Identifying Your Peak Learning Time
Did you know that it’s possible to identify your own peak learning time? Ezra explains the concept of optimizing when you take onboard new information and how you can use it to make learning easier to implement lasting habit changes.
If you’ve studied various skills in your spare time in the past, then you’ll know that there are different times where you might study more efficiently or absorb information with more ease. Some people find that they remember things more easily when it’s the evening time, whereas others might find that studying at night is the preferred option for them, which affects how well they retain that learning.
In reality, everyone has a different learning style. Thankfully, there are ways to work out the best time for you to absorb information. Many people have their own personal preferences, so it’s a good idea to invest a bit of time into working out your peak learning times so that you can feel motivated to learn instead of forcing yourself to fight fatigue and discomfort while learning new skills.
What does a peak learning time mean?
In simple terms, a peak learning time is a time of day where you feel most motivated to learn. This usually boils down to a handful of benefits:
- You enjoy your learning because you’re in the mood for it.
- You learn faster because you’re motivated.
- You don’t need to fight against fatigue, discomfort, or resistance.
- You spend your “low” time more efficiently by doing other tasks.
Generally, if there are times of the day where you feel most productive, those are likely your peak learning times. If you already know the times of day where you’re motivated to work, then you can simply aim to study during those hours to help embed the learning you do more easily. However, if you’re like most people, then it can be a little difficult trying to work out your peak learning times.
Finding your peak learning time
First, you can split the day into five learning times; morning, noon, afternoon, evening, and night. Next, you can ask yourself a couple of simple questions to help you figure out your ideal learning time.
- When do you prefer to wake up?
- When do you prefer to go to bed?
- Do you tend to sleep in?
- Does it take a long time to go to bed?
- How long does it take for you to “wake up”?
- Do you feel more or less motivated after lunch?
- You can concentrate better after eating?
- When do you like spending your mental energy?
These are the types of questions that are important to consider when it comes to finding your peak learning time. In short, you should be looking for a time of day where you’re most focused, where you have few distractions, and when you’re not feeling sluggish or slow. This will change for everyone and there’s no universal peak learning time that applies to everyone. Some people find it much easier to absorb knowledge as soon as they wake up, while others might find it easier after eating something. Everyone has different approaches to their peak learning time, so don’t hesitate to take some time to find yours.
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A scientific approach to peak learning times
As you may have guessed, the previous method requires a fairly deep understanding of your own habits and takes a bit of trial and error. So to help give you a more solid foundation, you can look at scientific approaches to peak learning times.
Understanding the chronobiology behind peak learning times
Peak performance is wired into our bodies and heavily reliant on our internal clock. This is related to chronobiology, a field of biology that examines timing processes such as periodic phenomena in living organisms and how we adapt to solar and lunar cycles.
The brain changes behavior throughout the day. For many people, the best time to learn would be around midday. In fact, the ideal time for most people seems to be between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm. After that, another ideal peak learning period occurs between 4:00 pm and 10:00 pm. The lowest performance for learning appears to be between 4:00 am and 7:00 am.
This is explored in greater detail in a paper titled “Identifying the Best Times for Cognitive Functioning Using New Methods: Matching University Times to Undergraduate Chronotypes”. In this study, optimal learning times started between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm. These students also followed a rather standard sleeping pattern; from 1:27 am to 9:27 am, roughly 8 hours of sleep.
While this study only had access to a small sample size, it showed that peak learning times are largely dependent on the student’s personal preferences. The optimal approach would be a mixed system where you choose to start your working day at the beginning of your personal optimal time.
Finding your peak learning time
So here are the important points to take away when finding your peak learning time with scientific data:
- Your peak learning time is based on your internal clock.
- Maintaining a steady sleep pattern is key to establishing consistent peak learning times.
- The optimal time to start studying is a few hours after waking up.
- It’s then followed by a 2-3 hour break before continuing again.
- Avoid early mornings whenever possible.
- If you want to study for long periods, start at the same time and create another time slot after noon.
- Avoid studying past 4:00 am whenever possible and use that period of the day to sleep instead.
- Your brain is better at making important decisions after you shake off your sleep inertia.
At the end of the day, finding your peak learning time does involve a bit of trial and error. However, you can use some of the currently available studies and research to help you narrow down your peak learning times. It’s important to look at how you feel and understand your own internal clock. Ask yourself important questions about your daily habits to help you understand when you’re most productive and when you have the best chance of retaining new knowledge.
Understanding your peak learning times is the key to getting the most out of engagements with a performance coach or supporting material; right down to when you schedule your sessions in a coaching app! By interacting with them at specific times of the day where you’re most likely to commit that information to memory, you greatly improve the rate at which you retain knowledge, which leads to a much better change of making lasting habitual changes.