On Aligning Productivity with Natural Rhythms

Everybody is different. Some people prefer to relax in quiet solitude, while other prefer to party in the middle of the action. Some people like to have their steaks cooked to a beautiful medium-rare, while other people are just wrong. And in the context of being the most effective in the world of work, different people have different natural rhythms too.

Earlier this year, I commented on the concept of fitting work into my life schedule and not the other way around. My career as a freelance writer affords me the flexibility to work at just about any hour of the day on just about any day of the week. This is a double-edged sword, to be sure, but it’s one for which I am incredibly grateful.

The Evolving World of Work

Of course, the notion of adjusting your work schedule to align with your natural rhythms will depend on the kind of job that you have. If you work as a loan officer at your local financial institution, it’s only understandable that you’ll typically work during regular banking hours. If you work as an overnight security guard, then you can only expect to work the graveyard shift. However, a growing number of employers and jobs are allowing for a more flexible schedule.

We see this a lot in tech startups and software development studios, for instance, particularly those that allow their employees to work remotely. Not everyone is at their best, not everyone can offer their peak performance from 9am to 5pm on a regular basis. I conducted an informal poll on Facebook last week and, among my friends, I received quite the variety of responses for when people felt they were the most productive.

Fine, Feathered Friends at Any Hour

Their natural rhythms are such that some of them get a lot of work done first thing in the morning before the kids get out of bed. Some of them really get into their groove after lunch. And a good number of my friends are night owls, some of whom are the most productive after midnight. To this end, it is counter-productive to force a night owl to work on a major project at 9am. It is detrimental to force an early bird to stay late after hours to get those TPS reports completed.

And speaking for myself, I am not a morning person, nor have I ever been a morning person. One of the things that I dreaded the most about a job I once had was that the shift started at seven in the morning. These days, while I am no longer waking up at noon, I still get out of bed later than most other working folk. And that’s what works best for me.

The Birds Are Singing

Early birds are not superior to night owls, just as night owls are not more productive than their early-rising counterparts. Instead, it has much more to do with knowing your natural rhythms and working in tune with them. After all, you shouldn’t judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree. Leave the tree-climbing to squirrels and monkeys, and just let the fish swim free.