Rumor has it you’ll reach your peak performance at 11 am and again in the afternoon. However, these guidelines should be taken with a pinch of salt simply because what works for one person might not work for another.

The good news is that humans have a way of adapting. Otherwise athletes wouldn’t be able to attend tournaments in different time zones, or people couldn’t work in shifts.

It’s true that performance might be slightly weaker when your body is adapting to new surroundings, but that’s why sports teams travel to a location one or two weeks prior to a competition – they start getting used to the new time zone, unfamiliar environment, or different temperature, humidity, and other weather conditions.

Our bodies are able to adapt to new surroundings - like extreme weather conditions - but your performance may suffer temporarily. ©Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images

Prepare, push, relax

Applying adaptation tactics to office workers, there are a few lessons to learn. First, avoid tackling your most important tasks early in the morning, late in the evening, or at night – unless you have adapted to these specific hours.

When you have no choice but to work during these extreme times, make sure you prepare beforehand and recover afterwards. If you have to give an important presentation or attend negotiations at 10 pm your time, don’t complete a normal eight-hour work day before that.

When dealing with important tasks, you’re already tense and focused. That’s why you‘re able to push through a crucial phase, such as the Olympics or an important project. Aside from breaks and holidays, we might not get many chances to recover at work. It’s the same in sport: after each season, players get a short break but then they have to go hard again. Managers and athletes share this challenge.

When you know your tasks and projects in advance, you can schedule breaks. The right food, enough sleep, and other healthy habits also do wonders.

Pushing yourself to stay in the office for more than eight hours? This might not be the best idea if you want to reach peak performance. ©iStockphoto.com/monkeybusinessimages

People handle stress differently

Some find it easy to concentrate for an extended period of time while performing at a high level. Flight controllers and pilots, for instance, need to exhibit these qualities. For the rest of us, stretching your limits for eight hours or more usually leads to an attention deficit.

People also perceive workloads differently: what seems like a lot to one person might seem average to the other. Similarly, people have their own ways of dealing with tasks and workloads, both cognitively and physically. Not everyone is able to sit in front of a computer for ten hours. This means that coaches and managers need to know their team members exceptionally well in order to delegate and bump up productivity without burning people out.

Awareness of how your team ticks, how they can be helped in adapting to changing situations is a valuable takeaway for business and sports leaders alike.

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