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Plan your day: the best time to do everything

Plan your day: the best time to do everything

When should you shower? Drink coffee? Take a nap? You’ve probably been making those decisions for yourself for quite some time now, but if you have a regular 9-5 schedule, this fun guide can help you get the most out of your day.

7 a.m.: Exercise for weight loss and sleep
You can plan your workout around the results you’re looking for. If that’s burning fat and sleeping better, a morning workout is your best bet. Research has shown that working out before breakfast helps you burn more fat the rest of the day. And come evening, taking that spin class at dawn will help you sleep deeper and longer, according to a 2011 study.

8 a.m.: Eat breakfast to get a jump start on a healthy day
Whether you believe it’s the most important meal of the day or not — we happen to think that’s dessert — eating shortly after you wake up has been found to have some major health benefits. Studies have shown that breakfast eaters are more likely to get their daily calcium, fiber, and fruits and vegetables in, while breakfast skippers are more likely to nibble on unhealthy snacks later in the day. Another recent study even found that skipping the meal heightens your risk of heart attack.

9 a.m.: Make big decisions during your morning shower
It looks like the age-old advice to “sleep on it” is right on the money. By evening, you’ve made a ton of decisions — and even the small ones (What should I have for lunch? Heels or flats?) add up. The result: decision fatigue. And once that sets in, you’re more likely to settle for whatever. Want to boost your decision-making powers? Opt for a morning shower instead of an evening one — during a shower, you often enter into what’s called an “alpha brainwave state” that’s similar to meditation.

10 a.m.: Have your first cup of coffee
Wait, you’re supposed to have breakfast and exercise, all without your first cup of coffee? Yep — at least according to the recent research. The best time for that first sip is between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., which coincides with a natural drop-off in cortisol, a hormone that makes you feel alert. Don’t worry, you don’t have to stop at one cup — our cortisol levels normally drop off around 1:30 p.m. and 5 p.m., too

11 a.m.: Take a break
At the office? Goof off for a bit. A mid-morning break has been shown to restore energy, concentration, and motivation. This can be a good time to eat lunch, too, and refuel for the rest of the day.

2 p.m.: Take a short nap
Your body temperature dips in the early afternoon, making you crave a little shut-eye. If your day allows for it — or if you can hide under your desk for a bit — a 15-20 minute nap can give you an energy boost. Just don’t sleep too long: napping for more than 30 minutes can leave you groggy, not refreshed.

6 p.m.: Exercise for strength and muscle-boosting
Hitting the weight room? After work may be your best bet — research shows that you’re at your strongest in the evening, and that you’ll make more muscle gains if you work out in the evening rather than the morning.

7 p.m.: Eat dinner
Don’t delay dinner too long — eating too close to bedtime can lead to tossing and turning, thanks to increased blood sugar levels. That goes double if you’re reaching for simple carbs, since they can give you a short energy boost that makes it even tougher to get some sleep.

9 p.m.: Get creative
If you have a creative hobby, now’s a good time to practice it — studies have found that when you’re not at your most alert and energized, your brain is less inhibited, which is good news for creative work.

10 p.m.: Take a shower for better sleep
Doubling up on showers? Prefer to suds up in the evening? A nighttime shower is great for those of us who have a hard time falling asleep. Once you dry off, your body temperature will drop rapidly, making you relaxed and sleepy.

11 p.m.: Go to sleep
You know how important getting enough sleep is, but does it matter what time you get in bed? According to some researchers, it does, and midnight is the latest you should be going to sleep. “When it comes to bedtime, there’s a window of a several hours — roughly between 8 p.m. and 12 a.m. — during which your brain and body have the opportunity to get all the non-REM and REM shut-eye they need to function optimally,” Dr. Matt Walker, head of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab at the University of California, Berkeley, tells Just make sure to build in about 15 minutes to actually fall asleep.

There you have it, a totally optimized day, but one that might lack a ton of flexibility when it comes to coordinating with your partner or family. Bottom line: pick the tips that work for you and leave the rest. After all, one of the advantages of being an adult is that no one can tell you when to go to bed.