If you’ve ever been involved with running your own business or indeed any start-up you’ll know long hours are sometimes a necessary evil to meet the demand or even just getting things in order. Well for quite some time now I’ve been wanting to work out whether it’s better to work early in the morning or late at night –I’m quite happy at working either but is there a better option.
Recently I’ve needed to work long hours to get a couple of systems completed and get back on track with a couple of projects so decided there wouldn’t be a better time. I did want to do something clever like monitor the number of lines of code I write or something equally measurable but to be quite honest I didn’t have the time and I couldn’t be bothered to spend hours searching for a solution so it’s all finger in the wind stuff…
Firstly I tried late nights. As I mentioned in my business start-up guide (see: Business start-up advice) I’m very strict with getting up –I get up when Stacey does, see her off and then I’m in the office from around 7:30am/8am (please don’t call then –I like to have a little “quiet time” to sort things out ;)) and I work until she gets home –usually around 7pm now she’s in her new role. When doing the late nights I’d go in at around 7pm, have a drink and a chat, a bite to eat, perhaps all in all an hour or two’s rest before returning to the desk for a couple more hours.
What I found with working into the night was that by the time I got back into the office I was already fairly tired from the day that had preceded (which a lot of the time is unpredictable as far as clients are concerned!) so my productivity for these additional 5/6 hours was lower than during the “normal” working day, then when I got up the next morning I would be pretty shattered from having little sleep (I still had to get up at 6:30am) which meant the next day was somewhat of a write off. So although I managed an additional 5 or 6 hours of lower productivity work, I also lost time the next day so it was semi-even.
After testing working late for a couple of weeks I decided to try getting up early –initially I would get up at 5:30am as that would give me an hour or so before Stacey was awake, then 10mins waking her/refilling my tea and then another hour or so before breakfast and seeing Stacey off. I tried the 5:30am start a couple of times and could see the productivity difference almost straight away. As I was starting after a good nights rest (I could finish earlier and even get to bed earlier if I wanted!) I was fresh and ready to go again so I decided to start getting up at 5am, that way I could have nearly 4 hours of uninterrupted time before clients started calling.
By getting up at 5am you avoid the jet lagged feeling at the end of the day, oddly enough this still comes at around the same sort of time so you don’t really lose out there and the 4 hours or so before other people make it into the office which means you get an additional 4 hours of uninterrupted time.
The other advantage was if you had a deadline to meet you also had the evening available to work into –again at a fairly similar productivity level to when you get up at 6:30am.
Although I’ve not done any productivity level testing I know for sure that getting up in the mornings is far better without a shadow of a doubt, having the uninterrupted time where you’re fresh and alert means the development is a lot faster, unlike in the evening/night, no-one is online just “chilling” which a lot of the time can be distracting in itself, you’ve also got the added advantage of having a full nights sleep if required or working late into the night if you need to hit a deadline.
Despite my findings I still know a lot of people that stay in the office late into the night thinking that it’s of benefit but one thing I found was not only was your productivity lower, your likelihood in making mistakes was higher –which you’d just have to correct the next day. A lot of the time they were simple things that had you been paying attention/been awake for you’d have sorted!
Another thing I would like to look into at some point is whether morning or afternoon coding is more efficient and whether you can use that to structure your day better as from this “investigation” I’m inclined to do more adminy type work in the afternoon as I tire and leave the development to the morning (that is my 8 hour morning… ;))
FWIW I really enjoy getting up before everyone else, watching the sun rise and then having an evening to go to the gym and have been getting up early now for a fair few weeks –and don’t see it changing anytime soon! I think any earlier than 5am however may well be detrimental.