Night owls or early risers: Research shows we’re most productive at 1.30pm

most productive at 1.30pm

There’s a link between time of day and productivity, a new study reveals, which researchers say is crucial to understanding workflow and efficiency.

Economists Denni Tommasi and Alessio Gaggero set out to examine university exam performance, but instead arrived at a result they were unable to explain with pure economics.

Drawing on the work of psychologists specialising in circadian rhythms, the economists looked to the science behind sleep-wake cycles to account for trends in productivity and performance.

“We find that peak performance occurs around lunchtime,” concluded Tommasi and Gaggero.

Together, they identified the optimal hour is 1.30pm rather than early morning or late afternoon.

The study, published by the Iza Institute of Labor Economics in September, is based on 500,000 exam results of students from one of the largest public universities in the United Kingdom over a five-year period.

The exams were held in the morning, middle of the day and afternoon, and while students studied diverse fields, there was a focus on students in STEM disciplines.

According to the economists, “the main implication of our study for economics is that individuals, workers and organisations around the world may obtain efficiency gains by sorting their tasks according to the pattern of the circadian rhythm”.

“In general, tasks involving problem-solving skills should be prioritised and moved to early afternoon at times of year when sunlight exposure is limited,” Tommasi and Gaggero said.

“Whereas the rest of the tasks should be moved to the beginning or the end of the workday.”

For those looking for the latest productivity hack, this rigorous research shows that, regardless of whether you consider yourselves a night owl or morning person, 1.30pm may be the best time of day to complete complex tasks.


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