Productivity: The 3pm Mystery and the Case for Mornings

I am not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a mystery of conditioning and beliefs, but if I go to bed at 2am and get up at 9am I feel far less tired than if I go to bed at 11pm and got up at 6am–both are 7 hours of sleep but you wouldn’t be able to convince my body of that (on that point you probably wouldn’t be able to convince my body to fall asleep at 11pm without prescription sleep medicine).  My life as it is now allows my natural schedule, I typically go to bed around 12:30-1:30am and get up between 8:30-9:30am on weekdays. I am married to someone with the same sort of schedule, so we typically go to sleep and wake up around the same times.

One of my best friends is in a relationship with a teacher–these folks are notoriously early risers–they get up every morning around 5am (even though she doesn’t have to be to work until 9am). They even get up early on the weekends (granted they go to bed MUCH earlier than Mark and I do).  My mom is a nurse–another profession that gives you no choice but to get up before the sun–she gets up at 4am for her 12-hour shifts, and lies awake waiting for me to wake up when she comes to visit.

Getting up at 5am sounds like hell to me, but I am starting to realize the potentional in the mornings. On our honeymoon in Napa we took a Hot Air balloon ride (checked #12 off my life long goals list!). We had to get up at 4 am for our sunrise flight–it hard, but after the first tried half hour and cup of coffee I felt the same way I do at 10am. We had achomplished a life long dream, had a huge breakfast and were back at our hotel for a nap by 9am, then an hour later we had the whole day in front of us. That was the best day of the honeymoon–it went on forever, we got to do so many things.

Which is what I’ve realized about early risers–they get more day! Typically a normal weekday I see my husband off to work, eat, make the bed, do yoga, get dressed, etc. and by the time I sit down at my computer it’s 10:30am. Then before I know it, I’m hungry and I notice it’s 1pm. After lunch and email/blog/facebook checking it is suddenly 3pm–everyday it seems 3pm sneaks up like a mystery and I feel like I’ve accomplished nothing.  Then I tell myself, OK you are going to get a lot done, but suddenly it’s after 6pm and I’m calling it quits for the day and making dinner. Then it’s evening and we are going out, or watching TV or doing some sort of project (it had been wedding stuff for the past year), but the “work day” is done.

So after reading this article about how to be more productive my getting up earlier and making use of your mornings, I’ve decided to try this whole morning thing out. Well kind of. In small steps.

The article suggests that to build the habit, you start small and get up 15 mins earlier and pick one thing you want to do (i.e. not ‘start running AND write a blog post’). I think I might amend this to get up an hour earlier and let myself have the weekends and one weekday to still have my old habits.

After losing two full hours this morning to tying to find a new doctor, I’m going to give another stab at schedule making (I’ve done it before only to unsurprisingly discover that a million things interrupt it).  I’m hoping though that the quiet of the morning and the feeling like I have the whole day ahead of me will help me get more done before 3pm mysteriously appears.

Aside from daily and weekly schedule and to do-list making (both of which I am a champion at), here are a few other ideas for time management(in no particular order):

1) Tracking every hour (and half hour) of your day. Laura Vanderkam suggests a 168 hour time management spreadsheet, to “bill your time” like a lawyer and see where you spend most of your time and how you can change it.

2) Track Your Computer Time with Software. Related, there’s lots of free downloads that track how you spend you time on your computer (both online and in applications like Word, Photoshop, etc). I downloaded Rescue Time because I felt like I was checking Facebook too much, but then I never looked at my reports from the service, so it did me little good–it also doesn’t know what you are doing the sites and applications you are using, you could be spending 2 hours on gmail writing work-related  emails or 2 hours of chatting with your friends–it all looks the same.

3) Blocking Some  Sites Completely. Which is why I’ve often thought about blocking sites altogether (Lifehacker tells you how), but then there are times when I actually need to look something up on Facebook (really), so I haven’t tried that. There are various methods for this that can block a site during only certain hours or completely.

4) Working without a  WiFi net. This only works if you are working on a computer on a project that doesn’t require internet. Another writer friend of my says she went to a coffee shop that didn’t have WiFi everyday for a week and finished a short story that she was too distracted to write at home.

5) Kitchen Timer. This is the most useful one I’ve found (perhaps because I invented it). When I have to transcribe an interview or I’ve decided to write for one hour only, I bring the kitchen timer in the office and set it for an hour–I let myself, Mark, and the kitties know that I am doing this one thing and nothing else for that hour–no checking email, no getting up to get a snack. I am duty-bound to do that one task until I hear the buzzer. Its hard, but I always get the most done when I set the kitchen timer.

What about you? What keeps you on task? What time of day are you most productive? What distracts you the most?

126 responses

  1. Really great suggestions! 🙂 I find that taking note of my distracting thoughts helps me stay on task. If I want to check WordPress for example, I make a note on my “Break Time” list. I find I’m productive throughout the day if I find meaningful and interesting tasks. I also keep a Success Journal, where I log when I wake up and any accomplishment throughout the day, from making lunch to reconciling my spending to going to bed at the ‘right’ time. I then count them and haven’t been surprised yet. It’s changed my view on life in terms of “not accomplishing anything”.

