Help an afternoon person become a morning person!
March 24, 2011 9:57 AM   Subscribe

I naturally get a strong productivity burst in the late afternoon/evening . Unfortunately, this doesn't sync up well with the actual hours of my 8-4 workday. How can I shift my biological clock to let me get stuff done earlier in the day?

The work I do is focus-intensive, semi-creative and pretty self-directed, so being "in the zone" vs. not makes a HUGE difference in how much I can accomplish-- and there are also issues with procrastination and ADD, so even at the best of times I've got a fairly tenuous hold over my workflow. Consistently, despite layers and layers of resolutions and timers and internet locks and external structure, I find myself frittering away the morning hours unproductively, then being able to sit down effortlessly and work starting around 2PM. If I'm uninterrupted, I can keep working well through 9-10 PM. But I've got a family, so in reality I generally have to cut things off around 4 to go pick up the kids, start dinner, etc., etc., leaving me with an average of two (!) hours of actual work per day.

The rest of my life schedule is unlikely to change, so I'd really like this 2PM productivity burst to arrive about 5 hours earlier. Has anyone had any success with permanently re-working their body's circadian rhythms into a more convenient shape? Is there anything I can do to my eating/sleeping/whatever practices that might help reset this?
posted by gallusgallus to Work & Money (4 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
It's much easier to change your life schedule than your natural circadian rhythms.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:59 AM on March 24, 2011

I'm not sure that you'll find much success in changing your cicadian rhythms.

But maybe changing the structure of your work day is a thought. Is there any "busy work" element to your job (answering emails, copyediting something, printing, etc.)? If there is, maybe setting that part of your job for the morning, to match the part of the day when you're not all that brain-intensive, would work -- you'd still get stuff done, but you wouldn't have to be on all cylinders to do it. And it'd also be a good way to ease into your day, so you don't have to worry about tackling it in the afternoon. And maybe the momentum of finishing the busywork stuff may get you more productive an hour earlier, too.

I know what you mean, though. I have definite rhythms to my own mental productivity; I've learned that trying to force through them just doesn't work. So I just try tackling other less brain-consuming tasks earlier, so they're just done.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:43 AM on March 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

Try cutting out all caffeine after mid-day, and limit the amount you have in the morning. You'll most likely sleep better and wake fresher. Also, eat a protein-rich breakfast; leave carbs and fat until evening.
posted by anadem at 11:35 AM on March 24, 2011

I wasn't consciously trying to eat protein for breakfast, but I rand out of cereal last week so I've been eating dinner leftovers (pork, chicken, MEAT) for breakfast and it's crazy how much more productive I've been in the mornings. Now my peak work time is 10 - 3 whereas it used to be 12 - 6.
posted by WeekendJen at 11:43 AM on March 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

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