There’s no “one size fits all” secret to productivity. Some of your team members do their best work in the morning, while others thrive later in the day. 

The first step in understanding each of your employee’s productivity levels is to accept that everyone’s different — then you can work together to make the most of each workday. How do you do this? According to author Sam Carpenter in his book “Work the System,” the concept of a “biological prime time” is the answer. 

See how Harvest helps your team thrive.

Try Harvest Free


What is a biological prime time? 

In “Work the System” Carpenter describes the biological prime time as “the period of time when you are most focused and energized.” Simply put, your team members’ biological prime time is when they are most capable of accomplishing tasks without getting easily distracted or bogged down. 

This prime time is backed by science: Ultradian rhythms are cycles consisting of approximately 90 minutes of high-frequency brain activity, followed by 20 minutes of low-frequency brain activity. This means our brains are capable of high energy and focus for about an hour and a half before they need to rest. 

It’s during these 90-minute periods that the important tasks should get done. Understanding each team member’s biological prime time makes it much easier to build a schedule around those energy peaks and dips. 

How to calculate biological prime times

Calculating biological prime times takes a few weeks, but the process is easy — and maybe even a little fun. Encourage your team to take the following steps to understand when they work best in order to increase productivity as a whole. 

Track time spent on tasks 

Your team likely has a daily routine with tasks that should be completed within a certain time. Over three weeks, they should pay close attention to what times of the day they’re actually successful in getting the most done. 

Using a time tracker like Harvest will help your team see when they’re most productive. They might find that they’re repeatedly accomplishing the most in the morning, or they could discover that the end of the workday is when they’re able to focus best. 

Track energy levels 

Energy and motivation levels should be tracked alongside the tasks completed during certain hours of the day. Encourage your team to use a journal, planner, or even Google Sheets to record levels of their overall mental state on a 1-10 scale for each time of day: 

  • Morning

  • Early afternoon

  • Late afternoon

  • Early evening

  • Late evening

  • Night

It’s important to dedicate specific hours for each period of time, depending on when the actual workday starts for each person. For the first week, energy levels can be tracked simply by chunks of the day, but as your team progresses through the process, they should start tracking on an hourly basis. 

Capitalize on the patterns 

With three weeks of data, your team will have enough information to ensure they’re actually identifying peak hours of focus, and not just seeing results from one or two days that could have been impacted by an extra cup of coffee or two. 

Sit down with each team member and look at their highs and lows — are they happening at the same time each day? Based on the findings, help your team members identify their peak hours. 

Once these are narrowed down, it’s time to maximize them. Make sure they’re making an effort to reserve their biological prime times for more demanding tasks or work that requires full brain power or creative energy. There are a few strategies to do so. 

Build a clear plan

Make sure your team isn’t wasting their most effective hours identifying what needs to be done. Instead, get the plan figured out ahead of their biological prime times so that they’re ready to buckle down when they’re most focused and energetic.

Block the time off

Your team members should block off their biological prime times on their calendars to safeguard those hours and avoid losing time with meetings or other commitments. This also prevents others from potentially distracting them.

Tune out distractions

According to one study, it can take around 23 minutes to recenter focus after getting distracted, which can quickly swallow up the biological prime time. Your team should do their best to mute their instant messages, turn their phones on “do not disturb,” and close email tabs to ensure they’re channeling all their energy to getting the most important work done.

What about the rest of the day? 

Once your team is aware of their most energetic and focused times, it’s important to note that the rest of the day shouldn’t go to waste. The point of calculating biological prime times is to better understand how to allocate responsibilities the right way. The prime time should be dedicated to deep work, and the other times can be spent: 

  • Answering emails and communicating with team 

  • Sorting out calendars and to-do lists 

  • Repetitive tasks that apply to specific roles

No matter what time of day your team works best, Harvest is here to help them spend time wisely. Our intuitive time tracker makes it easy to capture their time with dedicated apps across devices, and since it’s integrated with the tools they already know and love, it’s simple to get started. Sign up for a free trial today.