    Great post and I look forward to seeing more from you! 🙂 Take care!

    1. kathleenerindavis | Reply

      Oh nice suggestions–I like the “break time” list: I find that sure, I “worked on freelance article” from 10am-2pm, but how much of that time did I click over to something else. A Success journal also sounds like a great idea especially when job hunting for over a year like I have been I need to remind myself of my accomplishments.

      1. great suggestions. Job hunting is tough I recently found a job after looking since novemeber

      2. kathleenerindavis

        Congrats! I’ve been looking since January of 2011…tough doesn’t even begin to describe it!

  2. Great post! I also feel that my days just fritter away. Thank you for sharing time management tips, too! Numbers 1 and 5 look most promising for the way I operate.

  3. I have to say that NOTHING feels more productive than getting to the gym for a Saturday morning class/workout. It sets a great mood for the rest of the day.

  4. gingerbreadcafe | Reply

    I love mornings, I have always been an early riser my dad did night work and came home about 6am I used to get up when he came in. I like getting loads of stuff done and then having a break about 10am, it feels great!

  5. My husband and I have completely different clocks. I am a day person. I would like to wake up at 6am and sleep between 9 or 10pm. My husband likes to wake up at noon and program into the early hours of the morning. I thought we would be forced to keep the same schedules because of our 8 to 5 jobs, but now we are both freelance consultants, and neither of us gets the schedule we want.

    I have tried to do the lawyer thing, by accounting for my time at the end of the day. I try to be very honest about the amount of time I spent on each task, so I can see how much times I wasted in the day. But I do find it hard to force myself to do this everyday.

    I also like making a task-list so I can feel nice crossing off a task. However, I have seen I prefer to make it on Post-its much more than in my email/calendar program. That way, when I am done with a full Post-it, I get to throw it away. And that feels really good.

    1. kathleenerindavis | Reply

      I am all about the paper to do lists too–I think it’s a combo of having it next to me while I’m on my laptop (rather than on another tab) and the physical crossing off.

  6. I like to have deadlines, even if I have to make them up myself. Knowing that a deadline is coming near keeps me more focused.(And keeping Facebook and Twitter closed!)

    1. kathleenerindavis | Reply

      yes! I am all about fake deadlines! I also lie about deadlines to other people sometimes so that I know that when they are late getting me something it will still be on time.

      1. Haha I totally do that too!

      2. I call it allowance for delays! I so know people will use every excuse there is NOT to send me a report I need. I can’t afford to lose my face on a client for that.

  7. I am most productive at night (I definitely am an owl). Unfortunately my work requires me to be in the office at 8am, which upsets my days. Ever since I started this job I have been a lot less productive…

  8. Thanks for the tips! There are many great online time-tracking solutions out there (to your first point). We use Harvest Tracking time is easier said than done. It always seems that as soon as you sit down to work, inevitably something more important comes along, you get distracted and have to start all over again.

  9. Fellow night owl here and I totally know what you’re talking about. I might have to use the kitchen timer and no WiFi net options. Good suggestions!

    Congrats on FP!

  10. I am usually up till 3AM – I am definitely more productive at night, so the earliest you’ll see me waking up would be around 9AM. I’ve tried a couple of times to lull myself into sleep before 12 at night, an I end up not sleeping till 3AM anyway. The fact that I am losing 3 hours just laying there in bed unproductively is frustrating and tiring, and waking up at 9am becomes real hard… So… I am sticking to my schedule. Some people want to get more of a day, and for me – getting more of a night is so much more productive!

  11. Oh wow this is really interesting… I am absolutely a morning person. Go to bed late and wake up really early (6.20 every weekday). I like being in work early and follow my routines. I’d say having routines, fixed times to accomplish tasks, makes you productive. I love your ideas though, as I manage people, they may come in handy with them (don’t know how they would take the kitchen timer idea..)

  12. I am not a morning person, but I love lists- they keep me on track! And I try working on a no wifi-place so I cant facebook/wordpress/read news- makes me much more efficient!

    Great post! 🙂

  13. ooh fellow night owls, I totally agree with you, so hard to change your body clock when you are a night owl. I used to be a lawyer up until very recently so am familiar with logging every second – best way is to use a diary and be very disciplined with your time. I have decided to apply this to my new IM career starting from tomorrow. I am going to make myself spend at least an hour on content (working without a wifi net would be useful for that one) before I allow myself to check my website statistics – which is very distracting I can tell you! Then I will spend an hour on SEO followed by an hour on learning more about website building. I like the idea of the success journal.

  14. BC (Before Children) we were late sleepers – he was in college, I worked retail and we were living in the Eastern Time zone. So our life was geared toward a later bedtime and later rising. But then children and a move to Central Time, and both of us entering the corporate world all combined to make us learn to rise earlier. For a while we burned the candle at both ends, maintaining our late bedtime but getting up earlier. For many years, it was typical for us to maintain on 5-6 hours sleep a night.

    Now as we approach the empty-nest years, we both tend to wake up naturally by 6 or 6:30 at the latest, and if we’re hitting the gym before work (I telecommute, he does a grueling commute), we are up by 5 and maybe a tad earlier. But we also have learned to honor our health and adjust our bedtime accordingly; it’s not totally out of character to see us winding down by 9 or 9:30 these days to ensure at least 7 hours of sleep. Part of it I attribute to aging, part of it to just doing the right thing.

