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Power Hours
Excerpt By Francine Parnes, ABCNews.com

Want to make your day more productive? Start watching your body clock.

Think of the things in your life that don't run on time - trains, dentists, your mother. Now think of the things that actually stick to their prearranged schedules - ball games, The Sopranos.), happy hour.

Common theme: Where there's chaos, there's stress. Where there's order, there's beer. So why should we tolerate workdays that feel as chaotic as January at O'Hare? Because, between meetings, phone calls, and surprise gorilla grams, it's almost impossible to stick to your well-intended plan. But if you can follow these simple guidelines throughout the day, the payoff will be huge — less stress and more energy, which means bigger raises and earlier quitting times. No, we can't tell you how to do your job better. But your body can.

BEST TIME TO DO THE HARDEST THING YOU'LL DO ALL DAY

Early morning

Your personal periscope isn't the only thing to rise a couple of hours before you wake up. The stress hormone cortisol does, too. And this change increases your blood-sugar level, giving you the energy and momentum to manage difficult situations effectively, says Norbert Myslinski, Ph.D., an associate professor of neuroscience at the University of Maryland. While too much cortisol can make you feel overwhelmed, it's also what contributes to the "fight-or-flight" ability to finish that project that's hanging over your head — or to storm in and ask for a raise. Bonus: The morning is also the time when you're least likely to activate ulcers.

BEST TIME TO MAKE A PRESENTATION

10 a.m.

Morning is the time of day when your voice is most rested. And by 9 or 10, you've had a chance to drink some water; a good dose of hydration will help eliminate early-morning raspiness. Avoid milk, though. For some people, dairy products can increase mucus production, says Dr. Clark A. Rosen, director of the University of Pittsburgh voice center. Phlegm impresses first-graders, not the board.

BEST TIMES TO STRETCH

10:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m.

Stretch every few hours to avoid back and shoulder tightness that comes from hunching over a keyboard, says Keith Cinea of the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Clasp your hands behind your back and lift them straight up; hold for 10 seconds. This will open your chest and relax your shoulders and back. To stretch your glued-to-the-chair glutes, cross your left leg over your right, resting your left ankle on your right knee. Bend forward at the waist and hold the stretch for 10 seconds. Then switch legs and repeat. Don't forget to close the door first.

BEST TIME TO MAKE MAJOR STRATEGIC DECISIONS

Late morning

This is when your body temperature is rising, your alertness is up, and your brain's ability to process information is at its best, says Timothy Monk, a psychiatry professor at the University of Pittsburgh's sleep and chronobiology center. Most people also find they're best at problem-solving around now. Scientists think your rise in temperature may be what keeps your mind more aroused. And why we keep asking for a transfer to Curacao.

BEST TIME TO MAKE YOUR MOVE ON THE NEW TALENT DOWN THE HALL

11:55 a.m.

Lusting after a coworker? Ask her out just before lunch — when her mood is likely to be best, says James Sniechowski, co-author of The New Intimacy . "People are usually more receptive right before they leave for lunch, because their minds aren't cluttered with what they have to do that day or what they're planning to do when they get home," Sniechowski says. Even if she responds with "Cou- (loser) -gh," it won't bother you. Depression tends to peak early in the day.

BEST TIME TO READ TEDIOUS REPORTS WITH LOTS OF NUMBERS IN THEM

Early afternoon

Your vision is often a bit blurry in the early morning and sharpens over a few hours, says Dr. Thomas Friberg, chief of retina services at the University of Pittsburgh medical center.

BEST TIME TO SNACK

2 p.m.

Eat a handful of nuts. The protein will increase your energy, and the fat will keep you full until dinner. "You wouldn't drive your car to the office with the 'empty' light flashing at you," says Jackie Berning, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "But that's basically what you're doing to your body if you don't have a couple of snacks throughout the day."

BEST TIME TO FIRE SOMEBODY

Midafternoon

Even if you have to ruin your employees' day, you don't have to ruin their lives. Heart attacks are more likely to hit in the first three hours after you wake up than at any other time, says Dr. Richard Stein, a spokesman for the American Heart Association. So avoid doing dirty work before 10 a.m. — when stress can trigger a coronary.

BEST TIME TO DRINK COFFEE OR TAKE A WALK

3 p.m.

While other people rely on the caffeine method to jump-start their central nervous systems in the morning, you can use it to get you through the afternoon slump. Drink eight ounces of a caffeinated drink about 30 minutes before a meeting and you'll feel more alert. Sworn off the stuff? Take a brisk 15-minute walk around the halls. It'll help restimulate the hormones associated with alertness, says David Pearson, coordinator of the graduate program in exercise science at Ball State University.

BEST TIME TO MAKE OR RETURN CALLS

3:30 p.m.

Waiting for that caffeine to kick in? Do mindless tasks (ones that won't get you fired). Some person-to-person stimulation — even over the phone — can help revive you enough so you can finish the day strong, says Dr. Martin Moore-Ede, president of Circadian Technologies in Lexington, Mass.

BEST TIME TO TEE OFF WITH CLIENTS

4:50 p.m.

Typically, hand-eye coordination reaches optimal levels in the late afternoon, says Lynne Lamberg, co-author of The Body Clock Guide to Better Health . So put it to good use by squeezing in nine holes, answering e-mail, or shattering your record in Quake III.

Elizabeth Coleman and Shannon Davis contributed to this report.


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