How to Do Everything at the Most Optimal Time

Discover the Best Time—Based on Your “Type”—to Fall in Love, Interview for a Job, Ask for a Raise, etc.

Is there an optimal time of day to fall in love, interview for a job, or ask for a raise? According to the book The Power of When, which I just finished reading, there is. The author, Dr. Michael Breus, argues that there are 4 types of people. For each type, Breus lays out the most optimal time of day to engage in a wide range of activities from training for strength to seeing a therapist to presenting your ideas.

A picture of a lion

One of the four types of people is the “lion,” the quintessential morning person.

“’When’ is the ultimate life hack,” writes Breus. “It’s the foundation of success, the key that unlocks a faster, smarter, better, and stronger you. Knowing ‘when’ enables you to perform ‘what’ and ‘how’ to your maximum potential.”

In this post I briefly summarize the 4 types of people. Then I show the most leveraged time of day for your type, and the other three types of people, to undertake important activities in order to get from them the most bang for the buck.

The 4 Types of People based on Chronotype

Breus argues that there are 4 types of people based on their “chronotype.” A chronotype expresses an individual’s alertness in the morning vs. in the evening. One’s chronotype is genetically determined and stays the same between about 21 and 65 years of age.

All people fit into one of the following 4 classifications, which Breus names after animals based on certain distinctive characteristics:

  1. Lions (morning people)

    People whom Breus calls “lions” are typically “morning-oriented driven optimists with medium sleep drive.” They comprise 15-20% of the population.

  2. Bears (“daytime people”)

    Half of all people are bears. They tend to be “fun-loving, outgoing people who prefer a solar-based schedule and have a high sleep drive.”

  3. Wolves (“night owls”)

    Wolves are typically “night-oriented creative extroverts with a medium sleep drive.” 15-20% of people are wolves.

  4. Dolphins (insomniacs)

    When real dolphins sleep, they only shut down half of their brain at a time. People with the “dolphin” chronotype are similar in that they tend to be “intelligent, neurotic light sleepers with a low sleep drive.” Dolphins make up 10% of the population.

I always thought myself a “night owl” (wolf). But according to The Power of When, I’m actually a bear. If you want quick confirmation of your chronotype, take this 2-question quiz:

 

An Example: The Best Time to Ask for a Raise

Later, I will show a snapshot of the optimal time to undertake 48 different activities. Before doing so, however, I want to take a closer look at one of those activities—asking for a raise—to show, by way of example, how Breus goes about determining the best time. Otherwise, the times he provides for the 48 activities might seem arbitrary.

For most activities, Breus considers several factors in determining the best time to undertake them. And he typically cites studies that address each factor.

With regard to the best time for each of the four chronotypes to ask for a raise, Breus considers these three factors:

  1. Day of the Week – when your boss will best receive a private discussion about salary

    Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday tend to be the most hectic days. Bosses may not appreciate you bringing up the non-urgent concern of your raise. Fridays are the best days to ask as they are the least hectic; Thursdays are the second-best days.

  2. Pleasantness – when your boss is likely to be in the best mood

    A German study found that “people are grumpiest in the morning, get progressively happier in the afternoon, and are happiest in the evening.”

  3. Activation – when you are in the best frame of mind to ask: confident, attentive, active, interested, and inspired

    According to Harvard and Georgetown researchers, confidence plays a significant role in convincing others.

    The same German study referenced above showed that activation is “at medium intensity in the morning, at peak in the afternoon, and lowest in the evening.”

Taking the foregoing three factors into consideration, Breus recommends asking for a raise on Thursday or Friday afternoon. Specifically, he suggests you time your conversation as follows, based on your chronotype:

  • Dolphin: 3 – 5 pm
  • Lion: 1:30 – 3:30 pm
  • Bear: 2 – 4 pm
  • Wolf: 3:30 – 5 pm

(If you know your boss’ chronotype in addition to your own, you can narrow down the optimal timing even further. See “Ask for a Raise” in the”Work” table below.)

The Optimal Time to Undertake 48 Activities

Breus provides the optimal time to undertake no fewer than 48 activities based on your chronotype.

Following are reference tables which you can consult whenever looking to optimize the timing of your various activities. Some activities strike me as a bit contrived: the best time to “tell a joke” or “go to the bathroom,” really? But most are helpful.