    P.S., I read the same article this morning – it does


  15. Ah, time. What a relatively fickle thing.

  16. I am definitely the opposite…I love mornings! But I am also studying to be a teacher, so I guess I fit into the stereotype! 🙂

    Courtney Hosny

  17. Reblogged this on R FOR RANDOM and commented:
    My quest for the optimal sleep cycle continues. Let me hope, I finally get some sleep.

  18. Awesome stuff. I use a timer that I found via Tim Ferris: Works great and I don’t have to carry a timer around. :p

  19. I usually only wake up super early to play golf, but it is an amazing feeling to play a round of golf and look at my watch and it only be 10am. Plus living in Vegas, the early morning is usually the only relief from the heat in the Summer. Cool post!

  20. Glad to know that I’m not alone in having an odd sleep schedule, though in my case it’s at least partially situational. A few years back, I was taking job offers from companies overseas. That meant staying up well past midnight every night in case one of them wanted to contact me. After a few months, I got used to it. Got back onto a regular schedule when I went back to teaching, but now I’m back on a 1:30-9:30 schedule.

    Getting up that late used to bother me, but I’ve discovered something. Around 11:00 PM, I get a second wind that lasts for hours sometimes. After that, my productivity goes way up. I can accomplish more between 11 and 1 than I can in the fourteen hours before. Judging by the comments, it might just be that some of us are wired that way.

    My recommendation for working during the day is to get out of your usual surroundings. There are more distractions in the house than you might think. I, for one, used to do a lot of writing at the library, where I wasn’t as tempted to waste time.

  21. Kitchen timer has also been a great tool for me. If I really can\’t stand the work, I set it at 30 min increments. Amazing how much can be completed in just those 30 min., and sometimes I press on another 30 because I actually got some momentum going!

    Best regards,

  22. it’s all about making an effort.

  23. Haha! Holy crap! Are you me?! Your day is almost identical to mine! I’ve been trying to stick to a weekly schedule for AGES, and I think I’m just about at the breaking point. No, not the point where I give up, the point where I think I finally got it! First, instead of trying to fight all of my early morning habits like checking my email, contemplating my dream, compulsively cleaning, etc., I’ve allotted an hour every morning to all of those tasks so I get them out of my system, but don’t keep doing them all morning. Then, instead of trying to be productive on a bunch of different things all day, I just focus on one or two. That way, when non-scheduled things interrupt me (and they inevitably do), I just switch my focus back to the day’s tasks afterward.

    Getting up early has definitely been the most daunting task for me. I’ll give the method you describe here a shot. Might be easier than hoping I magically wake up 3 hours earlier.

  24. Distractions seem to be my enemy… Sigh… i can’t get things done that I set out to specifically do, even if it’s only 3 or 4 things.
    I might try the no internet thing and the kitchen timer though, that seems to apply to my problems the most. 😀

  25. Luckily my husband and I are both morning people. Honey I have to get up at 3:30 in the morning to be at work at 5am to make electricity for people LOL. Good thing I am a morning person. HE on the other hand gets to sleep later to be at work at a normal hour. Just wanted to say Hi, stop in and visit. Like what I see.

  26. […] durante o dia (o tempo era mais curto e a taquicardia mais constante). Após ler os artigos da Kate sobre o que fazer para aumentar a produtividade das manhãs e este artigo maravilhoso sobre o […]

  27. I like to make two lists in the morning. First, counting my blessings. Second, I call
    “Possibilities of the day”. On this I put things I must do, things I want to tackle, things for fun or relaxation, and it’s pretty much a brainstorm moment. Somehow not making it a “to do” list has changed the way I look at my day. It’s possible I will be productive and creative, etc.

    The other thing I do is with a timer, too. Sort of. I started doing things I was procrastinating about in 15 minute chunks. Clean out my studio for 15 minutes. Make phone calls. Bookkeeping. You get the idea. I got this idea from Helps to break down the work into manageable units. Amazingly, some things that I think will take hours, can be squared away in those 15 minutes, or a series of them. It makes a mini-game out of it. How much can I get done in 15 minutes.

    Good luck fellow night owls.

  28. The timer works for childrens timeouts also. The 168 hours thing I might hafta try. Awesome post

    1. kathleenerindavis | Reply

      The kids’ time outs is totally a super nanny move–she’s a genius! I think she does a minute for every year old the kid is. But I don’t think it works on adults–a 31 min. time out sounds more like a reward than a punishment. 🙂

      1. Sign me up lol. Adults need 31 minutes in large chunks of undivided time. 😀

  29. Great post! I’m a bit of a productivity nut myself. I especially like the kitchen timer tip you described. It sounds very similar to the Pomodoro Technique. Are you familiar with it?

