During Which Period of the Day Do You Feel Most Productive?

“I frequently find it odd that so many people need to squeeze their working hours into a narrow timeframe, and I hope that modern jobs will start to change this.” — Alexander Swallow, poll respondent, U.K .

“Early morning—there are few others around, the phone doesn’t ring, there’s little clutter in the working memory, and the imagination works better. Psychologically, there’s more enthusiasm at the beginning of the day.” — Alan S. Hill, poll respondent, Australia

“It always varies for me, but when I DO feel productive, no matter what time of the day it is, I will capitalize on that by 1) Making sure I’m having fun, which will 2) Lower my stress level and 3) Make me feel more hopeful and creative and productive. ” — Dr. Trina Hess, poll respondent, U.S.A.

Back in mid-May 2011, I posted a simple poll on my Linked In page, asking, “During which period of the day do you feel most productive?” By the time the poll closed on May 31, it had garnered a total of 148 votes, with 18 comments clarifying the positions of those respondents.

I have to say, I found the results to be rather intriguing! First of all, I was interested to see that 44 of the individuals who voted (about 30%) did not include their gender in their profiles. It’s hard to say what that signifies, precisely, but I like to think of it as a positive indication that gender matters less now that it ever has in the business world. Otherwise, the results are split fairly evenly between men and women, at a ratio of 56 to 46 (55% vs. 45%). About half of the respondents are managers, business owners, and C-level executives. Age-wise, 34 respondents are in the 18-29 range, 17 are aged 30-36, 15 are aged 37-44, and 20 people are 45+. The rest (N = 62) did not share their ages.

While the results of the main question are all over the board, the respondents overwhelmingly selected morning as their most productive time of day. In fact, each of the two morning categories individually received more votes than the rest of the day combined. Early Morning got 68 votes, 48% of the total, while Mid-Morning received 44 votes (30%). The remaining tallies were Mid-Day, 11 (7%); Afternoon, 9 (6%); and Evening 16 (11%). Just after lunch is apparently the least productive period for my respondents, as just about any office worker could tell you! However, productivity seems to get its second wind by the time evening rolls around.

In terms of gender, the demographics are fairly consistent for all five categories. Men slightly outnumber women in all timeframes except Mid-Morning, when the ladies have a slight edge. Seniority breakdown in the morning categories is very similar, though there’s some variation within the other categories. It’s worth noting that every owner and C-Suite exec who responded chose morning as their most productive period, as did the majority of managers.

The information provided by the 18 commenters is especially revealing. Most chose Early Morning or Mid-Morning in the poll, though three did not vote at all. Perhaps this was because the poll allowed only one answer; repeatedly, commenters pointed out that they have more than one productive period during the day. Most reported an early-morning productivity spurt, when they’re most enthusiastic, followed by another burst later in the day. Their initial productivity phase is when they do their most challenging work; other times during the day are saves for things like meetings, taking care of rote tasks, and researching.

Several respondents emphasized the value of getting plenty of sleep, though some clearly don’t follow standard sleep patterns. A number of the Early Morning commenters admitted that they’re most productive very early in the morning indeed; some start as early as 1 AM! This makes sense, since it’s a great way to knock things off your to-do list before the rest of the world wakes up and complicates your life.

The locations of the 18 commenters also drove home to me just how global the Internet really is. Eight of the commenters are from the U.S.; three each are from Australia and India; two are from the U.K.; one is from Russia; and one is from Canada. I find this a revealing sample of Linked In professionals, at least those willing to comment on this particular poll.

I’m gratified and fascinated by the results of my poll, and I’d like to thank you if you were one of the respondents. If you weren’t, I’ll love to hear your answer to my poll question: During which period of the day do you feel most productive? Drop me a line and let me know!