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Live Life Fully: What is the best time to get things done?

By Linda Arnold

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- So, you're looking at that "to do" list and wondering how -- and when -- you'll ever get it done.

Well, you're not alone. My informal survey of magazine covers at newsstands shows that articles on organization and energy are quickly overtaking those on losing 10 pounds and getting washboard abs.

In our world of 24/7 communications, things move quickly. So, there can be more pressure on getting items crossed off our lists.

We all have our own personal energy cycles. Some of us are morning people, and some of us are night owls. When we have flexibility on the timing of getting things done, we can play to those strengths. Often, though, time frames are dictated for us.

Author Kathy Benjamin has researched the efficiencies and effectiveness of performing certain tasks during specific time periods. Here are a few tips:

7 a.m.: Make a baby: If you want kids, your best bet is to try when you wake up. Men's sperm counts are significantly higher in the early morning.

8:30 a.m.: Decide something: Researchers have found that we make our best decisions right after we wake up. Later, we suffer from "decision fatigue" and make the quicker or easier decision. You may need to adjust this time frame according to your own habits of rising.

9:30 a.m.: Update your blog: Most Web surfers check their favorite sites before 10 a.m. If you want to maximize your blog's traffic, be sure to post soon after breakfast.

10 a.m.: Take an aspirin: Mornings, specifically Monday mornings, are the most common time for both heart attacks and migraines. A preemptive aspirin could ward off pain or even save your life.

On the flipside, I learned from a recent Mayo Clinic report that an aspirin taken for these reasons ought to be taken at night -- before bedtime -- so that it's in your system to provide the optimum results as those morning hours roll around. Go figure.

11 a.m.: Send an email: An analysis of more than 200 million emails found that folks are most likely to read their mail shortly before their lunch break. Benjamin recommends sending one at 11 a.m. to be at the top of the pile. I have a related rule of thumb that pertains to phone calls. If I need to make a call and I have some flexibility on the timing, I'll generally stay away from the time frame between 11:30 a.m. and noon. Folks are often in a hurry to get to a lunch meeting -- or they're hungry and preoccupied (translation: cranky).

1 p.m.: Watch a funny YouTube video: Researchers from Northeastern and Harvard studied 300 million tweets over three years and concluded that the national mood is at its lowest at 1 p.m. Why not chase away those early-afternoon blues with a video of a sneezing panda?

2 p.m.: Take a power nap: The post-lunch slump isn't just a symptom of a full belly. At around 2 p.m., your body temperature starts to drop the same way it does at night. Australian researchers found that a 10-minute power nap is the most effective way to combat the mid-afternoon blahs (although this may not always be practical).

4 p.m.: Tweet something witty: If you come up with a 140-character zinger first thing in the morning, save it. A study conducted by social media scientist Dan Zarrella found that Twitter users are most likely to re-tweet others' pithy comments between 3 p.m. and midnight, peaking between 4 and 5 p.m.

4:30 p.m.: Clean the house or play a sport: It's best to clean when your hand-eye coordination is highest, around 4 to 5 p.m. Based on this theory, I'd also toss in a sports event during this time frame.

5 p.m.: Get some exercise: Our body temperature is highest from 5 to 6 p.m. The heat increases your stamina and strength, while decreasing your reaction time. So, the added warmth makes your workouts more effective.

9 p.m.: Sell something on eBay: According to eBay users, the best time to end an auction is 9 p.m. because other people tend to surf the Web when they get home from work at night.

10 p.m.: Solve the world's problems: Difficult problems require creative thinking, and studies show that people do their most abstract thinking when they're tired. If you're not a night owl, letting your mind wander when you're worn out might lead to a creative solution to a problem that seemed insurmountable at noon.

A downside to this could occur, though, if you get yourself so revved up late at night that it's hard to go to sleep.

In addition to the circadian rhythms of nature, we all have our own patterns. While it's helpful to be familiar with these time frames, you know when you function best. So, some fine tuning of these recommendations may be in order.

Still, it's interesting to note the studies that have been done on effectiveness. If you're used to sending a tweet or taking an aspirin at another time, you may want to switch things up and try these time frames. Who knows? You may find yourself to be a more efficient exerciser, a better house cleaner or a more competitive squash player.

But there's no way I'm going to tell you when to make a baby!

Linda Arnold, M.A., MBA, is a certified wellness instructor, counselor and chairwoman/CEO of The Arnold Agency, a marketing communications firm with offices in West Virginia, Montana and Washington, D.C. Reader comments are welcome and may be directed to Linda Arnold, The Arnold Agency, 117 Summers St., Charleston, WV 25301, or emailed to livelifefully@arnoldagency.com.


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