why your new productivity system might not stick, how to use your “biological prime time,” and more

Over at Intuit QuickBase’s Fast Track blog today, I take a look at several interesting work-related stories in the news right now: why your new productivity system might not stick, how to use your “biological prime time,” and more. You can read it here.

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

    I end up staying late almost every day because my most productive time is 4pm – 7pm. I really, really wish I could convince my boss that letting me work 10-7 would be in everyone’s best interests.

    Reply
    1. videogamePrincess

      I was about to comment the same thing. Such a shame that it never worked out at my company. I think my best bet is honestly to be a contractor, so that I can choose my own hours.

      Reply
    2. Simonthegrey

      Completely agree with this. My most productive time, honestly, has always been after 9pm. I am naturally a night owl (I wouldn’t get tired without medical intervention until 3 in the morning), but those aren’t the typical office hours unfortunately!

      Reply
      1. Anxa

        I feel similarly.

        I don’t know if high school and college messed me up (too busy to do hw until after 10pm) or if it’s more physiological.

        I have to either sacrifice productivity in more mentally taxing projects by going to bed at a reasonable hour (I’ve gone to bed before 2am most nights for the past 3 weeks) or sacrifice daytime wakefulness while I’m actually at work.

        It wasn’t until adulthood that I understood many people actually do feel more productive during the morning and early afternoon and would choose those hours.

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      2. Claire (Scotland)

        Me too. My best hours are 10PM – 2AM, always have been. Left to myself, my natural sleep pattern is 4AM – noon.

        Pity I start work at 8.30AM, really.

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      3. JessaB

        I spent most of my working life working 3d shift. I do my best work overnight. My fave job had me from 11pm to 9am and it was wonderful. I hate 9-5 jobs because I want to be in bed.

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    3. SG

      I wish- even if I do get in before 10am I’m an absolute zombie. Everything about my life vastly improves if I’m allowed to wake up at 9 instead of 8.

      Reply
  2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

    My job went to flexible time within certain limits — 3-hour wiggle room on start/end times, lunches whenever you want, for 30, 45, or 60 minutes — and it’s been a huge boon for me. It means I don’t have to take off as much time for appointments, I can let myself sleep in if I need to, or take my time getting to work if the weather’s bad. (See for instance this morning’s rain-and-ice hellscape.)

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    1. Tammy

      I honestly don’t understand why so many workplaces are so hard-nosed about this. I pretty much tell my team, “as long as your work is getting done and our customers are happy, I trust you to be adults and so I don’t care so much what time you come in and leave.” They’re happy (because they can set work schedules), I’m happy (because I have to do a lot less hassling over timesheets), the customers are happy (because their projects are getting done)…it seems a no-brainer.

      Granted, I have to keep *slightly* closer tabs on the portion of my team that are non-exempt hourly employees when it comes to meal/rest breaks and overtime, but even still.

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      1. Vicki

        A friend of ours has a story about a new manager who insisted that his team (of engineers) all had to come in at 7am.

        They did it for a week (basically came in at 7 and sat with a mug of coffee staring at the wall until their brains woke up 2 or 3 hours later). After a week, the entire team, some 5-10 engineers, walked into the managers office and said “This changes.. or we all quit.”

        The schedule changed.

        Reply
  3. Hotstreak

    I can’t get anything substantial done before 10am, most days, and my highest productivity comes if I stay from 5pm-7pm. Combination of my natural tendency to be awake and alert at that time and having our open office finally quiet down!

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  4. Tau

    It took me years and years and years to figure out that I am a morning person. (I was on the stereotypical college student “sleep late and pull all-nighters” schedule at uni. It… didn’t work out well.) My most productive hours are before noon, and my output generally drops precipitously at around 3pm. I generally end up working around 7:45-4pm, which works out pretty well as I can generally use “only X minutes to go!” to keep up momentum for that last hour. Mind, I’d absolutely take advantage of 7-3 if it was on offer.

    Side benefit: I *love* having a semi-free afternoon. Anytime I end up coming in later and therefore working later I wonder where my day went.

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    1. BRR

      I have a similar history, it was difficult to break from the stereotypical college lifestyle. For me, it was also learning that I can’t do certain things with music playing while everybody else studied with headphones. Now I’m also in a flexible workplace where I can be early in and early out compared to my coworkers. It’s amazing :).

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      1. After the Snow

        My college roommate would study to classical music but I always stopped to listen. Rock as background was easier for me.

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    2. Vanessa

      Same here! Having a semi-free afternoon gives me energy to do activities or keep up with housework after workwork.

      The problem I’ve been running into is that I live in Seattle now and it’s been very difficult for me to wake up when it’s so dark all morning in the winters.

