When Are You Most Productive?

Photo by Schlüsselbein2007 on Flickr used under Creative Commons

Photo by Schlüsselbein2007 on Flickr used under Creative Commons

I’ve been rolling hard with Rich and Anthony to finish up the beta-testing of our next major release of Connect.

I’ll probably blog the highlights because this release contains the most new stuff since our second version, when we moved to the Mix codeline and added groups. There will be a ton of awesome new stuff, which we’re hoping will take Connect to the next level.

In addition, Paul and I have been cranking out top-secret stuff, which is of equal priority. So, I’ve been trying to be as efficient as possible.

I learned long ago that I’m at my most productive between 0600 and 1200, and I usually perk up again after 1600. Yeah, I sometimes use military time for giggles. I use these times to do hardcore thinking like designing stuff or reading that I really need to retain.

This is my time for sustained, logical or creative work that requires discipline and quiet. When I worked at an office, I used to arrive  around 0700 due to a long commute (Tim and David can vouch), and it was bliss for the first two hours because I had peace and quiet.Oddly, I tend to get more ideas late at night, which is weird to me. As the day goes on, I usually feel like my head fills up with random thoughts, all banging around in there. Nevertheless, as soon as I rest for a minute or lie down to sleep, all these ideas and forgotten to-dos bubble up out of the goo.

No joke, I usually get up two or three times to write stuff down before I fall asleep. I tried keep pad and paper by the bed, but the cat kept hiding them.

From about noon through most of the early afternoon, I’m sluggish from eating, and I don’t retain written information very well. I like to use this time for meetings, since the interaction keeps me awake. I also do testing in the afternoons frequently because it’s often mindless repetition.

I’m sure my bug reports show how sluggish I am.

What about you? When are you at your best? Do you schedule work around your circadian rhythms? If you have kids, I’ll bet it’s a lot tougher.

Do you have lifehacks you use to power through afternoon sleepiness? If so, I’m all ears.

Sound off in the comments.




  1. Creativity:

    2030 –> 0300 typically.

    1700 –> 1900 if beer is involved.

    Mind Numbing (repetitive):
    0900 –> 1200

    1300 –> 1900 (when no beer in sight)

  2. Weird, that's like completely opposite from me, although that might be due to your sleeping hours vs. mine.

  3. I've never had normal hours, but I really hurt myself trying to start a business on the side of work.

    0900 –> 1800

    1830 –> 2100

    Work (side):
    2100 –> 0300

    Rinse, repeat.

    I've not been able to go to bed before midnight (except when I crash at 2000).

  4. I have similar sluggishness in the afternoons – especially if I eat too much at lunch.

    I have a peak around 5 or 6 in the afternoon, as the meetings finish and the office goes quiet I can sometimes crank through a huge amount of work in a couple of hours.

  5. Lunch is tough to handle. Don't eat enough, and your stomach growls. Eat too much, and you fall into food coma. Tricky balance. Coffee in the afternoons generally provides me with no benefit at all, which makes it even tougher.

  6. The running joke in my family is that I'm never fully awake before 10am or 2 hours after I get out of bed, whichever comes last. That said, I can be pretty productive on low-brainpower, mostly-mechanical tasks in the early morning (5-9), just because I can't muster the creativity to distract myself. 😉

    Best time for creative/thinking work is 8pm-1am, which is unfortunate given that I have a toddler who wakes up at 6:30. 😛 The flood of ideas when trying to fall asleep happens a lot. When I worked in an office, I also got a surge of productivity at around 4pm, which was a mixed blessing because it often kept me going past the time I wanted to head home.

    All the times between are pretty much a wash. If I can get in a zone, great, otherwise, meh. I'll second David's tea idea to combat postprandial sluggishness…feels lighter than coffee to me.

  7. Mmm, cucumber sandwich. Does tea really do it for you? I find tea makes me more relaxed and tired.

  8. Weird, I guess I'm a morning person, although I hate to be awake early. Maybe that's what drives me to be productive, stubbornness. I run out of gas in the evening, which is oddly annoying because when I feel more productive, all I want to do is stop working.

  9. 25 years ago when I was fortunate to be able to pick my own hours (and later telecommute), I'd sleep 0100-0730, work 9-7 with a dead spot after lunch (mmmm, Thai food). I'd be hitting my 3rd stride at 1900, but they'd kick me out.

    Y2k, a lot of the time a gummint job where I had to get up at 0300, I never, ever, ever could get used to it. But since I was there at 0600, I got a lot done, on usenet or /. if nothing else 🙂

    Nowadays, I'm getting up a little before 5 'cause of the commute/train schedule, though I just spent a week working from home and would get up then anyways, which kinda doesn't work for me as I naturally go to bed later. Insert expletive here, I'd rather go back to the way 25 years ago when I can, or if I hit the Lotto.

    Today's paper, which I read on commute to work: http://www3.signonsandiego.com/stories/2009/may… Also, when I was in college, we read a research classic called Some Must Watch While Some Must Sleep (as part of my major).

  10. Interesting article. I'm very interested in sleep hacking b/c it's a way to squeeze more out of life (supposedly), which gets more important to me every year.

    One thing I've tried but will never understand is physical exercise early in the morning. Just can't hack it, although I've not tried for years. Tried running, tried lifting, hated every second, which made it useless.

    I might try it again, to see if my brain is any better at training in the morning. The bummer part would be losing those as work hours though.

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