The Best Time of Day to Make Decisions

By Melody Wilding '11SW of the Columbia Career Coaches Network

Producing high-quality work day after day is no small feat.

When you use your brain on perpetual overdrive, you're bound to hit productivity slumps where it feels like you're fresh out of new ideas.

While there's no shortage of tricks and tips to hack your way to more innovative thinking, timing is everything according to sleep doctor Micheal Breus, author of The Power of When. He believes working in sync with our body's natural clock is the key to unlocking success to produce our best, most creative work.

The science of "good timing"—called chronobiology—reveals peak performance is hardwired into our DNA.

"An inner clock embedded inside your brain has been ticking away, keeping perfect time, since you were a baby," Breus said. "This precisely engineered timekeeper is called your circadian pacemaker, or biological clock."

So, the next time you're feeling mentally sluggish, try tapping into chronobiology to perform at your best in these areas:

The Best Time to Learn Something New

Learning is most effective when the brain is in acquisition mode, generally between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then again from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Night owls beware: think twice before pulling an all-nighter. The lowest learning valley occurs between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m.

The Best Time to Make a Decision

The phrase "sleep on it" has persisted for a reason: we make worst decisions late at night and first thing in the morning. Your cognitive powers are strongest once your brain has a chance to shake off sleep inertia.

Save important decisions for when you feel most alert, generally within one to three hours after waking up.

The Best Time to Brainstorm

Ironically, research has found that people are at their least creative when it's demanded the most: at the heart of the workday, between 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Breus suggests leaning into "moments of groggy greatness" when we're slightly tired and easily distracted. During these times, right and left brain communicate, which can trigger new and novel connections—and spark innovative ideas.

The Best Time to Ask for Money

Friday afternoon. While this is the least productive day of the week, people are generally in a good mood. A positive outlook bodes well for asking for a raise or making a sale. Avoid Monday mornings—when people are the most stressed and grumpy—at all costs.

As new discoveries in chronobiology are proving, timing may not be everything, but it is extremely important if you want to create and perform at your best on a consistent basis.



Melody Wilding '11SW teaches human behavior at The City University of New York and is a nationally recognized Master Coach who distills psychological insights into actionable career advice. A licensed social worker trained at Columbia University, she's helped thousands of professional women and female entrepreneurs master their mindset and emotions for greater success. Melody has worked with CEOs and executives running top startups along with published authors and media personalities. She can help you identify and remove mental and emotional barriers keeping you from reaching the next level in your career. Learn more about her approach and results at If you're interesting in working with Melody one-on-one, get in touch about special private coaching rates for Columbia alumni.

Learn more about the Columbia Career Coaches Network.

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