I’m a night owl. Well, at least, that’s the label I’ve carried for as long as I can remember. Is it just the default option I have or do I have another mode that has been dormant for so long? If I have a night to myself I will stay awake until my eyes can remain open no longer. Not necessarily a problem, right? No. However, this has also pervaded my work strategy. I didn’t really question it, but I would often carry on working late and that would, in turn, impact on how effective I was during the proceeding morning. You can imagine the cycle. So many items to get through, so many hours in the day. Are you working at your most effective period of the day?
I now start working at 7:30-8am. It’s a significant change! But why?! I decided to critically review how effective I felt my working day was and stepped back a little. Previously I would arrive just after 9-9:30, transport allowing, with most other folk, getting into solid work mode around 10 and then allowing the days motions to slowly and erratically drift into place. I realised that finding solid blocks of time for actual research was becoming pretty rare. These short bursts of focus were also bending towards requests from other people and thus working to external timelines out of my control. Have you ever recorded a time-sheet for yourself for the sole purpose of reviewing where your bottlenecks lie? Give it a go, it can be pretty revealing. Ok, I will comment a few times on meeting/email strategies at some other point, but the basic time commitment is worthwhile focusing on here.
I have a number of responsibilities and really enjoy what I do, but I needed to implement a change to start ring fencing more effective periods of work. I hadn’t questioned whether turning the working day on its head would work for me, but experimentation was tempting so I decided to give it a go. I am very impressed with the results. Not only can I now reserve a distinct period of the day before most start theirs, but I find I can deliver more in a shorter period of time.
Treat this as an athlete or body builder would treat their training plan. If they hit a rut, or find development just isn’t going in the right direction, a change can be as good as a rest. Pushing into your cognitive reserves in a persistent and ineffective way can be really draining and actually drag your positivity down. Get the difficult tasks done earlier, maybe you will feel better about your progress. The positive side effect here is I also feel less compelled to work at night. Ok, this isn’t strict, sometimes I need to focus a little more at night, such is the nature of the job. However, it doesn’t have to be the default option. Not working at night releases time for mood improving and soul refreshing past times.
You might not respond the same way I have. I’m not a neuroscientist and clearly there are many factors at play here, but if you need to improve your daily time management, what’s the harm in trying? Let me and others know how you get on!