Relationships

 Lion
(morning person)
Bear
(daytime person)
Wolf
(night owl)
Dolphin
(insomniac)
Fall in Love7 am4 pm11 pm8 pm
Call a Friend7 - 10 am8 - 10 pm9 - 11 pm9 - 10 pm
Fight with Your PartnerPartner is a . . .
• Lion: 9 am
• Bear: 3 pm
• Wolf: 5 pm
• Dolphin: 7 pm
Partner is a . . .
• Lion: 3 pm
• Bear: 5 pm
• Wolf: 5 pm
• Dolphin: 5 pm
Partner is a . . .
• Lion: 5 pm
• Bear: 5 pm
• Wolf: 8 pm
• Dolphin: 7 pm
Partner is a . . .
• Lion: 7 pm
• Bear: 5 pm
• Wolf: 7 pm
• Dolphin: 7 pm
Have Sex6 - 7 am7 am or 9 pm10 am or 10:30 pm8 pm
Plan Something Important• Talk about ideas: 8 - 10 pm
• Research and solidify plans: 6 - 9 am
• Talk about ideas: 2 - 3 pm or 6 - 9 pm
• Research and solidify plans: 10 am - 2 pm
• Talk about ideas: 8 am - 12 pm
• Research and solidify plans: 6 - 10 pm
• Talk about ideas: 8 am - 12 pm
• Research and solidify plans: 8 - 10 pm
Talk to Your Kids3 pm4 pm8 pm7 pm

Fitness

 Lion
(morning person)
Bear
(daytime person)
Wolf
(night owl)
Dolphin
(insomniac)
Go for a Run5:30 pm7:30 am or 12 pm6 pm7:30 am
Play a Team Sport2 - 4 pm6 - 8 pm6 - 9 pm5 - 7 pm
Train for Strength2:30 - 5 pm4 - 7 pm6 - 7 pm8 pm

Health

 Lion
(morning person)
Bear
(daytime person)
Wolf
(night owl)
Dolphin
(insomniac)
Fight Illness10:30 pm - 5:30 am11:30 pm - 7 am12:30 am - 7:30 am11:30 pm - 6:30 am
Get a Flu ShotEarly October at 4:45 pmEarly October at 11:30 amEarly October at 5:45 pmEarly October at 1 pm
Get a MammogramFirst appointment of the day during the first week of your menstrual cycle<-- Same<-- Same<-- Same
Go to the Bathroom (viz., poop)7 am9 am11 amWhenever the urge happens
See a Therapist7 am - 12 pm10 am - 2 pm5 - 8 pm4 - 6 pm
Take a Bath or Shower• 6 am If you need a morning rinse
• 6 pm post-workout cool shower to stave off evening sleepiness
• 7:30 am cool shower to help you wake up
• 10 pm hot bath to calm you down before bed
• No morning shower; sleep instead
• 11 pm hot bath to calm you down before bed
• 7:30 am cool shower to help you wake up
• 9 pm hot bath to calm you down before bed
Weigh Yourself5:30 am7 am7:30 am6:30 am

Sleep

 Lion
(morning person)
Bear
(daytime person)
Wolf
(night owl)
Dolphin
(insomniac)
Wake Up5:30 - 6 am7 am7:30 am6:30 am
Nap1:30 pm (assuming 6 am wake up)2 pm (assuming 7 am wake up)Avoid if you can; otherwise, 2:15 pm (assumes 7:30 am wake up)No naps
Sleep In6:45 am8 am8:15 am7:15 am
Go to Bed10 pm11 pm12 am11:30 pm

Eat and Drink

 Lion
(morning person)
Bear
(daytime person)
Wolf
(night owl)
Dolphin
(insomniac)
Eat Breakfast, Lunch, and DinnerB: 6 am
L: 12 pm
D: 6 pm
B: 7:30 am
L: 12:30 pm
D: 7:30 pm
B: 8 am
L: 1 pm
D: 8 pm
B: 8 am
L: 12 pm
D: 7:30 pm
Have a Drink5:30 - 7:30 pm6:30 pm - 8:30 pm7 - 9 pm6 - 8 pm
Have Coffee8 - 10 am; 2 - 4 pm9:30 - 11:30 am; 1:30 - 3:30 pm12 - 2 pm8:30 - 11 am; 1 - 2 pm
Pig Out2 pm8 am8 am10 am
Snack9 am4 pm4 pm3 pm