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      1. Honeybee

        Me too. The sun has started rising a bit earlier and I’ve noticed it’s been way easier for me to get out of bed than it was in, say, December. I hate taking the dog out in the dark.

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      2. Tau

        Ugh, tell me about it. I’m grateful every winter morning that I no longer live in Scotland, but England isn’t *that* much better. And I don’t get much light in the afternoons yet either! I cannot wait until summer, or at least spring.

        Also an issue because I cycle and both my options for getting to work are not particularly well lit. Back in January I had something like a fifteen minute window between “too dark to cycle” and “rush hour is starting, too busy to cycle” in the mornings where I could leave for work, which was really stressful.

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    3. Former Diet Coke Addict

      Oh yes! I can’t flex time at my job (more’s the pity), but I’m always the first one in and I would happily do a 7-3 schedule rather than starting at 8. I get way more done in the mornings than in the afternoons, which are always slow and draggy. The worst thing for me was nighttime lectures in university…6-9pm? No thanks.

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    4. Honeybee

      I’m not sure whether I never realized I was a morning person before grad school or whether I changed into a morning person, but when I started writing my dissertation I would wake up at 6 am, go for an hour’s run or yoga and then start working (usually from home) around 7-8 am. That gave me some time to check email and gear up because I really hit my stride somewhere between 9 am and 2 pm. I’d be done for the day around 6 pm and go to bed at 11.

      I never felt better than when I was following that schedule.

      I also realized this with housework – cleaning the house always seems like a great idea at 9 am and not so much of a great idea anymore by 3 pm, so if I want to get any cleaning done I have to strike when the iron is hot. Luckily I still wake up at 8 am on the weekends, which feels like sleeping in to me.

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    5. After the Snow

      I always scheduled for college classes for 8-1. Gave me all afternoon to study and gave me my nights free. even now 40 years later if I don’t get started with my day before noon I feel like I’ve wasted the day. And the one quarter I stayed up late to study for finals and then used the afternoons to sleep was my lowest grade wise.

      Reply
    6. Ad Astra

      Another morning person here. For me, ADHD is a factor — because I have the most medicine in my system earlier in the day, and because my brain starts to feel noticeably fatigued in the late afternoon (even with a lunchtime re-dose).

      This was a real challenge when I was working newspaper copy desk hours, which are typically 3 p.m. to midnight. Obviously I could adjust my medicine to fit my schedule, but I still had to run most of my errands during the day, which meant I would be up for hours before setting foot at the office. And the nature of newspaper copy desks means a very backloaded work day; with an 11:50 nightly deadline, the most stressful part of my shift was the last two hours.

      At my current job, I don’t usually have the option to re-arrange my assignments, but all my deadlines are relatively short. Nothing I do comes with more than 24 or maaaaybe 36 hours notice, so I just do it when I get the assignment and move on. If I ever did have a long-term project, I’d for sure be working on it first thing in the morning.

      Reply
  5. Honeybee

    At first I thought you were talking about a different kind of biological clock and I was like “No Alison, not you too!!” I’m 29 and I’m starting to hear unsolicited comments about my biological clock from family members. Oy.

    Anyway, my prime time is between 10 am and 2 pm, but I do work best in the mornings generally.

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    1. Anxa

      I’ve been getting comments from a student I work with. It’s been the strongest test of maintaining a professional demeanor since I started working here.

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    2. Koko

      Mine is between the 6s and 9s – both a.m. and p.m. It seems terribly incompatible with the 9-5 workday, but actually, it works out pretty well. I spend half of my office hours in meetings, and I often only have 30 minute windows of free time between meetings. Since that’s not really enough time to get started on anything significant, I just read professional blogs, current events, and other semi-work/semi-pleasure things, and manage my email and to-do list during those breaks, then use some morning or evening hours to actually have uninterrupted focus time to move the big things along.

      Sometimes I leave for work after 9 so that I can work up til 9 when I’m freshly awakened and beat most of the morning traffic. And other times I will duck out of the office around 4:30 so I can get home and make an early dinner and then settle in for a couple of hours of evening work.

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    3. Ad Astra

      I turn 28 tomorrow and my mother (who had her children at 21 and 28) has been nagging me for YEARS already about how much harder childbirth and raising kids will be as an “older” mother. I think she might have a stroke if I’m still childless/child-free when I turn 35.

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      1. Honeybee

        My mom had her peak of worrying when I was in my mid-20s; I think at this point she has just assumed that I don’t want or won’t be having children. She does occasionally pick it up if I mention something about kids, but in a gentle, only-slightly-annoying way. The worst offender is my cousin, who is the same age as me but had her kids at 20 and 23. She’s under the impression that my ovaries are shriveling and my eggs are dying etc. etc. Also apparently people in their late 30s/early 40s have no energy and can’t chase after small children. (wtf?) Also, although she’s gracious enough not to bring it up that often, I can tell my mother-in-law is getting kind of antsy.

