Early risers are pretty smug about their schedule, but truth is, I don’t really get grooving until about three in the afternoon. When I wake up with the birds (Quiet down, out there!), I am a wreck by two, passing out at my desk. Before I had a child, 3–10 pm was my magic productivity time. Now I’m usually passing out in bed before my kid is.
It wasn’t until one of the veteran editors spoke her truth that I took charge of my schedule to make the most of me. She said, “I freelance because I can’t get going before noon.” And there you have it: permission to do what’s best for your body. No apologies.
It turns out that making the most of your natural rhythm is good for your work, too: more productive, more accurate, and a happier you as well as happier clients.
There are a bunch of hormones and chemicals that affect your energy throughout the day. Coffee is one of them, but most occur naturally in your body and some are the result of exposure to daylight: adenosine, melatonin, and endorphins, to name a few. Medication, stress, sleep, and illness also have an effect—not to mention kids and pets and city noise (or country noise, if I recall this morning’s dawn chorus wakeup call).
For a couple of weeks, jot down what you’re doing each hour and how energetic you feel. A simple spreadsheet is enough. Break it into 15 minute chunks if you can. Perhaps your fitness tracker can help; export its data and match it up with a log of your mood.
Do you crash mid-afternoon?
Do you need coffee to get going first thing?
Is there a time of day when you forgot to track your mood because you were so in the flow of work?
Are you completely done after dinner is cleaned up or do you head back to the desk until the wee hours?
Is there such a thing as a second wind?
You have two options here: schedule work and life around your rhythm, or try to hack your rhythm to meet obligations. I mean, sometimes you can’t change the morning meeting or when you need to pick the kids up from school.
You can experiment with various factors to either shift your productive time so it suits your schedule or to expand the time and frequency of productive periods:
This article was originally posted on Copyediting.com on 5/28/18.