At work, a calendar filled with meetings and deadlines often dictates the cadence of our days. But despite what tightly timed agendas might try to insist, our internal body clocks are secretly running the show. Scientists call this personalized daily pattern of sleep and wakefulness a circadian rhythm.
Whether you know it or not, our bodies have a specifically set programming schedule for the best time of day to concentrate, spark new ideas, and experience peak performance.
Scientists have tracked how cognitive abilities rise and fall, and found that most of our brains follow a neatly predictable pattern of cognition that fluctuates hour by hour, throughout the course of a day. Author Daniel Pink revealed his formula for a perfect science-backed workday in his 2018 New York Times bestseller "When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing."
The strategy for your own perfect day might differ from this, depending on whether you're more of an early riser or a night owl, but in his book Pink reveals a basic formula for a better work schedule, whatever time of day you tend to plug in. We've added in a few other science-backed ways to make your workday better, too.
Take a look.
Almost all of us fall into a predictable mood pattern each morning.
Scientists who studied 509 million tweets from 2.4 million people in 84 countries around the world found that just about everyone's mood follows a body-clock-linked daily rhythm.
Our attitudes brighten in the morning. As we wake, we become happier, warmer and enjoy work more. The good feeling typically peaks somewhere around noon.
Source: British Journal of Psychology
So it might be best to schedule important meetings and earnings calls during these happier morning hours.
Researchers who studied more than 26,500 earnings calls in the US from 2001 to 2007 found that, generally, the tone of an earnings call became more negative as the workday wore on.
Just moving an 8 a.m. earnings call to a 3 p.m. slot could translate "to abnormal returns of −1.5% a year," on average, a Harvard Business Review report said.
You're likely better at keeping distractions at bay in the morning.
For most of us, "sharp-minded analytic capacities peak in the late morning or around noon," Pink writes in his book.
Scientists who've studied this effect have shown that speed and accuracy at completing tasks are both better in the morning, and that the ability to remain alert tracks closely with sleep and wake schedules, which tend to peak twice a day: once in the late morning, and then again in the evening.