Change Your Work Hours to Get More Done

One of my favorite childhood authors, Roald Dahl, had a very specific work routine. “It suits me to start rather late,” he said in an interview with Todd McCormack. “I start at 10 o’clock and I stop at 12. Always.”

It may not sound particularly industrious, but with this routine, Ronald Dahl managed to carve out an amazing career for himself as one of the world’s best-selling writers, responsible for well-known books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach and (my personal favorite) The BFG.

I’m certainly not advocating working for only two hours a day. But why not, if that’s your daily maximum? Why force yourself to labor away at times that don’t really suit you when, as a web worker, you’ve got the freedom to dictate your own hours?

Getting to know yourself and your own work patterns are key to developing an effective work routine. It took me years to realize that my best hours for writing were between six in the morning and midday. By paying attention to my productivity patterns, I could’ve come to this conclusion a lot sooner and saved myself a lot of time.

You’ve probably already got an idea of whether you’re a morning person or a night owl, and that can be the starting point for figuring out the hours that you work best in. But experiment: you may find that these are the exact opposite to what you thought they’d be. I always mistook myself for a night owl, and it was only after regularly forcing myself to wake up early before 9am deadlines to finalize copy that I realized I was actually writing significantly better in the morning.

It’s amazing how much a simple time change can make. Once I concentrated my writing efforts to my peak productivity period, I was getting through assignments faster than I thought I was capable of. One weekly assignment that used to take me around six hours to do was now taking only a couple of hours. The end result? More work, more money, less stress.

Of course, extraneous factors and pressing deadlines mean it’s not always possible to stick to those times religiously. By having a better understanding of your own limits, however, you can be realistic about how long it takes to get things done during different time periods and adjust your schedule accordingly.

(image courtesy: Flickr user audinou)

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