Can you learn a sense of rhythm?

Study in the morning or in the evening? This is how you find your personal learning rhythm!

by Tim Reichel

When it comes down to it, students work the entire day: shortly before the exam, the night before the lecture or on the day the thesis is submitted. The pressure of having to deliver something increases performance and arouses tremendous motivation. But these are exceptional situations. Normally, productivity fluctuates throughout the day. Or to put it another way: Everyone has times of the day when things go particularly well - or not at all.

You know it: There are phases during the day when you are highly concentrated on the matter. The most complicated tasks will then be easy for you and you will not let anything or anyone disturb you. But in contrast to this, there are also parts of the day in which you have whole collections of boards in front of your head and nothing at all can be arranged.

The cause is the same in both cases: your biorhythm.

How your personal performance curve is derived from this and what that is for yours Learning rhythm means, I'll show you in this article.


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Better learning thanks to the performance curve

Your performance is not at a constant level throughout the day; it fluctuates and is based on your biorhythm. For you this means: There are phases of the day in which you are super productive, can learn efficiently by heart and understand every sentence your professor makes. But there are also times when you are not baked at all and studying is the last thing you should be doing.

These fluctuations are reflected in your performance curve. In general terms it looks like this:

This curve shows you at what time of day your performance is above or below your basic level of 100 percent. This allows you to draw direct conclusions about your concentration and motivation and better estimate when you should even sit down at your desk to study.

Let's look at the two most common forms of this distribution together.


Study in the morning

The characteristic fluctuations from the example above depict the performance curve of a so-called morning person: from 6:00 a.m., performance increases and reaches a first high at around 10:00 a.m. Then the curve drops and starts the midday low at around 2:00 p.m. In the evening - around 8:00 p.m. - there is a second high before it goes towards bed and (deep) sleep phase.

Overall, there are two dominant ups and downs in your daily routine:

After this curve, you should move your most intensive learning units to the early hours of the morning, relax at midday and sit down in front of the books again in the evening. This form of the performance curve is often given as the standard state - especially because the structures in our working world are geared towards it. But there is also an alternative to this.


Study in the evening

If you do not belong to the morning crowd and tend to be nocturnal, your performance curve is automatically shifted horizontally - and with it your highs and lows. Your first productive phase will not start at 6:00 a.m., but rather late in the morning. Your first high then occurs around 2:00 p.m. and the following low shifts to the early evening hours (8:00 p.m.). A second high is reached around midnight.

This is what your performance curve would look like in this case:

Compared to the first example, your learning planning now has to be adjusted: Instead of doing the first learning units in the morning, you should better wait until lunchtime. Around 8:00 a.m. you are still stuck in your first low and first have to fight your way forward. In the early evening, you should withdraw and rest, while you can start again around midnight.

So far so good.

But every person has an individual biorhythm and their own personal performance curve. In addition to this example, there are countless other variations of the performance curve: It can be shifted further to the right and of course also have more or less than two highs and lows. The fluctuations can also be stronger or weaker. The possibilities are endless.

Unfortunately, you cannot adopt ready-made concepts like the two above one-to-one - you need something of your own.


This is how you find your personal learning rhythm

So that you can learn more efficiently over the day, you have to find your own performance curve. You have to know when your high and low phases are, because only then can you organize your tasks sensibly and use your time productively. To do this, you have to consciously monitor your performance throughout the day and record when you are in which state.

To do this, you can use a grid similar to that in the diagrams as a template and note the impression of your performance for each time. With this logging, a rough profile of your personal performance curve emerges after a short time.

These questions will also help you to define your performance curve more precisely:

  • When do you get up?
  • At what times can you concentrate well?
  • When do you find it easy to start work?
  • When are you particularly productive?
  • What times do you take a break?
  • When are you eating?
  • In which phases of the day does nothing work for you?
  • When are you often distracted and inattentive?
  • At what times do you feel like socializing?
  • What time do you go to bed?

Once you know your performance curve, you can adjust your learning rhythm accordingly.


Use your own learning rhythm correctly

No performance curve is inherently good or bad - no version is better than another. They are just different. The only important thing is that you know your performance curve and use your highs and lows wisely. You put demanding tasks in your high phases and then work on important projects when your performance is strongest.

This includes tasks such as:

  • Read a textbook
  • Summarize lecture slides
  • Work through exercises
  • Write on your thesis
  • Memorize important definitions

If you are in a performance low, you should not fight against your biological rhythm, but try to relax and use this phase for routine tasks and social contacts.

Such tasks are more likely to include:

  • Sort and file documents
  • Study organization
  • Exchange with fellow students
  • Shopping and errand trips
  • Rest and take a break

As soon as you know your daily rhythm and organize your tasks accordingly, you will not only study more individually, but also more successfully.


Read the DOEDL method for free!



Students who take their personal learning rhythm into account are not only more successful in their studies, but also generally happier in their lives. If you know your daily rhythm and know the phases in which you are particularly productive, you can use your energy much more skillfully than usual. This enables you to bring your strengths to bear better and reduce your inner resistance.

In this article, I have shown you how you can find your own learning rhythm.

Invest a few minutes of your time today and try to set your individual performance curve. You can use the step-by-step instructions above as a guide. If you want to know more about it and want to learn more about this topic, I recommend my book - the DOEDL method. I wrote a separate chapter on this concept and added many examples and exercises.

As soon as you know your personal highs and lows, you will learn more efficiently and get better grades - at the same time you will finally have more time for the nice things in your student life.

Not a bad deal, is it?


Image: © Icons8 team /