Planning for productivity: What time of day are workers at their best?

September 15, 2010
in HR / Employee Relations

If you plan important meetings for 3 p.m. or like to host brainstorming sessions after lunch, it’s time to reconsider those strategies.

Reason: Late afternoon is the most common time for workers to hit the productivity wall, say a new Accountemps survey of more than 1,000 senior managers.

Thirty-seven percent of managers surveyed said 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. is the least productive time of day for employees. Coming in second was 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., as cited by 28 percent of respondents.

Managers were asked, “In general, what is the least productive time of day for employees?” Their responses:

8 a.m. to 10 a.m ……………10%

10 a.m. to noon……………….4%

Noon to 2 p.m…………………19%

2 p.m. to 4 p.m……………….28%

4 p.m. to 6 p.m……………….37%

Don’t know……………………….2%

“All professionals experience lulls in productivity, but the late afternoon, in particular, may not be a good time to hold brainstorming sessions or take on highly challenging projects,” said Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps and author of Managing Your Career For Dummies. “High-performing individuals are typically attuned to their most productive times of the day and, when possible, schedule their critical tasks during those hours.”

Here are five tips from Accountemps to help professionals avoid the afternoon slump and maximize productivity:

1. Plan ahead. Don’t push challenging projects off until the end of the day, when your energy may wane. Use your less-energetic periods to catch up on more routine tasks, such as responding to e-mails and reading industry publications.

2. Get out and smell the roses. If you feel your energy beginning to dip, stretch or take a short walk to recharge. Try eating your meals or holding afternoon meetings outside.

3. Eat well. Remember to make time for lunch and nutritious snacks throughout your workday. Avoid high-carb foods, which can cause you to crash later.

4. Track goals. Keep a to-do list to remain focused, and ensure it’s visible on your desk so you can check items off as they’re completed. There’s nothing more motivating than making progress on your projects.

5. Switch gears. If you’re struggling to focus, take a quick break and research something new. Changing tasks can help increase your productivity late in the day.

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