink your coffee and set your phone timer for 25 minutes. Then, get some beauty rest!

Like the micro-nap, Pink also notes the benefit of taking micro-breaks. He states that our minds also get fatigued just as much as our bodies.  You can take small breaks or take 5 minutes to meditate. This small pause will have a restorative effect on your mental state.

If you are a fan of quick work intervals then the Pomodoro Technique might be for you! The Pomodoro Technique is to work for 25 minutes straight. Then, treat yourself to a short break of 5 or 10 minutes. Repeat until complete!


In conclusion, the experts give themselves some rope, and so should you. Experts understand that they are not made of metal and steel. In order to perform at their best, they take breaks, and get plenty of sleep. The next time you want to pull an all-nighter remember, there may be smarter options.

You can fast-track your output if you source your mental abilities during your peak periods. Knowledge is definitely power.

Do you approach your workday this way? What do you think of Dan Pink’s findings?

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