If you haven’t found the perfect time of day to write, that’s normal. There are many writers out there in the same situation as you. The truth is, there isn’t one perfect writing time for everyone especially when you’re trying to write your next best-seller. If you’re like me, you probably feel that your day goes through various peaks and troughs.
Have you ever wondered if you can predict when those seemingly random dips in energy are due and work around them? Well, maybe you can.
As Dan Pink talks about in his best-seller, When, with the help of science, big-data and a little planning, you can make sure you’re writing when you’re at your most productive. Here’s what I’ve been learning about scheduling around your energy level and how you can use this approach in your own writing life.
To Find Your Best Writing Time, You Need to Find Your Personal Rhythm
It’s vital to plan a productive day when a large chunk of your income directly relies on your creativity, such as being an author. While there’s isn’t one perfect time to suit everyone, you can still use science to find a time that works for you. To do that, you’ve got to understand what scientists call your ‘Circadian Rhythm.’
Basically, your body follows a daily rhythm that is controlled by an internal clock in your brain. This internal clock triggers a release of hormones like Cortisol and Melatonin which help you wake up in the morning and fall asleep at night. But it isn’t just the bookends of your day that are impacted by those hormones. Your internal clock also triggers a rise and fall in attention and mental ability throughout the day.
Your major daily trough will be around the middle of the 16 hours that you’re awake. For most, this time is between 2 pm and 4 pm, with your least productive time being 3 pm.
Dan Pink calls this window the “Bermuda Triangle” of the day because, for many people, intelligence, sound judgment, and productivity mysteriously vanish during this time.
Planning your work around this two-hour window of forgetfulness and poor judgment is crucial.
In Your Two-Hour Trough, Tackle the Simple Work
Between the hours of 2 pm and 4 pm, you should try to avoid doing important work.
Instead, complete those mundane and familiar tasks that aren’t incredibly exciting but need to get done. You know, sorting through your notes, responding to emails, updating your website plugins and so on. If you’re working from home, you can also use this block of time to run errands, pick up the kids from school, or clean the house.
If possible, have a short nap at the start of this trough to boost your energy for the rest of the day. Without sounding a little too much like Goldilocks, you’ll want a nap that is just right. Nap for too long and you’ll be drowsy. If your nap is too short, it’ll be useless.
Instead, have a quick 10- to 20-minute nap–that’s the ideal length for mental alertness–and wake up ready to take on the world. Some writers even recommend having a coffee before you nap as it takes around twenty minutes for the caffeine to kick in.
If you need to do important work in those hours, follow a checklist so you don’t make any silly mistakes. It may sound weird to follow a checklist for a task you do every day, but when you’re tired, you are more prone to making costly mistakes.
Do Your Most Important Work When You’re Most Alert
So we know what time of the day you’re at your least productive and what work you should do in those hours. Now, let’s look at the kind of work you should be doing for the rest of the day when you’re more alert.
On the whole, all the important work you’ll have to do in your day will fall into one of two categories, logical work or insight work. Logical work is performed using the left side of the brain and involves things like clarifying, organizing, explaining, and structuring. On the other hand, insight work is more creative and involves the right side of your brain.
When to Do Your Logical Work
In your morning peak, complete those tasks that require logic. For writers, this can include tasks like:
- Structuring your book
- Planning your week
- Choosing the best keywords for your book or blog post
- Finding categories for your book
- Any research for books and articles
- Editing and proofreading
- Working on paid traffic like Facebook and Amazon ads
- Having any important meetings and making important decisions
By completing your logic-based tasks first, you’ll truly flourish when your creative side comes out later in the day. When to Do Your Creative Work
I don’t know about you, but my creative “A-ha” moments tend to come later in the day, or at night, and the science agrees. With that in mind, plan your creative tasks in the late afternoon and evening during your second wave of energy.
This includes tasks like:
- Creative writing
- Blog writing
- Cover design
- Character name creation
- Book title creation
- Designing any creatives like advertisement banners and Instagram images
Conveniently, this method works incredibly well for writers, as you can plan your writing in the morning and write that evening–a perfect cycle. Plus, your writing will likely come faster and with less frustration, thanks to having just the right amount of energy.
Wait… None of This Sounds Like Me at All?
Right now, about 25% of you will be reading this and thinking, “Wait, this doesn’t sound like me at all!”
Around a quarter of the population have what’s called a Late Chronotype. Basically, that means you’re a night-owl and your working habits flip. So, that means you’re far more creative during the early morning and analytical during the second half of your day.
To figure out if you’re someone with a Late Chronotype, think about your daily energy. If you’re the type who will struggle to get out of bed on free days, has only a small amount of energy during the mid-morning, and is incredibly energetic at night, you’re more than likely in that 25%. In which case, plan accordingly and swap your activities around so you’re completing left-sided brain activities in the evening and right-sided activities in the morning.
Important to Remember: This Is a Guide, It Isn’t an Excuse
I understand that this is a whole lot of information to take in. After all, there’s a lot of work out there suggesting you write in the mornings because you have more will-power when you first wake up compared to when you’re tired at night. And, to be honest, there’s sound logic to that.
It would be silly of me to not mention that this article and the science behind it suggests you have no outside commitments other than your writing. I know that isn’t always the case. Many writers are part-time or run their business on the side. Ideally, you’d be able to build your schedule around the hours your brain is most prepared so you’re working on your most important work when you’re at your best.
Regardless, I don’t want you to start using this article as a crutch or an excuse to not do work. After all, you’re a writer, so you need to write. You can’t tell yourself that because you have afternoon plans you can’t write for the day. If the only time you have in your day to write is between 6 am and 8 am, then so be it. In the beginning, create the time whenever you can but just be aware of your circadian rhythm and your peaks and troughs.
So how can you bring this together?
You should start by finding your average trough, which is that two hour block of time, roughly seven hours after you wake up. In that time, your energy, mood and attention plummets, so don’t plan anything too strenuous in those hours–and if you can fit in a nap, do so. From there, plan analytical and logical tasks in the mornings and creative tasks in the evenings.
On the other hand, if you’re in 25% of people who are night owls then do the opposite. Night owls should do their creative work in the morning and logical work in the late afternoon and evening.
Regardless, find a schedule that suits your life and is sustainable. Doing so can help you write more quickly and consistently.
Photo by Ocean Ng on Unsplash