The WORST Time of Day to Do Everything

by Emily Guy Birken on 27 June 2014 0 comments

We all know that there tend to be optimal times during the day for everything from scheduling a doctor's appointment to taking a nap to making the most of a workout to having a productive meeting at work. There are plenty of guides out there telling you when you should do these things to get the ideal result. (See also: The Best Time of Day to Do Everything)

However, these guides ignore the other side of the time puzzle: when is the worst time of day to do various activities? Because missing out on an optimal time for an activity is certainly less than ideal, but actually choosing the worst possible time could be frustrating, inefficient, and counterproductive.

So here is a primer on how not to schedule your day if you want to avoid aggravation, wasted time, and even death:

7:00 a.m. — Don't Have an Argument

Early in the morning is a time of hope and promise for a great new day. It might seem like a good time to bring up your engagement to Spike to your disapproving dad.

Unfortunately, early morning is the worst time of day to have a stressful conversation or argument. That's because a cardiac arrest is more likely to occur early in the day (between 6 a.m. and noon) according to researchers. So if you have some shocking news to share with an elderly relative, wait until the afternoon to reveal it. Grandpa will thank you.

9:00 a.m. — Don't Schedule a Meeting

You might think first thing in the morning is the best time to get all of your co-workers together to go over your TPS reports. But as it turns out, 9:00 a.m. is just about the worst time of day to schedule a meeting — despite often being touted as the best block of time for memory retention and creative thinking. Keith Harris, chief technology officer of the scheduling app WhenIsGood.net, examined 2 million responses to 530,000 scheduled events and found that the first part of the workday is when you'll have the most no-shows at your meeting.

Instead, if you need all hands on deck for your meeting, plan it for around 2:30 p.m. or 3:00 p.m., when your workforce is most flexible.

11:00 a.m. — Don't Go to the Doctor

You schedule your appointment at 11:00 a.m., thinking that you'll be able to see your doc and maybe have a little time left over for lunch before you have to get back to the office. Instead, you cool your heels in reception for 40 minutes just waiting to be taken back to the exam room — where you wait another 10 minutes for your doctor to see you.

Just like the rest of us, doctors tend to get behind in their work, and the appointments just before their lunch (and before the end of the work day) are going to be when they are the most behind. Doctors often get caught up over the lunch hour (no new patients to see during that time), but those poor individuals watching their 11:00 a.m. appointment time come and go are going to be the ones bearing the brunt of the doctor's lateness.

Instead, either take the earliest appointment in the day, or the first appointment after the lunch hour.

12:00 p.m. — Don't Work Out During Your Lunch Hour

Trying to find the time to fit exercise into your life can be difficult. You might be tempted to skip your lunch and go for a short but intense workout in the middle of the day. Unfortunately, you won't necessarily be doing yourself any big favors by working out then.

According to researchers at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York, our lungs lose power in the middle of the day. Just like the rest of our bodies, our lungs follow a circadian rhythm. Lung performance is at its lowest early in the morning and in the middle of the day. It's at its highest between 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. And noon exercisers experience as much as 15% to 20% of performance lost — although anyone with healthy, strong lungs will not necessarily find such a difference noticeable.

If the only way you can fit exercise in your life is to work out during your lunch hour, then you're definitely better off for it. However, if you are working toward a race or otherwise attempting to improve your performance, wait to work out until late afternoon, when your lung function will work for you instead of against you. (See also: 10 Exercises to Do at Work That Don't Make You Look Silly)

1:00 p.m. — Don't Try to Learn Something New

You probably remember the difficulty you had staying awake in Mr. Medvetz's 1:00 Trigonometry class in high school? How about finding him as interesting as Ben Stein ("Anyone? Anyone?") in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

As it turns out, you may have misjudged your old teacher, since taking that class after lunch meant you were fighting your body's natural circadian rhythm.

In the early afternoon, our bodies experience a dip in body temperature, similar to the temperature decrease we feel just before going to bed at night. That lowered temperature in the early afternoon can make you want to pull a George Costanza and take a nap under your desk.

But even if you fight through the sleepiness, you will find that trying to learn something new while you are drowsy will impair your ability to recall the information that you learn. Rather than force yourself to take in new information while fighting your urge for a siesta, go ahead and close your eyes for about 15 to 20 minutes — and no more than 30 total, or you'll feel groggier than you did when you started. The quick nap can help improve your cognitive performance.

4:00 p.m. — Don't Hit Your Local Starbucks

By 4:00 in the afternoon, your morning coffee and lunchtime Diet Coke have both worn off, and you might feel the need to run to your favorite coffee shop for some hot, sweet caffeine. While you'd never drink coffee with dinner — or even after 5:00 — you know that you've got more than enough time before bed to let this late afternoon pick-me-up get out of your system.

As a matter of fact, you don't. According to new research, caffeine taken as many six hours before bed can not only make it difficult for you to fall asleep at bedtime, but it can also reduce the duration of your night's sleep by more than one hour.

If you must re-caffeinate in the afternoon, try to cut yourself off from the coffee by 3:00 p.m. or 4:00 p.m. at the latest. Alternatively, taking a brisk walk outside for about 10 minutes can give a more natural jolt of energy (and endorphins) that will help you focus for the end of your workday.

Don't Fight Nature

Circadian rhythms and the human tendency to misuse time are both things that you can plan around to avoid wasting time each day. As you get the most out of each conversation, meeting, appointment, workout, and cup of coffee, you'll be glad you paid attention to human nature.

When is the worst time for you to do… anything? Now's a good time to share in comments!

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