        Oh, as an added bonus, my husband I don’t even LIVE together. He’s on the East Coast and I’m on the West Coast, and we’ll be bicoastal until May.

        Happy early birthday, by the way!

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    4. Nethwen

      Me, too. 8/9 am to 2 pm. Would love an 8 – 4:30 schedule. Unfortunately, more people would rather come to the library at 8:00 p.m. than 8:00 a.m., so we have evening hours. I’m dreading the next couple of months while we’re short staffed and I’ll have to work until 8:00 p.m. sometimes.

      Reply
  6. De (Germany)

    Where I work, the earliest people come in at 6 (when the doors open), and the latest people come in at around 11 or so (the alarm is turned on at 8, I think). It’s quite interesting, the different rhythms people have.

    Reply
  7. Elizabeth West

    When left to my own devices, I tend to stay up until 12 or 1 and get up at 7:30 or 8. I worked 7-3 for many years in food service, but the second I had a day off, I reverted to that schedule.

    Now I get up at 6 and get into work at 8:30 and eat lunch at my desk and leave at 4:30 (or 5 if I have a meeting or something that runs late but needs to be finished). I need time in the morning to wake up and join the world–and leaving later means I’m not a ball of stress when I arrive, because I get to skip the worst of the rush hour traffic (through an industrial area, blergh).

    There is rarely anything urgent at 8 or after 3:30, and I feel far more awake and productive during that time. Whatever’s in my task list or inbox gets dealt with as soon as I log in. So far, it’s worked just fine–I’m nervous that the new setup will change it, but so far it hasn’t.

    Reply
  8. Violet_04

    I am most productive in the mornings, but my workload is dictated by the conference calls (too many) that I have scheduled during the the day. Some days I’m literally on calls for several hours at a time and then have to catch up with actual work later in the afternoon or evening.

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  9. Who watches the Watcher's?

    Does anyone else find they have a work prime time and a more natural prime time? I definitely do. When I’m going to work I’ve come to realize my peak work hours are 8am to 2pm. After that I’m a total brain dead zombie until about 5pm and then it’s like the switch gets turned back on in my brain. I work 7:20 to 4:20 and those last hours in the afternoon are the WORST. I try soooooooooo hard to focus and get stuff done and always make sure to leave easy tasks till then. I’ve also tried to see if that brain dead period would be helped by a snack, or walking around, etc. So far, nothing.

    But when I’m doing my own thing on the weekends or vacation or whatever, I sleep until 8am and start any tasks I have to do around 9ish. Take an extra long lunch break, usually around 1pm and get back to work around 4ish. I usually feel much better. IDK if ‘better’ is the right word. Maybe more satisfied? than the work week schedule. Anyway, that’s just my 2 cents.

    Reply
    1. Cristina

      Oh, I do too! I’ve noticed that at work I have to muck around for awhile in the morning (case in point) but I find it really easy to drill down and focus starting at about 2 p.m. On the weekends though if I haven’t started doing something productive by about 10 a.m. then it’s not going to happen. Since I still like to leave work at a reasonable hour, I’ve started leaving my mornings free for meetings and then blocking my afternoons for thinking and doing time.

      Reply
  10. Schnapps

    AGH, I just took a time management (online) course on this. Oy.

    When I was a lifeguard I did the 6am to 2pm shift. It was fabulous. I could run errands on the way home, have a nap, then make dinner. I have always been an early bird (my commute to high school involved a ferry and an early, early start)

    I would love to do 7-3:30 at my current job but workload doesn’t allow it. I used to do 8-4:30 but my almost 7yo wakes up right when I need to leave, which often made me late so I do 8:30 to 5 instead (which totally sucks – my most productive times are from about 7:30 am to 2 pm and anything after that is a write off. I’ll often take a late lunch because I can power through until 1:30 or 2 and then kind of coast for the rest of the day (except Tuesdays, because I have deadlines every Tuesday)

    Reply
  11. Hobbits! The Musical

    My best schedule was a part-time job for 8 months – my job began at 7am setting up the coffee percolators in each kitchen (6 kitchens in 2 buildings) then reception/switchboard from 7.30am, every morning. I’d get up shower etc then walk up the hill to work… and the company supplied breakfast! Great way to get people in and working early happily. And then I’d finish at 2.30pm and switch brain-gears from ‘office professional’ to ‘artistic professional’ and put in another 6-7 hours vocal training/practice/rehearsal/performance. That 8 months was also the period of most advancement and consolidation for me creatively.

    I’ve always wondered why/how I was able to put in two separate workdays in one 24-hour day, five often six days a week. Does anyone else’s experience lend an answer? Not “youth” I was 32; reasonably fit and healthy but large so not “constitution” either.

    Reply

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