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)


gloria walsh

My best time is from 1:pm -12mid night.
Thanks for this article. I thought I was lazy or sick.



It looks more are saying that they are more productive in the morning. I, myself, have noticed also that I am more productive doing my research in the morning from 6 a.m. to 11. I though all the while that I am a night person because I can extend staying awake till midnight. But looking backwards, I realized I have done more mental works in the morning.

jonson roth

Actually, being a night owl and finding the best time for writing productivity don’t necessarily have anything to do with each other. I’ve always been a night owl, preferring to go to bed at 3 am and wake at 9 am. But my best writing productivity is from about 8 am to 11:30 am, and if I accomplish some work then, I find I can write more later in the day.

Adrian McEwen

If you want to see which part of the day is your most productive, you could use my to-do list web app, tedium.

From the data collected when you cross an item off your list it compiles a productivity report for you, which includes the number of tasks you complete each hour. You can see from this section of my report that I’m a bit more of a morning person.

Marsello Oentoro

Been trying to float the idea of flexible hours to my boss to no avail, such is the reality of working in corporate America. Their issue is if they allow me to do that, other co-workers will follow suit and it would create chaos within the department. Kinda hard to convince him about my work efficiency without sounding pompous and possibly inviting more work to be piled upon me :(


I agree. I’ve found that certain times of the day are better for certain tasks for me. I answer emails and the like when I first wake up in the morning. I work on admin/business stuff from the moment the kids leave for school until they get back with breaks here and there. I am at my most creative after the kids go to bed until my bed time so I use that time to make my Felt Fuzzies and paint. It all adds up to a lot of hours but I love what I do and would do it for free if I could.

Vasco Duarte

Nice article, but what method do you use to “find” your most productive hours?

One idea i’ve been experimenting with lately is to keep my meetings down to 10 hours a week (47,5 hours is the weekly hours in Finland). The results have been positive, i’ve increased the ammount of work I can get done in a week and got no negative impact by skipping meetings (at least so far).

Barbara Ling

I completely agree. My work hours are beyond weird – I get my best work done at around 4am or so. No kids are awake, no business calls come in…it’s just me and my computer.

It’s much better than the 6 to 6 schedule I used to have at AT&T….



Grant D Griffiths

One thing I have found is that my best time of the day to get work done actually changes. Some weeks it is early, some late. But, working at home and for myself, certainly enables me to be flexible with myself.

Comments are closed.