So how are you doing on those New Year’s Resolutions? We are already two weeks into 2018 and I was just wondering, how is it going?

I read a great article in the WSJ a couple of weeks ago that talked about how we all make our resolutions – but few of us actually address the issue of “when”.  You decided what your goals are, what help you need, and why you need to make these resolutions. But even though you know timing is everything (in fact, it’s an art), how much attention did you give to the “WHEN” of your resolution?  You might be more successful if you follow the science.

Time of day has a huge influence on human brain power.  We have known for over 100 years that our cognitive abilities are not static over the 16 hours we are awake. These fluctuations can be extreme, with the difference between our high and low point equivalent to having the legal blood alcohol limit.  We are better at some things early in the day and other tasks later in the day, following a daily pattern of a peak, a trough and a rebound.

During the peak our ability to concentrate and focus is at its best.  For most of us this peak comes in the late morning.  We should use this time to work on projects that require the most attention and analysis.

During the afternoon, a drop in our alertness and energy comes with a trough in our ability to focus as well as a less disciplined approach to our day.  This is a time that you should do the more admin type work:  emails, filing, filling out reports, etc.

Then we get a rebound in the late afternoon or early evening.  This is a time when we are most creative, even if we are not as focused and vigilant as we are in the peak morning time.  But we are more alert and generally in a better mood than during the trough.  Plan your brainstorming or creative parts of your work for the late afternoons.

The other thing to remember is that frequent short breaks sharpen your focus and increase your energy throughout the day.  Try to make your break a complete break, preferably a tech-free one, from your work.  It will boost your mood and ease stress in a way that a break to catch up on emails or social media will not.

If you match your work with your natural rhythm and take advantage of your peak, trough, and rebound stages of your day, it will be easier to get things done and help you stick with those resolutions.