From dusk 'till dawn
May 16, 2009 5:41 PM   Subscribe

I'm self-employed, work at home, and have a pile of work that needs to get done over the next three weeks. I want to switch to a night schedule. How do I do it?

Right now I'm working on a 9-5 schedule (more like 10-ish to 7-ish) and it's just not working for me. I'm not a morning person, and even with coffee, I usually don't actually "wake up" until 11. I have a big test in three weeks, and I want to maximize my study time.

Things that have worked for me:

1) Paying attention to my sleep schedule instead of trying to manage it. If I'm tired at 6, taking a nap. If I feel awake at 10, getting up and re-starting work. I wake up at 3 and can't sleep, turn on a light and do some reading. Right now this is kind of ad hoc -- but invariably, the work I do late at night is better and more focused.

2) Grafting myself onto my partner's work schedule -- getting up when he gets up (6-7 a.m.) and coming home to collapse at 10 or eleven. Basically, a "work until you pass out" schedule. (Unfortunately, he's no longer working 10-12 hour days, so this is no longer an option)

Things that haven't worked: Getting up at 8 and "getting to the office" (usually a cafe or a library) -- I get out of the house just fine, but it takes me a long time to get started, and I'm never done by 7. Lunch breaks takes up a lot of time, as does getting to and from "the office" -- I feel like transit / break time takes up a large part of my day, and yet I still don't have time to really relax! Then at the end of the day I feel like crap, because I've finished only half of what I set out to do.

Option 2 (work till you drop) isn't really an option, since I'm not disciplined enough to do this on my own (and can't pull this off for three weeks anyway) -- and now that we're BOTH on a flexible schedule, it's that much harder to marshal daytime hours. Beyond that, I've found that the work I do at night is invariably better, more focused, and more productive. I have more energy, and I can focus more clearly on what I need to get done. When I'm working late, I don't need caffeine to stay awake -- I get really energized, and generally FEEL BETTER and more focused on what I'm doing. Plus, everyone else is asleep, so no distractions.

So: a night schedule. How do I do it? I'd like to systematize this, if possible, to avoid wasting so much time during the day.
posted by puckish to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I feel your pain -- I'm not a morning person at all, either. What about doing a third shift, working from 4-12? Then you have time to unwind after midnight and sleep until you're ready to wake up in the morning/early afternoon.
posted by sugarfish at 6:00 PM on May 16, 2009

Important detail: what time is your test? It's no use optimising yourself to work between 3pm and midnight if your test is at 9am.
posted by jacalata at 6:18 PM on May 16, 2009

Similar to the third shift idea, what about doing something like 2-10? You can pretty much get up when you want (and basically, if you can't sleep the night before, if you're up by 1, you're still good to go) but you're not working so late that it's getting into the early morning hours before you go to sleep.

I used to basically work this schedule for several years and while it had its flaws, I really liked it. I liked knowing I could basically sleep as late as I wanted and going to bed wasn't really an issue (I could go to bed as late as 4 and I'd be fine). As much as I like being part of world working regular 9-5 hours now, I do miss the other parts of my schedule.

So I'd say if your goal is just to work 8 hours a day and it doesn't matter when you work them, I'd go to bed when you're sleepy at night, wake up when you're ready to wake up (or after 8-10 hours -- whatever you need. Still setting an alarm isn't a bad idea) and then take care of a few things -- whatever errands you have to do (grocery shopping, post office trips, etc.) and then settle into work for 8 hours. Basically, flip your typical day and move the working hours to the end.
posted by darksong at 6:20 PM on May 16, 2009

The test is at noon. I'm not planning to keep this schedule until day-of -- I'll probably take a day or two and just review, and try to relax as much as possible, on whatever schedule makes sense.
posted by puckish at 6:22 PM on May 16, 2009

When I was doing my MSc I used to start work at about ten am, sometimes eleven. Work through to mid afternoon (about 3ish), take a two hour naps then spend the early evening with my boyfriend. Have dinner then (starting about 7 pm) get stuck in for the night and work until 2 am. It worked well because I could sleep until I was ready to wake up, I could nap at my most unproductive time of day, I got to hang out in the evening and spend time with my boyfriend (working through that period soon gets lonely) and I got so much done during the night time when everyone was sleeping. Adding in the nap made it feel luxurious and I was never tired, but at the same time I was working quite a lot of hours every day. Maybe something along these lines could work for you?
posted by shelleycat at 7:02 PM on May 16, 2009

And if you can't nap, take 20 minutes, lie down or sit in a chair with feet flat on floor and palms of hands resting on your thighs. Close you eyes, breathe slowly and evenly (no, not big yoga breathing), and just rest. It's an old relaxation techique that usually works to re-energize. When I was a younger, jumpier night owl, I used to find this easier than napping as I didn't have the 'nap now or else it doesn't fit your schedule panic' going and didn't have to force myself into a clear-your-mind mode. Having to commit to only 20 minutes helped. Note: this is not a substitute for sleep, but can help when getting adjusted to a different schedule.
posted by x46 at 8:44 PM on May 16, 2009

Check out The 28 hour work day. And learn to sleep during the day. I'm a total night owl, nothing I've ever tried has been able to change it. I sleep from about 8-10am to around 4pm most days, sometimes earlier, sometimes later. It let's me catch up with my co-workers in the mornings and evenings, even if I'm a bit groggy. Then I goof off for a while and do household things and chat with frinds, then I work all night, and in the early morning I catch more friends on chat for a while before turning in. Sleep all day.

I usually use coffee, or work or a movie or something to keep me up a bit longer when I need to re-arrange my schedule. And I do x46's 20 minute rest thing. I just lay down for 20-30 minutes and close my eyes and then realize that I'm not really tired and get up again.

I also tend to split up the standard 8-4-8-4 (sleep, life, work, life) cycle. Like 2-4-2-4-2-4-2-4 (life, work, life, sleep)x2.

So, sleep until an hour before SO comes home, wake up and cook, or have coffee and enjoy a few hours together, then work for a while then read a book or relax, have a snack, work some more, take a 20 minute rest, work more, enjoy SO in the morning, then go to bed. Repeat. You get there a day or to after staying up an extra 2-3 hours each night. Get a couple of movies that you think you would stay awake to finish watching.
posted by zengargoyle at 3:10 AM on May 17, 2009

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