From avoiding crowds to taking advantage of your body’s natural rhythms, there’s a best time of day to do just about anything. Here’s a list of some of the best.
We’ve shared many of these “optimal times” over the years, but we though it’d be cool to round them all up into a list, sorted by time, from the beginning of the day. If something focused on a range of times, we’ve estimated. Also, keep in mind that your mileage may vary with some—after all, everyone’s a bit different, so if you’re a night owl, you may be more productive at different times than a morning person. Remember that and and read these with an open mind.
7 AM: Do Some Creative Thinking
You may think that working first thing in the morning is a horrible idea—after all, you’re so groggy after you wake up—but your creativity peaks in the morning. You know how they say “write drunk, edit sober?” You could similarly say “Write in the morning, edit in the afternoon.” Of course, if you’re a morning person, you may have to reverse this advice.
8 AM (or 1 PM): Book a Doctor’s Appointment
The doctor’s office is often synonymous with waiting, but an early morning appointment can bypass that annoyance. So book an appointment for when the office opens. Alternatively, you can book one for 1pm, right after lunch. Just be sure to avoid these busy times.
9 AM: Go to the Post Office
Your local Post Office probably has a rush right when it opens, so the ideal time to go is mid-morning, about a half hour after the Post Office opens—but before everyone tries to go during their lunch break. Different Post Offices open at different times, so be sure to check your local office’s hours before you plan.
9 AM: Schedule a Job Interview
Got a job interview coming up? Schedule it first thing, before the other interviewees. Your interviewer will likely pay more attention to you and remember you better. Of course, giving a good interview can help with that, too.
9 AM: Search for an Apartment
According to data from RentHop, most people post apartment listings online in the morning, between 9 AM and 10 AM. That means it’s a good time to start looking, and if you see something you like, pounce as quickly as possible—the more you have to search from, the better chance you’ll find something you like. And the quicker you pounce, the better chance you have of getting it before somebody else. Check out the best time of month and year to search, too.
9:30 AM: Drink Your Coffee
Do you go for the coffee as soon as you wake up? That might not be the optimal time. Our cortisol levels are at their highest between 8 and 9:30 AM, which means our natural alertness is already high. Your coffee will be most effective if drunk between 9:30 and 11:30 AM (provided you’re on a traditional sleep schedule). So give yourself a couple hours before you brew that cup of joe.
2 PM: Take a Nap
If you like to take a little power nap during the day, time it for when your body and mind need it the most. Generally, this is the point in the day when REM and slow-wave sleep cross. This nap wheel should tell you when that is. Assuming an “average” wake-up time of 7 AM, the optimal nap time would be 2 PM (but check the nap wheel for your specific schedule). While you’re at it, check out how long to nap for the biggest brain benefits.
2 PM: Send Email
According to data from email marketer Mailchimp, 2 PM may be the ideal time to send email—since people are most likely to read and respond to emails between 2 PM and 5PM, when most people are probably at their desks.
3 PM: Schedule a Meeting
Meeting scheduling service When Is Good found that people are most flexible at 3 PM, making it the perfect time to schedule a meeting so everyone can make it. This lines up with Mailchimp’s data about email—it seems that fewer people have things scheduled for that 3PM time block. Tuesdays are the best day, and if 3PM doesn’t work, flexibility is high at 10 and 11 AM as well.
6 PM: Exercise
Your body uses your lungs and oxygen most efficiently from around 5 PM to 6PM. You’re also more coordinated, and your muscles are warmed up, making it the perfect time to do a cardio workout. Similarly, working out a few hours before bed helps you avoid sleep disruption, so aim for this evening range to get the biggest benefits from your exercise.
8 PM: Shop for Groceries
It may seem a little late in the evening for chores, but if you’re looking for the best possible prices, shopping later in the evening can net you some great deals. It’s a bit different for every store, but the later in the day, the lower the prices—so shop around closing time (especially on Wednesdays) to save some serious cash.
10 PM: Go to Sleep
Again, everyone’s sleep schedule is different, but scheduling your bedtime can help you wake up more refreshed. Assuming an “average” 7 AM wake-up time (and 90 minute sleep cycle), the best time to go to bed is either 10 PM, 11:30 PM, or (if you only plan on six hours of sleep) 1 AM. Check out an app like Sleepyti.me to figure out your optimal time to go to sleep—and remember, this is what time you should fall asleep, not go to bed—so tack on a bit of extra if it takes you awhile to fall asleep.
10:30 PM: Start and End eBay Listings
Selling some of your old junk? The best time to end your listing is between 6:30 PM and 10:30 PM in any given time zone, when most people are online browsing and bidding. So, for a 7-day auction, you’ll want to start it around the same time a week beforehand. (If you’re in the US, 10:30 EST is a good way to hit this sweet spot in both time zones).
These aren’t the only things that have optimal times, of course, and as we said, everyone’s rhythms are different—so yours may vary from the “averages” here. And obviously, at the end of the day, the best time to do anything is when it fits into your schedule—so don’t stress if you can only shop for groceries on Saturday morning. It isn’t the end of the world.
Lifehacker’s Weekend Roundup gathers our best guides, explainers, and other posts on a certain subject so you can tackle big projects with ease. For more, check out our Weekend Roundup and Top 10 tags.
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