If you have worked with me and/or attended my productivity workshops, you know that there are better times of day for tackling difficult work. I refer to these times as your windows of peak performance.

The concept is simple - when possible, match hard work with the time of day when you have the greatest energy and most brain power.

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In his latest book, When: The scientific secrets of perfect timing; Daniel Pink covers a lot of the scientific research behind why we should pay attention to our body's natural circadian rhythms and the time of day when decisions are being made (both by us and for us).

I thought I'd share one of my favorite insights:


We each have a chronotype - a distinct pattern of circadian rhythms that impacts both our physiology and psychology. You have probably heard the terms "night owl" and "early bird" to describe people who are at their best late at night or early in the morning.

According to Till Roenneberg, a leading chronobiologist, most of us (65%) fall somewhere in between, a category Pink describes as "third birds." According to research, about 14% of the population falls into the early bird or "lark" category and the remaining 21% are owls.

How can you figure out your chronotype?

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For a quick assessment, answer these 3 questions:

  1. What time do you typically go to sleep?
  2. When do you wake up?
  3. What is the midpoint of those two times?

Look at the chart to the left and see where you land.

For a more detailed assessment you can download and complete the Munich Chronotype Questionnaire  MCTQ questionnaire.

While genetics play a big role in your chronotype, another factor that impacts your chronotype is the time of year you were born (fall and winter babies are more likely larks and spring and summer babies are more likely owls.) Age is also a determinant (young children and those over age 60 are more likely larks and most adolescents are owls).



As you can imagine, based on an individual's chronotype, there will be times of day when energy is low and decision-making compromised. Suppose that individual is your surgeon?

One hospital noticed that the number of adverse events from anesthesia were markedly higher in the late afternoon (the likelihood of a problem was 1% at 9 AM but over 4% at 4 PM). While this hospital took steps to rectify the situation through creating a routine checklist that required those in the operating to re-focus their attention, what about the hospital where you might be having surgery? 


Timing really is everything. If in doubt (and you don't know your surgeon's chronotype), remember that most people fall into the third bird category and schedule surgery or important decisions for the morning.

I will be sharing more of Dan Pink's insights in the near future! What are your thoughts on chronotype; did you take the assessment? Were you surprised by the results or did they confirm what you already knew?

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Available on Amazon.

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