  30. I sleep 3am – 7am and then it’s back to work. Weekends are rarely without work but thank you so much for sharing this, I was thinking just how to get more of the day. You’re right about this 3pm thing. Mine’s a 4pm thing – nothing seems to get done 😦

  31. At your age, I was definitely a night person, which created a real struggle with my first job after college (I had to be at the office at either 5 or 6:30 a.m., depending) and then when I moved to the ashram, where we typically sat for meditation at 5 a.m.
    But later, when I gave myself a sabbatical year for writing, I found a different schedule stablilized — relying largely on a mid-afternoon nap.
    These days, when I often work second-shift (the vampire shift, as a neighbor says), I find myself wanting to get up closer to my wife’s natural hours … that is, dawn.
    All of which is to say, play around with your schedule, if you can. You may find different forms fit different projects and seasons.
    But also remember to leave yourself “margins” — times that aren’t necessarily blocked in, or times to just sit and “simmer.” You’d be surprised how productive those turn out to be.

    1. kathleenerindavis | Reply

      Oh for sure, I’ve heard that a lot that the best ideas come when you are doing nothing, in the shower, on the toilet, in the car, walking–so amazing what happens to our brains when we give them “time off.” In college for a brief time I worked as a housekeeper and I would find these memories of things I hadn’t thought about in years would come flooding back while I was making beds or vacuuming.

  32. Anna Laviola Milo | Reply

    Wow! I thought it was just me with the mysterious 3pm creeper! And I completely agree with to-do lists! In fact – everything you have said! To-do lists are the number one thing that keeps me from side-tracking – and as for my educational studies, for some bizaar reason, I can only write essays from 10pm right through till 6 am – just in time for one of my mums morning cups of coffees as she wakes up for work! 🙂 I’d say one thing that distracts me the most – as much as in denial as I am.. It has to be my iPhone being hooked up to the wifi as I recieve an alert when I recieve emails or notifications… Other than that, I find I’m okay, although mental thinking blocks is one thing that throws me off my creative studies! I loved this post! Congrats on being freshly pressed – well deserved! I can definitely relate to this one as I’m clearly experiencing this now! Haha! Thank you!! ^_^

  33. The kitchen timer is my favorite method, too. I subscribe to the “you can do anything for 15 minutes” philosophy. If there’s a pile of laundry I’ve been avoiding, I just set the timer for 15 minutes, and by the end of that time, I’ve usually got it all folded and hung up, if not put away completely. I need to have a to-do list and a timer if I’m going to be productive. I do need to start using the timer to limit time-sucking activities.

  34. Thanks for this list, I’ll be needing this ’cause I’m not a morning person. I hope I’ll be able to use my morning in a more productive way.

  35. I used to be a morning person, until I had kids. Now I make sure I wake up before them, no matter how tired, and do something – anything. Having a plan in place the night before of what I will do in the morning gives me a goal and helps me get out of bed, instead of hitting the snooze button one more time. I also like to set my timer for 15 minutes to tackle some unpleasant task that’s been nagging me – the mountain of laundry, sink full of dishes – trying to finish before the timer makes me work twice as fast, and most of the time I want to finish the task after the timer has already gone off.

  36. fromthericefields | Reply

    I’m a morning person more than I’m an evening person rising at 4:30AM-5:00AM, go for a early morning walk to freshen up for half-an-hour, upon arrival I make sure to have a early morning snack (an apple) while I read and write until breakfast (7:00) after breakfast it’s usually almost 8:00AM and I have 12-13 hours remaining in my day before I go to bed at 8:00-9:00PM

  37. I HATE mornings too. It is a regular gripe on my blog. LOL

  38. thanks for the list .in india naturally in villages people rise up at 4.00 to 4.30 to finish farm work and preparing morning breakfast.

  39. Great post! Here are my 2 cents:

    I felt the biggest problem of not having enough time to accomplish other-than-work related stuff was the fact I was working at home. I was also living in a rather small apartment so my work station was located to the center of everything in the living room corner. This also meant the place I relaxed watching movies was like 3 meters away from the place I was also working, and those two started to mix.

    Anyone who has first been in a normal 8-16 office work and then given the freedom to work from home feel how great it is at first of course. Choosing your own schedules, sleeping longer, having breaks when you want etc. But after couple of years I noticed how damn ineffective it is, because you get distracted from million different things at home. And also when you work from home you build yourself distractions out of nothing you never would do in an office. Just because it’s possible you take more breaks, you watch an episode of Simpsons, you go have a walk and so on. It’s all nice things and surely healthy for stress too but stretch a 8-hour working day to 16 hours.

    But now I moved to a new apartment and I decided I don’t even build a proper work station to home, so if I need to work then I just have to go to the office to do it instead. Hence, you separate free time & work time better and when you are actually at work you get things done so much more effectively. I liked the coffee shop example in your post and I think it’s a good advice to anyone working at home.

    So, for me the thing that created more free time and freedom at first also became a thing that actually ate the free time.

  40. I use Outlook tasks to keep me on track. For me, it’s more that I actually finish what I want to do rather than whether I get it done in the morning or evening.

    Early mornings don’t work very well for me anyway, because I tend to have calls in the nights.

