Leverage the power of your body clock for focus, productivity and creativity

Bombarded with 'focus and productivity hacks’? Me too. That’s why I was surprised to discover that I had never come across the one thing that has the biggest impact on how focused and productive we are everyday: the circadian rhythm. 

Time of day has been shown to have a significant impact on our cognitive abilities and performance. When we do something can result in a 20% variance on how well we perform. (welcome to 20% Smarter!) 

Within each of us is the biological version of a clock called the circadian rhythm. It is roughly 24 hours long and moves through 3 phases of productivity: 

  • Phase 1 - Peak: Ideal time for analytic, precise, detailed types of work that require focus and attention 
  • Phase 2 - Dip: Ideal time for light, admin work that does not require intense cognitive effort. 
  • Phase 3 - Recovery: Ideal for creative for abstract thinking, brainstorming and more insightful types of work. 

This usually looks something like this: 

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What is your chronotype?

We all have a circadian rhythm, but individually they differ. The variation in our circadian rhythms is dependent on our chronotype, a natural inclination of your body to sleep, wake, eat and exercise at certain times. There are 3 chronotype catagories: Larks (morning people), Owls (evening people) and Doves (somewhere in between). 

Each phase of our circadian rhythm happens at a different time of the day depending on whether you are a Lark, Owl or Dove.

Here’s a general guide to when you should carry out different types of work according to your chronotype. If you don’t know which chronotype you are, here’s a quick quiz you can take to find out.


  • Peak: Deep work: 7am–10/11am 
  • Dip: Shallow/Light work: 1pm–2pm 
  • Recovery: Additional deep work: 2–4pm 


  • Peak: Deep work: 9am–12pm 
  • Dip: Shallow / Light work: 12pm–2/3pm 
  • Recovery: Additional deep work: 3pm–5pm 


  • Peak: Deep work: 4pm onwards 
  • Dip: Shallow / Light work: 1pm–4pm 
  • Recovery: Additional deep work: 10pm–1am 

Aligning your calendar with your circadian rhythm

If you work with a team it may be a challenge to schedule your day in alignment with your circadian rhythm, but by blocking out time in your calendar you can protect those key hours of your day when it's more easy for you to focus and get work done.

I’m a definite morning Lark so my calendar looks something like this... 

A small caveat here is that if I am attending an important meeting where I am required to give a presentation for example, then I try to organise it for before 11am, when I am more likely to be on top form. Any other meetings e.g general catch-ups, reviews etc can happen between 11am and 2pm.

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Key takeaways: 

  • When we do something can result in a 20% variance on how well we perform
  • We all experience a peak - dip - recovery cycle everyday
  • When you experience this depends on your chronotype
  • Blocking out time in your calendar can help you to align with your circadian rhythm and increase your brain health and performance

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