Melody Wilding

Producing high-quality work day after day after day is no small feat.

When you use your brain on perpetual overdrive, you're bound to hit productivity slumps where it feels like you're fresh out of new ideas.

While there's no shortage of tricks and tips to hack your way to more innovative thinking, the time of day is everything, says sleep doctor Dr. Micheal Breus. Dr. Breus, also the author of "The Power of When," believes working in sync with the body's natural clock is the key to unlocking success to produce our best, most creative work.

The science of "good timing" — called chronobiology — reveals that peak performance is hardwired into our DNA. "An inner clock embedded inside your brain has been ticking away, keeping perfect time, since you were a baby," writes Breus. "This precisely engineered timekeeper is called your circadian pacemaker, or biological clock."

The next time you're feeling mentally sluggish, try tapping into chronobiology to perform at your best. When you're trying each of the four things below, you should do them at the below time of day

1. When you're learning something new...

Learning is most effective when the brain is in acquisition mode, generally between 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and then again from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. 

Night owls and early morning risers beware: the lowest learning valley occurs between the hours of 4:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. Save anything you need stored in your long-term memory for daytime studying.

2. When you need to make a decision...

The phrase "sleep on it" has persisted for a reason: we make worse decisions late at night and during the first thing in the morning.

Save important decisions for when you feel most alert, generally within a one to three hour time period after waking up. Listen to your circadian rhythm and make decisions when you feel in sync with it.

3. When you're brainstorming...

Ironically, research has found that people are at their least creative when it's demanded the most: at the heart of the workday, between 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Breus suggests leaning into "moments of groggy greatness" when we're slightly tired and easily distracted. During these times, the right and left brain communicate, which can trigger new and novel connections — and spark innovative ideas.

4. When you're asking for money...

Friday afternoon. While this is the least productive day of the week, people are generally in a good mood. A positive outlook bodes well for asking for a raise or making a sale. Avoid Monday mornings — when people are the most stressed and grumpy — at all costs.

New discoveries in chronobiology may show that timing isn't everything, but it is extremely important if you want to create and perform at your best on a consistent basis.

Ultimately, you need to listen to your body clock to find the optimal time. Regardless of what time zone you're in, you can save time by learning when you're most alert — the best time to be creative is ultimately depends on you.



Melody Wilding is a coach and licensed social worker who helps ambitious high-achievers manage the emotional aspects of having a successful career. She also teaches Human Behavior at Hunter College in NYC. A popular speaker, Melody has delivered talks for TedX and others. An earlier version of this article first appeared on