  41. Sounds like we have similar issues/body clocks, so this is really helpful – thanks!

  42. Bizarrely, though I am not a morning person, when I am up in the mornings that is when I am most productive!

  43. Great advice that I really need to take because nothing seems to keep me on task. I used to be a morning person and get loads of writing done before lunch, then allow myself to knock off in the afternoons. That worked until I started blogging: now I get loads of blog writing and reading done in the mornings and still knock off in the afternoons. Basically, WordPress has ruined my writing and I really need to do something about it 😦

  44. I found your tips helpful. I am a to-do-list devotee also! In fact, I’ll even write a task I’ve already just completed onto a fresh to-do-list, just for the supreme pleasure of ticking it off at the top. 🙂

  45. A post for thought. I watch my kids and how they don’t do their homework, how they need constant entertainment or distraction. If an exam was held for competency in Facebook they’d be fine though; all Professors of Facebook. I wonder how many (if any) people have had their day/night and concentration habits blown to smithereenies by the infinite distractions available from the all pervading internet? Bruce

  46. I can so relate to this. In winter (which in Cape Town is now) I am getting up sometimes at 10am, which is ridiculous but my body is just saying ‘no way’ to these cold mornings! I have to compensate by working until about 7-8pm (I work from home, so it’s not too bad). I have a brother-in-law who is a teacher and, yup, he gets up at 5am. I shudder to even comprehend that time. But it is not like I haven’t done my fair share of early mornings either – I had a job in the UK (in winter) that required I leave at 4:30am in the morning and had to still defrost my car door so I could get inside!

    I loved your description of the 3pm ‘quick arrival’ – I have that too, I feel like I’ve just had my cup of coffee before it’s edging on late afternoon. I’ve had so many schedules too that I try to stick to but inevitably I end up playing it by ear. 🙂

    LOL…thanks for a great article!

  47. That kitchen timer is the biggest “PLUS” in my life. It lets me be in absolute control of how much time I use preparing a lesson or a project, how much time I use accomplishing a household task, how long I sit and read just for fun, and how long I spend on the Internet. It’s interesting to me that, even though I’ve used those timers for cooking my whole life, I never really considered making use of them for these other tasks until I had been at my current job a couple of years. I used to teach school, but now I teach at a Sylvan Learning Center — where we work with both learning-challenged students and accelerated students. We often teach programs like accelerted reading (speed-reading) and prep for ACT/SAT examinations. All of these programs require continuous use of those timers. One day it just dawned on me (DUH!) that I could make use of the same technique to schedule myself in a much more satisfying way. It definitely works for me.

    Very good article. Congratulations on being “Freshly Pressed.”

    (By the way: I just checked; my timer’s going off in exactly 1 minute, 55 seconds! So glad I got this last word written.)

  48. Reblogged this on NahidRains Pictures [NRP].

  49. Great post and Congrats on FP! After years as a parent getting kids to school, morning was the most productive. Now I switch up my “appointments” throughout the week, one day at the library, one day at the coffee shop and three days in the home office. Makes the mornings fly and the writing flows faster. Now if I could manage to stay focused in the home office. Yep, time to go out and buy a kitchen timer… ah well, good intentions! Thanks for the laughs.

  50. Unfortunately having a daytime office job and a 9-year-old prevent me from staying up and sleeping in as late as I would like. However, in another 10 or so years when I retire and my son is grown, I don’t think I’ll have any trouble returning to my true night owl self.

  51. Thanks, I enjoyed your post and time management tricks 🙂 I’m the same … I HATE getting up early! But I force myself to get up around 7, which I find even harder to do in winter! What I’ve found quite effective (perhaps similar to your kitchen timer trick) is to, before starting the work day, decide on one task that I want to accomplish before logging into email, facebook and looking at blogs etc. The few times that I’ve tried this, I’ve found that I’ve completed a big task relatively early in the day (before noon), which would have taken me much longer to do had I done it later in the day, and surrounded by distractions! Perhaps I will get a kitchen timer and try it out when I work at home 🙂

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  53. I always find getting up early and getting some work done before 10.00 makes me feel productive which gives me more motivation to get more done. Unfortunately, I find this a hard pattern to keep up, especially when the only deadlines are my own. If deadlines are more official it’s easier to ‘get up and go’.

  54. I use my kitchen timer a lot – I can get myself started on lots of things if I know I only have to dedicate 20 minutes. Frequently, I keep going even after I’m realeased by the bell – and then I can cross that task off completely.

  55. This is very interesting! I was always a night person but when I started my current position where I work I got the opportunity to do a compressed work schedule and get Fridays off. The chance to work a 4 day work week was just too appealing to me, even if it meant a longer day and waking up at 5:30 in the bleeding morning, and you know what? I never thought I would – but I have gotten used to it! It’s brilliant 🙂 and you do feel really productive so true – thanks for this post.

  56. Nice post. Congratulations!

  57. If i start tracking my hours, the first thing that will have to go will be all the time spent reading freshly pressed blogs… congrats on being freshly pressed.

  58. I’ve been thinking about this subject all week. Guess that shows how far I’ve gotten in my quest to be ultra productive. Right now, I keep the task reminder up in my email account. So at least my to-do list is staring at me all day. Mind you, this doesn’t mean I can’t close it. However its better than me writing it down. I did that and wound up with 5 or so year old task lists stuffed anywhere they would fit.

