People’s ability to perform and concentrate is subject to certain fluctuations during the course of the day. Various studies have shown that most people – after morning start-up difficulties – have the highest performance level of the day in the period between nine and eleven o’clock. From this point on, the performance curve then drops rapidly until the midday hour, only to rise again significantly from the early afternoon.
This is usually followed by a performance peak between 4 and 6 p.m., which, however, remains noticeably below that of the morning. From around 9 p.m. onward, most people again experience a significant drop in performance and concentration.
However, each person is individually different and therefore also exhibits variations in his or her performance. Some people prefer to learn most effectively in the late evening or at night and often find it difficult to concentrate in the morning, while others can use the early morning hours most effectively for their learning or workload.
How can these findings be applied to your personal learning behavior?
Find out whether your personal performance profile corresponds to that of the majority of the population, or whether you can identify performance peaks and troughs in your daily routine that deviate from this.
Take advantage of high-performance phases of the day
Before you start a complex learning project, such as learning a new foreign language, you should therefore observe yourself over several days. Make notes of the parts of the day when you feel particularly fit and can concentrate best.
If you compare your daily records after this self-observation, you will quickly notice that you can divide your daily routine into phases that tend to be strong and weak.
To help your learning project be more successful from the start and at the same time increase your satisfaction, it is advisable to schedule your learning phases so that you can concentrate and study in good form.
However, you should use those parts of the day in which you have noticed a drop in performance for learning breaks and regeneration or for less demanding tasks, such as shopping and doing errands.
But even during your learning phases, you should always allow yourself short breaks in which you get up and breathe deeply or do relaxation exercises.
If you have a large amount to learn in a short period of time, or if you only have a few days or weeks for your learning project, you can also use the low-performing parts of the day to repeat the material you have already learned. In this way, you will also be able to use your weak day phases advantageously for your learning program.
Daily and weekly goals
People who want to acquire new knowledge in a self-directed way – i.e. without a fixed curriculum and lessons – often face the problem of not being able to assess at which times of the day they should learn most productively and how much learning material they should set aside per day. In this case, it is advisable to set manageable daily and weekly goals and, if possible, to schedule the learning segments necessary for this during periods of the day when one can work in a concentrated manner. Especially at the beginning of learning, it will certainly be difficult for you to find realistic daily goals. Therefore, don’t set your goals too high, aim for less at the beginning and gradually increase your daily workload as soon as you can assess how well you can cope with the new learning material. Setting your goals too high and not achieving them could have a negative impact on your motivation to learn – which is, of course, an important factor in your learning success.