The Best and Worst Days for Productivity

by Emily Esposito

There’s a good and bad day for just about everything. If you’re looking for a job, the best day to apply is Monday. If you want your customers to open your emails, send them on Tuesday. If you want to hold an efficient meeting, Tuesday is also the winner. 

But, what is the best day for you (or your team) to be productive? When is the optimal time to start a new project? And when should you invite colleagues to collaborate on your project? 

We’ve got all these answers and more to help you maximize productivity during the week. 

At Smartsheet, we look at a lot of anonymous app data to gain insights about the way we work. Since Smartsheet is used to actually get work done, it’s a great tool to measure individual and team productivity. All of the data remains private and secure. 

To identify the best and worst days of the week for productivity, we analyzed work activity during a five-week period. We measured the total amount of these activities and grouped them by day of the week and hour of the day. All data is measured in Pacific Time. 

This is what we found: 

Wednesday Is the Most Productive Day 

In Smartsheet, users create a new sheet whenever they want to start a project. So, sheet creation is our basic benchmark of activity, showing how many new projects begin each week. More new projects equal more productivity. 

Wednesday has the most sheet creation of any week day, with 10% more sheets created than Monday and 24% more sheets than Friday. So, “hump day,” the day in the middle of the typical work week, is your best bet for maximum productivity. 

Wednesday Is the Best Day for Collaboration

“Sheet sharing” is when a user shares their Smartsheet “Sheet” with someone. This action is directly tied to working with other people as you're sharing project information with someone else -- either internally on your team or in a different department, or externally with outside collaborators such as consultants or vendors. If you don’t share a sheet, you’re most likely working independently on a project. 

So, in addition to being the most productive day, Wednesday is also the most collaborative day of the week, with the most sheet shares. There are 12% more sheets shared on Wednesday than on Monday, and 20% more than on Friday.

Friday Is the Least Productive Day

This shouldn’t be a huge surprise. At the end of the work week, we’re either too mentally fatigued to start a new project or too busy finishing up current work to begin a different project. 

Friday has the lowest amount of app activity, in all categories during the workweek (sheet sharing, sheets created, and total app activity). On average, it has about 20% less total activity than on Wednesday. And, there’s a significant drop in productivity from only one day earlier, on Thursday, with a 23% decrease in new sheets created on Friday compared to Thursday. 

Overall, there are fewer projects created on Friday, and less collaboration happening with colleagues. People are most likely working independently on their own tasks to wrap things up before the weekend. 

Now that we know the best and worst days for productivity, let’s look at time. 

8-9 AM PST Is the Most Productive Time of Day

Hours are shown in military time in PST. Hour 8 represents 8-9 AM and hour 15 represents 3-4 PM.

With the West Coast just getting to the office and the East Coast not yet at lunch, 8-9 AM PST (11am-12pm EST) is the best time for productivity. There is consistently more activity in the two most important categories, sheet sharing and sheet creation. 

On average, there are 8% more sheets created from 8-9 AM PST than 9-10 AM PST, and 30% more sheets created than 2-3 PM PST. 

8-9 AM PST is also a better time for collaboration. There are 22% more sheets shared from 8-9 AM PST than the next hour (9-10 AM PST) and 71% more sheets shared than 3-4 PM PST.

How to Improve Productivity Any Day of the Week 

You shouldn’t slack off or stop working on Fridays, even though they aren’t the ideal days for starting new projects. And you shouldn’t save all your projects for Wednesday, even though that is the best day for productivity. 

Don’t take this data too literally. Instead, understand these productivity patterns during the week so you can plan your work accordingly, or perhaps be more aware of your work routines so you can get more done at the best times. 

Here are three tips to improve productivity based on the patterns we discovered:

  • Do your challenging work before lunch: If you put off your most challenging tasks, they’ll only get harder. It’s best to start your difficult projects before lunch, when you’re not fatigued from all the day’s activity. As the data shows, more new projects begin before lunch than after lunch. 
  • Don’t start a new project on Friday: Begin working on a new project strategically. If you need colleagues to collaborate with you on a project, Friday is not ideal. Everyone (including you!) will be focused on completing their tasks before the weekend and won’t have the mental bandwidth to start something completely new. 
  • Do prioritize tasks: Even though Fridays aren't the best for starting projects, you can still get work done. Save your administrative tasks or quick to-dos for the end of the week. And schedule your creative, in-depth projects for earlier in the week, when colleagues are more likely to collaborate and you have more mental capacity. 

We all have good days and bad days. But, it turns out, there are actually some days that are better than others for productivity. 

What day do you feel most productive? How do you handle days where you don’t feel as motivated to start a new project? Tell us in the comments!