  59. I’m a recently converted early-riser… it’s almost magical, isn’t it? I used to never have any time, but now, whenever I’m finished with my morning jog and am off to see the day, I find that nothing else that can come my way can possibly be harder! =P Certainly sets the tone of the day.

  60. Haha! I think it’s so interesting comparing Morning and Night people, love the post. Thank you for the information!

  61. OMG! I am an entrepreneur who works from home and I definitely struggle with time management…I am a morning person so I wake up between 4:30a and 5:00a every day. I find that I am most productive between 5 and 9a before the rest of the world gets to work and starts emailing me. I use that time to write priority emails, get some blog writing done and work on administrative odds and ends. That leaves me the rest of the day to respond to client and staff emails, attend meetings, update social media and do any report, proposal writing.

    Michele Matthews

  62. I’m an all hours type of person. Whenever the creative spirit takes me I write. Okay, my last book took my five years to write but I’m happy with it. This next one should be faster but then I have just got into Twitter…

  63. I definitely struggle with time management and really should take you up on getting up 1 or maybe 2 hours before my daughter gets up instead of relishing in the sleep until I hear her getting up. Also, I find it very hard to stay on task when trying to push through a project. Thanks for all the great tips!

  64. Great post! I’m a morning person and a night owl rolled into one… strange, I know. I’m up before the sun and often don’t begin to settle down until after 11 PM. My motto is, I’ve got the same 24 hours that [insert great leader here] had, I’m gonna use ’em! Making time to create a to-do list has worked great for me. 15-20 minutes in the morning allows me the opportunity to feel empowered all day as I check off each item.

  65. Nice post! following ya now 🙂

  66. I never get to sleep in past 8:30 on a weekend (not through choice). On a week day I get up anything between 5:30 – 7:00 depending on what kind of sleep I managed to get. As for going to bed it can range from 10:00 – 12:30 and that depends on if the girls are settled or not.

  67. […] I was reading a blog post, Productivity: The 3pm Mystery and the Case for Mornings. I found it on Freshly Pressed. It was about productivity and time management. One of the comments […]

  68. when I am serious about getting things done, I turn to my kitchen timer (which is slightly melted on one side as it got a little too close to something I was cooking)–it works for me

  69. Yeah, the 3pm Mystery is a real bugger. I hate early mornings…but everyone who swears by them is right. You get way more done. Now I just have to force myself to get out of bed at a time I didn’t even know existed!

  70. thebittersweets | Reply

    Geez … I felt like this post is about me 🙂 this is great ! Glad I read it. I seem to spend alot of time thinking about the things I want to do but never manage to get around to do them… Usually 6 pm rolls around and like you I am calling it quits for the day!!! ***Sigh*** I am going to try this buzzer thing you speak of !!!

  71. You know, at work it was always great to see the 3pm coming, because I knew I only had another 2.5hrs left. I’ve always loved mornings and my husband is the opposite, so he turned me a bit to love my bed in the mornings, now I find that our days go so quick and we don’t accomplish much. I need to change it…

    Great post!

  72. Thanks for this useful tips! I always fet unfocused when I work at some crowded place. I’m a designer and a writer too, I find 01am-2am is my most productive time. For me 3pm is my best time to take a rest or doing nothing, just lying in bed or doodling. But at 3pm is my favourite time to take some photos with my camera, I just love the sunlights at that hour. If you’re using Chrome as your browser, use Chrome Nanny to block some sites for during certain times 🙂

    P.S Sorry for my grammar.

  73. 3 am to 4 am is the most productive time according to “VEDAS”. It’s called “brahma mahurat” the time of the day when GODs wake up. The points you mentioned are very precise and effective. Good work!

  74. mittens4kittens | Reply

    Great post. It is good to get more life out of your day focusing on what you want to do rather than running the treadmill every day.

  75. I’m a morning person, definitely but I never start writing till the afternoon, just because (I made an excuse to myself to read lots every morning) but it’s just laziness really. I like your kitchen timer idea, which would also help when I’m teaching, i often end up giving people 20mins more for free, not very cost effective for a self employed lad.
    Cool article though =D

  76. Got it! I get the most done in the morning. I am an early riser and I found it over and over again when I have tried to reverse it, that the day just closes in on me before you can really account for your minutes and hours if I rise up late.

  77. I have to force myself to wake up early for my 0730AM job… i can’t remember the last time I report to work on time! Like you 9AM is the wake up time my body prefer… but i guess I have to learn to wake up a bit earlier if i want to keep my job lol

  78. Very nicely written Kathleen….. I am typically not a morning person but in the last couple of months I have changed my routine (especially on weekends) and have observed (just as you also mentioned) that I have more hours to my day if I wake up early.
    The TOUGHEST part to get up in the morning is to “get up” in the morning. Once you cross that stage (out of your bed), rest of the stuff follows. I have done that successfully and have visited so many places in Mumbai in early mornings (check out my blog where I have started “Mumbai Mornings” series of posts).

    I would like to add one more thing for time management (something which has worked for me). Besides tracking your time, you can also track your tasks. You can make a list of “things to do” (at least the important stuff) and make sure that by the end of the day you are done with it. It will improve your productivity and at least you won’t feel that you wasted your time even if you have time left with all tasks done.

