If you are often ending your days wondering why you weren’t able to get more done, you might want to start paying closer attention to when you’re completing your trickiest tasks. For most people, energy and the ability to focus peaks twice during the day, first in the morning and then in the late afternoon. These are your “optimal windows for doing your most creative and focused work,” Christopher Barnes, an assistant professor of management at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business, told Harvard Business Review this week.
Barnes suggests that rather than trying to fight off the afternoon slump, you should pay attention to when the brain fog takes over. Don’t bother trying to get creative work done when it hits, Barnes suggests; instead, start using that time for the busy work on your to-do list, like returning phone calls or emails. Makes sense! And yet, as Dan Ariely, the author and Duke behavioral economist, has pointed out before, most people begin their days with these relatively mindless tasks, thinking that they’ll just ease on into the workday. You probably will never be able to completely avoid the afternoon sleepies, so you may as well plan accordingly.