The Blog

Biorhythm Nation

Everyone has times of the day when they’re more productive than others. A┬áreally, really unscientific poll (see chart) conducted by management consultant Karen Leland found that individual productivity tends to be higher in the morning, but that enough people are productive in the afternoon and evening that differences in biorhythms can throw a company off.

I’m an afternoon guy, myself. I arrange my schedule so I can close my office door around 3 PM and focus for the next four or five hours. In the afternoon I can breeze through densely written drafts and spreadsheet formulae and intricate business┬áplans that would stop me dead in the morning. In the morning, I’m a stumblebum; in the afternoon, I am poetry in motion.

I’ve done a cursory look and haven’t found a lot of hard data on the subject, buy my guess is this biorhythm thing is fairly disruptive. I worked in a business run by get-up-and-goers who were fully engaged by 8 AM. When I left kinda-sorta by mutual agreement (call them; they’ll tell you I resigned, but…) they noted that my work was great, it just took me too long. I was always having to stay late to get caught up.

The problem wasn’t that I was staying late; it’s that I was coming in early. Assuming that my work really was good (I won awards!) the productive relationship could have been saved had my day started at, say, noon, and run until 8 PM. I know, I know: the business didn’t exist for my convenience, and had there been some customer-facing, office-hours implications to my odd biological schedule I would totally understand. But I didn’t have that kind of responsibility. I was mostly writing, then; the where and when of it didn’t matter. Again, assuming they really liked my work (that’s what they said!), an understanding of this issue could have preserved a productive relationship. I didn’t understand it myself, at the time, so I was no help at all, and now I work somewhere else where I am still (I want to make a point of this) winning awards, just a little later in the day.

I wonder: is this an aspect of human behavior we need to consciously manage? Is there some kind of test we could give people to identify their individual Prime Times? Does anyone else have this problem, or is it just me?