    Thanks for the post. Really liked it.

  79. I’ve never understood why I’m at my most tired when I first wake up.

    1. totally man, its messed up

  80. I love your design layout. Congrats on being freshly pressed!

  81. Kitchen timer seems like a great idea. I dunno about tracking every minute or hour, though. Time moves more proficiently when you are not paying attention to it. Remember when you were a child and the days were endless? Well, not only was that because you were able to wake up earlier, but also because you were able to be present in every moment. Not being aware of the time passing allows you to be more productive because your focus is on the task which requires you to move it forward, not the concept of time which moves regardless of your attention.
    Which is why the kitchen timer works so well! You don’t think about time passing; you lock yourself up until “ding”. Its sort of like how a kid is outside playing so thoroughly until mama calls you in for lunch. No thoughts on time, just pure focus on the task at hand.
    Lovely article– brings fabulous conversations about it 🙂

  82. 3pm! Fantastic! It’s like the witching hour! Even with my schedule 3pm is a mix bag of everything that can and will go right and wrong for that day. I’m self employed, still my business hours are from 5pmish-9pmish. I’ve tried the whole 11pm-6am sleepy time, but I’m starving when I get home at 9:30pmish sometimes 10pmsih. Naw, the 11pm-6pm just wasn’t going to work. I figured it out though. If left to my own devices I fall asleep between 2am & 3am and wake up naturally around 8am. No sleep aids, no alarm clocks. After that is was a matter of rearranging when I did what during the day. I have a couple of advantages though. I live in Europe where most things don’t even start until after 9am. And, most of my friends live in the US 5-8 hours behind where I am so much of my social networking happens after midnight anyway.

    I am a huge supporter for scheduling one’s activities in life. And you have great ideas even for odd ball schedules like mine. Putting a little structure in life gives you the freedom to be spontaneous!

  83. I totally agree with you. I used to find it extremely hard waking up early and I classified myself as a night person. But something shifted a few months ago when I got a new job where I had to wake up at 6:30am, and I LOVE IT! I think it’s to do with I now love what I do, and I love the feeling of having to walk my dog before work when no one is out, and it’s so peaceful! The only other time before this that I was able to wake up early was when I was on vacation in Greece, and no matter how little sleep I got I would feel refreshed. Again because I loved Greece!

    If someone had told me before that I would be waking up at 6:30am I would have told them they are crazy!

    Another thing I find is if I sleep over 7hrs I feel really tierd. Not sure what that is about!

  84. I think the sense of losing the day, without enough done, is a symptom of our do-everything, master-it-all societal obsession. We’re all consumed with pressuring ourselves to be all-powerful career-family-fitness superstars. We don’t know how to accept less than perfection in any of these many areas, lest we should feel inferior to the gym god, supermom or brainiac walking down the street. And we don’t know how to turn it off. We go to bed, not applauding the massive spring cleaning we just finished, but nagging ourselves about our out-of-shape thighs.
    While it is certainly key to employ the variety of helpful time management tools we can find, the ultimate remedy is to stop trying to master everything, and single out what really matters most.

  85. Great article! This definitely helps with my sleeping time management, haha. I feel like I would be a morning person if I didn’t go to sleep so late, because when I sleep on time and wake up early, it feels great. Good luck on your little sleeping plan! 🙂

  86. I really enjoyed the serendipitous stumble onto this post. I am a morning person but I am not a conscious morning person. A boss once suggested I write at 5am, she knew a poet who claimed he wrote better at 5am. I tried it and it was surreal. I’d write in the morning and in the evening after work, I’d edit. It was easy to edit, since I had no memory of writing it. It was like editing someone else’s work. I also wrote simpler prose. The exercise taught me a lot. I still get up early to things I am avoiding, since I am half asleep, I can do dishes, laundry… lol

    The kitchen timer was another helper that worked for me. If I am completely off track, I will work in 45 minute periods, after a day or two am able to get back on track. Whatever works…

  87. Hey i’m trying the same thing. ive always been a night bat. waking up late always made me feel like i hadnt done enough in the day. and that includes sitting around. so i’m starting grad skool today with the same plan. 🙂

  88. Wow this was such good information! I too am not at all a morning person, and find myself mindlessly moving through the day not knowing where the time has gone until the day is almost over. I will definitely use some of these suggestions on changing my schedule. Thanks so much!

  89. I am a morning person. I can get lots done, especially as I always give myself a goal to complete before I reward myself with a break, like lunch, a snack, coffee, etc. Of course the goal has to be realistic…if I am building something in carpentry, I pick a particular phase or section to complete, sometimes a 1 to 3 hour work time. I find I can stay focused and accomplish a lot. Of course this is all subject to not being interrupted. Time seems to get shorter as you get older…so you don’t want to waste it!

  90. Great post, I struggled to make the transition having done many night shifts for my body clock was wired for nights. When i became self employed, it was rough, would be more awake in the evenings(should have eased into it lol), now i divide my time into what needs to be accomplished weekly by dividing each day into 2hour slots. Also discovered workflowy, keeping me on track.

