How to make the most of your working day

It’s Monday morning and, if you’re anything like me, you’ll have struggled to even get out of bed this morning, never mind get showered, dressed, fed, and into work – it almost makes you wonder whether Monday  mornings are actually worth going into work for.

Of course, there will be those of you out there who spring out of bed on a Monday morning, relishing what the working week has in store, and while job satisfaction has a lot to do with it, your natural body clock and work cycle can’t be underestimated.

So if you’re looking for a good reason to request flexible working so you can stay at home on a Monday morning, read on…

The trouble with the nine-to-five

The traditional eight-hour working day has been around since the early nineteenth century, following a campaign by Robert Owen, a social reformer who worked in Manchester’s cotton industry, to cut the crippling 16-hour day down to eight to give workers: “Eight hours labour, eight hours recreation, [and] eight hours rest.”

The eight-hour working day never really caught on until 1926, however, when Henry Ford cut the working day to eight hours at his Ford Motor Company plant to increase productivity and profits (the doubling of his staff’s pay may have also contributed to an increase in productivity).

So the eight-hour day is a model that’s been around for a couple of hundred years, and one that isn’t actually based on any scientific study or sound reasoning that still stands up today, particularly in a modern, more creative economy.

And that’s why it’s arguably more important to manage your energy rather than your time.

How to be more productive

Some people do their best work during the morning, I tend to do mine late at night – something I think stems from staying up all night to finish university assignments, but that’s another story – so in order to increase productivity, it’s important to work out when you’re at your most productive.

A simple way to find out your most productive work times and patterns is to simply pay close attention to your habits and work out when your energy and focus levels are at their highest.

Kelly Allder, vice president of HR programs at human capital management technology company Ceridian, offers this advice: “Are you an early bird or a night owl? If there’s a clear answer, then schedule your work hours based on this [if possible].

She added: “Regardless of starting time, always be sure to prioritize your tasks based on importance and/or deadline. If there’s a big, time-sensitive assignment on your to-do list, [work on it] when you have the most energy.”

Then work out what other factors hold you back from completing your tasks and then look at ways to eliminate them. Some of the main hindrances to productivity include:

  • Not setting priorities
  • Poor planning
  • Distractions
  • Underestimating the effort a task will take
  • Procrastinating
  • Multitasking
  • Doing things last minute

A quick look at Ultradian rhythm

An ultradian rhythm is a recurrent period or cycle repeated throughout a 24-hour circadian day, and we have four different types of energy to manage each day:

  • Physical energy – how healthy are you?
  • Emotional energy – how happy are you?
  • Mental energy – how well can you focus on something?
  • Spiritual energy – why are you doing all of this? What is your purpose?

And it’s understood the human mind can only focus on any given task for between 90 and 120 minutes, after which point a 20 to 30 minute break is needed to get the renewal to achieve high performance for our next task again.

So our ultradian rhythm looks like this:


So instead of looking at what you can get done in an 8-hour day, break the day up into ninety-minute sessions of designated tasks, this can massively improve your focus and productivity.

Do you have any top tops to improve productivity? Let us know…