When Are We Most Productive, Creative, And Most Likely To Get A Breakthrough Idea?

Only certain times of the day or night at a preferred space, we tend to be very creative and productive. However, breakthrough idea can come to our minds at any time, even we are least productive and creative

When are we most productive and most creative? When is the best time to produce quality professional work? Are there certain times of the day and night that our creativity is heightened? Is peak productivity time the same as the time to produce a breakthrough idea? The shortest answer, according to most studies, is that it is subjective.

Most researches give mixed results. The main takeaway is that different routines work for different people. Some people prefer day time, particularly early morning; others find their most creative ideas in the evening, some even in more unconventional hours. I personally know of an award-winning novelist who writes from early evening and well into the night.

Some people struggle to find their most productive and creative time. For me, it is from 11am to 3pm. It is in between these times that my creative juices flow the most. And over the years, I learned how to work on creative projects – which are challenging and need fresh ideas and problem-solving – at this time of the day. If I am submitting a text which requires a highly persuasive language and great articulation, like a project proposal, a pitch, or a job application, I work on it during this time of the day.

I have also learned to plan my non-productive time, which I feel mentally sluggish, for tasks that don’t require much innovation and creativity e.g. sending an email, participating in a meeting, making a phone call, etc. However, even the most productive time requires taking few breaks in between to recharge and refocus. For me, it is this time that I move my body from the workspace i.e. make another cup of coffee or tea, and check my iphone for the latest update, etc.

The best way to identify your peak creativity and productivity time is to monitor your energy levels, your focus, your attention span, and your ability to generate great ideas at different times of the day, and then schedule your most important work and things you love doing around this time of the day or night. Consider external factors that affect you during work e.g. distraction from digital devices and other people, your mood of the day, or may be having had a poor sleep the night before.

Space matters too. I feel better when I declutter my desk. I also like to do in the same place most of the time. Some people may not produce great work in the office desk. They may simply become more productive while writing at a café or in a quiet place, like a library, or sometimes in their living room on a weekend. All you have to do is to notice which space you are most productive in.

Many people confuse peak productivity time with the best time to produce a breakthrough idea. You can identify your peak productive time, but you can’t time or plan or brute force yourself to produce a breakthrough idea. A breakthrough idea can come to us at any time and anywhere – after good night sleep, or in good mood, or in solitude or reflective moment.

A study conducted by Cindy May on when people are most analytic and insightful found out that ‘‘Morning people have more insights in the evening. Night owls have their breakthroughs in the morning’’. It is these ‘light-bulb moments’ that produce out-of-the box and original thinking.

Talking about when he produced best ideas, Wolfgang Mozart, a prominent 18th century Austrian composer, said: ‘‘when I am myself, entirely alone, and in good cheer, travelling in a carriage, or walking after a good meal, or during the night when I cannot sleep. It is on such occasions that ideas flow best and most abundantly’.

The important thing is that you cannot time a breakthrough or set an ideal time for the perfect idea to strike, because everybody would have done it. Great idea moments are like a sudden moment of inspiration, getting an innovative concept, which has the capacity to alter an industry, or topple corporations, or medical scientists breaking through to find treatment for an incurable disease.  I believe it is a mystery why certain people, all over sudden, get creative and find novel solutions to challenges that baffled humanity for centuries.

Maybe it is this aura of mystery that keeps us hopeful. It moves life forward, making it exciting so that we can look forward to the next big thing in the world and in our lives, because as human we like thrills, to be surprised, and to see hard codes cracked. I think that is why records never remain unbroken. Human ingenuity is infinite, but also spontaneous. It can also be periodic as we often go into a period of creative stagnation followed by a period of creative rejuvenation and vice versa.

So, if you are looking for a breakthrough idea, don’t brute force it to emerge – just relax. It may come when it is least expected. And if you want to know your most productive and creative time, simply watch your mind and body, your environment, and you will most likely notice it. And when you do so, also remember to notice when your mind and body stop being productive and creative too, because it is a window period, which can be very short for some people. I hope yours is long enough to last three to five hours a day, with breaks included – a new routine with greater possibilities.

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