  91. Oh my goodness, this was like a tight slap across my face. I feel so ashamed every day for making my body unhealthy by sleeping at 3 and waking up 10, and by the time I sit to work, I MUST check my email and what not. As a result, I might fail in my coming exams. My dad wakes up at 5am and by the time I wake up, he’s done with most of his day’s work! Its magical what a few extra early morning hours can do for you. Going to sleep at 12 today. Thank you for the lovely post.. An eye opener!

  92. Great piece of writing. In sync with you.

  93. Man i always look for ways on how to utilize my time. Cause for me time wasted is time away from productivity and i hate that. Multi-tasking plays a huge role in everything i do now and I’m not hating it. But as far as mornings go i can never adapt because its just one of those things that just always puts me to sleep. And i know how long a day can be when you utilize your mornings. It’s true what your saying here and i back you 100 percent because you can make the most out of life by making this change -,o

  94. I like the article and because I have been going through recent changes at work, my sleeping schedule is totally upside down for a while now and my body is slowly adapting. It is really strange for me too that getting 7 hours sleep at a particular time on any given day can be more or less refreshing than getting 7 hours of sleep at another particular time. But I too have experienced this. I am way fresher if I go to bed at about 4am and sleep until 11am as opposed to going to sleep at 11pm and getting up at 6am. I need 3 coffees to even walk straight at 6am regardless of the amount of hours that I slept. Well my new job which forces me to make lots of night hours and lets me sleep till noon somehow is getting me better sleep and more productivity. 🙂

  95. In Kenya we say, “Americans have watches but Africans have time.”

  96. Number 5 of your points is the most important factor to determine a productive day! Getting offline (difficult as it may be) is key to being able to maintain concentration. Well done if you are managing it, because internet use with continuous interruptions by emails, notifications etc, is not only by far the greatest obstacle but also ‘addictive’ as regards our rhythm when doing anything. Great post!

  97. This is so interesting. I am definitely most productive in the morning. But I’m also most productive when I’m busy and have deadlines. Too little to do means I will do the few tasks on my list very slowly.

  98. Definitely early risers have great advatage in terms of having more hours in a day. I am early
    riser since my childhood times and have continued to do so.. Though the advantage can
    only be if you have work to do.

  99. As a college student I always force myself to chose morning classes for every day of the week, and working on a deadline I oftentimes use the deathly Self-Control (a perfect app for MacBook users, it blocks completely the websites you chose for selected periods of time). Getting up in the morning and (not)having Internet makes SO MUCH difference!

  100. […] just read this post which was on my dashboard, and I really liked […]

  101. I feel I def need to practice some of these. I’m an early riser, only because the dogs wake me up around 5:30a. We just relocated to CO from FL a week ago and my husband says I can just try to concentrate on my photography business. I haven’t been a “stay at home” for over 15 yrs. I created my new bus cards last night. Now I just need to get them so I can pass them out! My husband is on a diff time schedule with his new job. He goes to work a couple hours after I got to sleep and he goes to sleep a few hours before I do. Not much time together, but at least he’s not in a diff state. Sigh.

    1. p.s. I guess I need to finish this thought to explain it more. Staying home, I find I do more housework (than I have in years!), and I don’t get to work on promoting myself.

  102. This post is exactly what I needed to hear at this point in my life! Although I am a morning person, I find it very hard to make myself get up early! I work from home with a very free schedule and fall into the same surprises as you (“it’s already lunch time?!”). One of the things that motivates me to get up is going for morning walks – I love them, so I try and get out of bed as early as I can to go for a longer walk.

  103. I admire you for trying the whole morning thing out–I’m not that brave. Although I recently changed jobs and now have to be in at 8am rather than 9am, forcing me to get up a whole hour earlier and it’s true, you do get more done! I still slump at 3pm and I still stay up until midnight or later so maybe that’s why I get more done but the mornings are when everything is open and so much can be done. My roommate is a teacher and rises far earlier than me, although when I am up at midnight reading, he is fast asleep so perhaps it’s not that the early risers get more done, just that they get things done earlier than we sleep-iners do.

  104. I get almost all productive work done before 12pm. Anything in the afternoon is typically a waste for me. If I don’t accomplish the important things I have to get done at work before noon, the day is most likely lost.

    The interruptions tend to compound for me later in the day. Other people become less focused on their tasks and bother you as a consequence.

    I agree, the freshness of the morning (starting at 5:45 for me) is the key to my productivity on the important stuff.

  105. This is a great post! We have the same body clock and you’re absolutely right that early risers get to spend longer days. I get distracted a lot by Facebook and web surfing. Time really flies so fast when you’re surfing the net and reading random blogs that you’ll just be surprised to realize that you’re lagging behind (with only a little time left for the things you actually have to do). I need to cut down on these and do much more productive stuff.

    Thanks for the suggestions!

  106. […] few weeks ago I wrote a post called Productivity: The 3pm Mystery and The Case For Mornings. Much to my surprise the post got picked as one of Word Press’ “Freshly Pressed” […]

  107. […] But then, isn’t everyone? And isn’t it just an excuse? I could work on my still nowhere near finished novel, or write a blog post everyday, or do an hour of yoga everyday if I really wanted to write. After all, I know all about productivity and the magic of mornings. […]

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