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Knowing Your Rhythms

Or: why I'm marking out all the time before 7am as mine.

December 11, 2017Filed under blog#productivityMarkdown source

For the last few years, it’s been very apparent to me that I think most clearly and do my best work early in the morning and late at night. Between 6am and 10am, and from roughly 8pm to midnight, I am at my most alert and most mentally capable. By contrast, 10am to 1pm is okay, and 1pm to 4pm is terrible and 4pm to 8pm is back to okay. I can get things done in that span, but it’s very difficult especially to do things like writing.

I also can’t get by on only 6 hours of sleep, so a lot of my best time isn’t available to me one way or the other. In general that means that if I want to write or otherwise do really creative work, I have limited options. Since, as I noted yesterday, I’m aiming to be doing a fair bit of research and writing over the next few years, I need at least some of that time. That goes for the thinking-and-writing-intensive work of preparing for New Rustacean episodes, too.

While my job allows me considerable flexibility, I can’t just take all of the time for side projects, whether those research projects, or working on New Rustacean. Too: my evening concentration ability is much lower than my morning concentration ability, because I’m also the dad of two small children, and between finishing working in the late afternoon and getting them to bed around 7:30–8:00pm, I am much drained mentally. (Kids are awesome, but they can be exhausting!)

So I’m going to try something: every day starting this week and running through the end of the month (whether I’m working or not), the time before 7am is mine. After making breakfast for me and my wife, and reading my Bible for some time, I’m going to use that time to work on reading and research, blogging and longer-form writing, New Rustacean prep, and the like. If, by the end of this month, I evaluate that it’s going well (I rather suspect it will be), I’ll formalize that as something to keep doing in the next year. (Accordingly, I’ll report back on how it has gone so far in my usual end-of-year writeup!)

This morning, at least, it already feels like something of a win to have gotten some words out here at the start of the day, and I feel far more able to write now than I normally do after a full work day during that mid-to-late afternoon mental slump!