Few of us can have complete control over our daily schedules. Work and family obligations, doctor appointments, and various other things will often dictate where we must be at certain times and what we must be doing.
But when there is a chance to make scheduling choices, it’s helpful to recognize when you’re at your best for certain activities (creative work, exercise, etc.) and then build your schedule based on that knowledge.
Dan Ariely, a professor of behavioral economics, wrote in an “Ask Me Anything” on the Reddit website:
Your “productive hours” are very important. Think about when those are, and then practice maniacal devotion to work during those hours. …
One of the saddest mistakes in time management is the propensity of people to spend the two most productive hours of their day on things that don’t require high cognitive capacity (like social media). If we could salvage those precious hours, most of us would be much more successful in accomplishing what we truly want.
Ariely wrote that those two most productive hours are usually in the morning — the first two hours after you’re fully awake. But people are different, and being aware of what works best for you is what’s key.
A number of people find that starting the day early makes them more productive, and some of them start their days very early, indeed. Hilary Potkewitz had a recent article in The Wall Street Journal about people who choose to wake up around 4 a.m. For example:
Peter Shankman, a 44-year-old entrepreneur and speaker based in New York City, is usually out of bed a few minutes after 4 a.m. Twice a week he meets a buddy for a 10-mile run in the dark around lower Manhattan.
The city’s streets are usually deserted, providing a nearly distraction-free space for thinking. “If I’m busy dodging people or noticing who’s passing me, my ideas won’t come,” Mr. Shankman says.
By 7 a.m., he claims he is “showered, fed, watered and sitting at his desk.” …
The flip side is that he is in bed by 8:30 p.m.
Others find they function better later in the day. On the Lifehacker website, night owl Mike Vardy wrote:
As someone who does a lot of writing, I have found that I’m at my best in a creative sense later in the day, once all of my essential actions and errands have been taken care of. I call it my “Finally Time” — I finally have the clarity of thought, quiet I need and time I want to get my great work done.
That’s my own preferred schedule which is why I’m writing this post around midnight. I also find that trying to exercise early in the day just doesn’t work for me, so I’ve given up trying to force fit myself into that kind of schedule.
Some people work best by breaking up their day. YouTube creator and podcaster CGP Grey has found that afternoon is his worst time for getting his writing done, so he does that work in the morning (starting quite early) and the evening, taking the afternoon off. Such a schedule is obviously much easier to implement when you’re self-employed, but even people who have that flexibility might hesitate to stray so far from the normal workday pattern. But if an unusual schedule works better for you, why not go for it?