When can you get the hard work done?

Yesterday I suggested that you do hard work early in your day. That’s because your cognitive capacity is highest early in the day, and because as the day goes on, distractions and interruptions can pile up.

I also suggested that you don’t get up earlier just to start working earlier. The caveat here is that if you also go to bed earlier, it might be fine. 

One reader responded that he is most productive from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. Nothing wrong with that! Assuming you get your full eight hours of sleep a night, that is… (If you sleep more, you can work fewer hours.)

If you are most productive at 5 a.m., then arrange your work days so you can work at that time.

But I would ask: why are the hours of 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. the most productive ones? Is it because those hours are relatively free of interruptions and distractions? Is it because that’s the only time of the day when you can work on something for two hours straight?

You can do easy work any time of day. The type of work that requires only 30% of your brain’s capacity—like answering most emails—doesn’t require sustained focus.

But the hard work, the important work—the deep work—I don’t believe you can do that efficiently with any meaningful distractions going on.

And usually the hardest work is disproportionally valuable. It’s the strategy memo you write for your boss. It’s the long-requested feature you add to the app you built. It’s the key chapter of your thesis.

What time can you get this type of hard work done, and why?


— Peter

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