There are those periods of time when you’re hyper-focused. You crank through items on your to-do list with seeming ease. Distractions are no match for you. You’re an unstoppable productivity powerhouse.
...and then there are those other times. You feel sluggish and scatter-brained. It takes you 30 minutes to complete something that would normally take you five. You wonder if you’ll ever get anything worthwhile done again.
Been there? We all have. It’s proof that all of us have a biological prime time—and finding your own could help you unlock your peak productivity.
What Is The Biological Prime Time Method?
The biological prime time method was coined by author Sam Carpenter in his book “Work the System.”
Here’s the gist: Your biological prime time refers to a period of time when you feel your most focused and energized. For example, maybe you have the easiest time zoning in on your tasks between 8am and noon. That’s your biological prime time. You might also hear it referred to as your “golden hours.”
This isn’t just conjecture—it’s based on physiology. Our biological prime time is driven by our body’s ultradian rhythms. These rhythms are cycles that repeat numerous times throughout a 24-hour period. We routinely experience peaks when we’re highly-focused, as well as dips when we feel sleepy and distracted.
So, the goal of the biological prime time method is to identify the peaks in your typical day and use them to your advantage.
How To Find Your Own Biological Prime Time
That brings you to the pressing question: How do you find your own biological prime time?
The good news is that you don’t need to work through any sort of complex formula or hook yourself up to a brainwave monitoring device. In fact, you might even already have an inkling of what time of day you have the easiest time churning through your to-dos.
Regardless, you can learn a lot about your own ultradian rhythms through some simple observation. During a typical workday, you could try one of the following:
- Use a time tracker. That will give you valuable data about what hours of the day you’re able to get the most done. Your reports might show you that you repeatedly get way more tasks accomplished during the afternoon hours before you sign off for the day.
- Log your energy levels in a journal. This doesn’t need to be anything fancy. A simple notepad where you record your overall mental state during different parts of the day can reveal a lot. For example, you might see that you repeatedly feel tired and foggy for an hour or two after your lunch break.
The key here is that one day alone won’t reveal much about your biological prime time. Your goal is to look for common time chunks throughout a more extended span of time, so aim to track your time or your energy levels (or ideally, both) for at least two or three weeks.
That gives you enough information to ensure you’re actually identifying your peak hours, and not just drawing conclusions from one random day (when, admittedly, you had a lot of caffeine).
Making The Most Of Your Biological Prime Time
Finding your biological prime time is important—but it’s only part of the process.
Once you’ve narrowed down the period of time (or maybe it’s a few periods of time) when you’re at your most focused and energetic, you need to figure out how to maximize it.
Remember, productivity isn’t only about managing your time but also your energy. After all, the clock might say that you have adequate time to finish a task. But if your brain is checked out? That task probably isn’t getting done—regardless of how much time you theoretically have at your disposal.
That’s why there’s one golden rule you need to apply to your biological prime time: protect it. You need to make every effort to reserve that time for your demanding tasks and the work that requires your full brain power and creative energy.
How do you do that? There are a number of strategies you can use, including:
- Start with a clear plan. You don’t want to waste precious time figuring out what you should be working on. Try to create your to-do list or identify your priorities ahead of your biological prime time so that, when it hits, you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and get to work.
- Block that time off on your calendar. This quite literally safeguards your biological prime time and helps you avoid scheduling meetings and filling that time block up with other commitments. Plus, it prevents other people from dropping obligations on your schedule too.
- Tune out distractions. One study found that it can take upwards of 23 minutes to refocus after a distraction, which can quickly eat up all of your biological prime time. So, sign out of Slack, turn your phone on “do not disturb,” close your email tabs—whatever you need to do to ensure that you’re able to channel your full energy and attention on your most daunting to-do’s.
The above will help you maximize your highly-focused time, but what about the rest of the day? Are you supposed to throw up your hands and accept that you’ll be next-to-useless for those hours?
Not quite. Instead, it’s about allocating your responsibilities accordingly. If your biological prime time is dedicated to the deep work that demands a lot of your mental energy, those other periods of your day (when your ultradian rhythm is in a dip rather than a peak) can be used for low-pressure tasks like:
- Answering emails and managing your inbox
- Updating records and cleaning up files
- Sorting out your calendar and to-do list
...or any other more repetitive tasks that apply to your specific role. You’ll still get something done during those low points, without pushing your brain and energy levels way beyond their limits.
Use Your Brain Waves To Boost Your Productivity
Understanding when your brain is operating at peak performance—and, alternatively, when it’s barely chugging along—can help you manage your energy so that you can not only get more done, but feel better while doing it.
There’s one more important thing to note: Your biological prime time isn’t set in stone. Energy is fickle and, much like your life circumstances, your most-focused time could shift.
Continue to pay close attention to what you’re getting done and how you’re feeling throughout the day. If what used to be your golden hours have now turned into a constant drag? It’s probably time to go back to logging your time and energy for a few weeks to see how you can adjust your schedule accordingly.
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