Work

 Lion
(morning person)
Bear
(daytime person)
Wolf
(night owl)
Dolphin
(insomniac)
Ask for a RaiseBoss is a . . .
• Lion: 1:30 pm
• Bear: 3 pm
• Wolf: 3:30 pm
• Dolfin: 3 pm
Boss is a . . .
• Lion: 2 pm
• Bear: 4 pm
• Wolf: 4 pm
• Dolfin: 3:30 pm
Boss is a . . .
• Lion: 3:30 pm
• Bear: 4:30 pm
• Wolf: 5 pm
• Dolfin: 4:30 pm
Boss is a . . .
• Lion: 3 pm
• Bear: 5 pm
• Wolf: 5 pm
• Dolfin: 4 pm
Cold-Call8 - 10 am4 - 6 pm4 - 6 pm4 - 6 pm
Commute7 am and 3 pm8:30 am and 5:30 pm11 am and 7 pm9:30 am and 6:30 pm
Email• Professional: 7 am and 10 am - 12 pm
• Personal: 3 - 5 pm
• Professional: 10 am - 2 pm
• Personal: 4 - 6 pm
• Professional: 4 - 7 pm
• Personal: 10 am - 12 pm
• Professional: 4 - 6 pm
• Personal: 9 am - 12 pm
Go on a Job Interview9 am10 am12 pm11 am
Learn Something New8 am - 12 pm10 am - 2 pm5 pm - 12 am3 - 9 pm
Make a Decision6 - 11 am3 - 11 pm5 pm - 12 am4 - 11 pm
Memorize• Consolidation: 3:30 am - 5:30 am
• Recall: 2 pm
• Consolidation: 4 - 7 am
• Recall: 5 pm
• Consolidation: 5 - 7 am
• Recall: 6 pm
• Consolidation: 4:30 am - 6:30 am
• Recall: 3:30 pm
Present Your Ideas10 - 10:20 am1:40 - 2 pm5 - 5:20 pm4 - 4:20 pm

Creativity

 Lion
(morning person)
Bear
(daytime person)
Wolf
(night owl)
Dolphin
(insomniac)
Brainstorm4 - 6 am; 8 - 10 pm6 - 8 am; 9 - 11 pm7 - 9 am / 10 pm - 1 am5 - 8 am; 2 - 4 pm
Play Music2 - 8 pm2 pm and 8-11 pm8 pm - 12 am8 pm
Put It All Together (during REM sleep and shortly therefater)3 - 6 am and 3:30 pm, after 90-minute nap4:30 - 7:30 am and 4 pm, after nap5 - 8 am4 - 7 am
Write a Novel• Write: 8 - 10 pm
• Edit: 6 - 8 am
• Write: 6 - 11 pm
• Edit: 10 am -2 pm
• Write: 8 - 11 am
• Edit: 6 - 10 pm
• Write: 8 - 10 am
• Edit: 4 - 6 pm

Money

 Lion
(morning person)
Bear
(daytime person)
Wolf
(night owl)
Dolphin
(insomniac)
Buy12 pm2 pm3 pm1 pm
Get Rich6 - 9 am7 - 9 am and 8 - 11 pm7:30 - 10 am and 9 pm - 12 am9 am - 12 pm
Make a Deal8 am3 pm4 pm2 pm
Sell10 am - 3 pm10 am - 6 pm4 - 10 pm5 - 9 pm

Fun

 Lion
(morning person)
Bear
(daytime person)
Wolf
(night owl)
Dolphin
(insomniac)
Binge-Watch Your Shows7 - 10 pm3 - 9 pm5 - 11 pm10 am - 2 pm
Log On6:30 am - 6 pm8 - 11 am9 am - 3 pm9 am - 3 pm
Play Games (games that require insight / games of chance and games that involve strategy)• Insight: 5 - 9 pm
• Chance or Strategy 7 am - 3 pm
• Insight, 6 - 10 pm
• Chance or Strategy 10 am - 2 pm
• Insight, 8 am - 2 pm
• Chance or Strategy 4 - 11 pm
• Insight: 10 am - 2 pm
• Chance or Strategy: 4 - 10 pm
Read for Pleasure9 pm10 pm11 pm10 pm
Tell a Joke2 pm5 pm10 pm7 pm
Travel (for flights that take you 3 time zones or more away)Late Evening. For an overnight flight, you'll do slightly better to arrive very early in the morning.OvernightMidnight. Take the last plane out, and you'll be able to sleep better during the flight.Daylight hours, to save yourself a night of plane-related insomia

Conclusion

While I wouldn’t describe The Power of When as mind-blowing, I like it for a few reasons.

First, for activities we do all the time—wake up, go to bed, eat, exercise, read, etc.—making a habit of doing those activities at the optimal time could provide a lot of additional benefit over the course of a lifetime.

Other activities, such as asking for a raise, we do only occasionally, but they are extremely important. If you believe you deserve a raise, you should have the conversation at a time when it won’t be sabotaged by irrelevant factors such as the busyness of Monday morning.

Finally, most approaches to life-hacking don’t take enough account of the differences between individuals. They tend to assume that one size fits all: here’s a perfect diet or exercise for everyone. Through the 4 chronotypes, by contrast, Breus recognizes some basic differences in people and suggests life-hacks that are tailor-made for those differences.

Question: What is one activity you could undertake at a more optimal time? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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