Can You Work When You Are Most Productive?

Over the course of the pandemic working from home has become an accepted trend, with 86% of UK bosses seeing remote working as being here to stay. Even with the lifting of COVID restrictions many of us are still spending at least part of the week working remotely. Companies have found that we can be just as productive out of the office as we are in it and in a number of ways home-working is even more efficient. There’s no time-consuming commute, no chat in the kitchen or on the stairs, no moving from room to room for meetings or struggling to find a place for lunch.
 
So, if it’s becoming increasingly clear that we can work where we want, how about working when we want?
 
As a writer, I’ve found my best time to work is between the hours of 4am and 7am. There’s something about that time that brings the best out of me. I like being up when everyone else is asleep. My thinking tends to be sharper, more creative, and I’m less likely to second guess myself.
 
I’ve found that I can often get more done in those three hours than I will the whole rest of the day and I find it much easier to get in the zone; into a state that psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called ‘Flow.’
 
Csikszentmihalyi described Flow as ‘a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter.’
 
It might be asking a lot for us to always feel that way about work (it is work after all), but most of us have experienced that feeling at one time or another and most of us would aspire to feel that way as much as we possibly could. If we could get into that working state as often as possible we would be more productive and thus be positive for the companies we work for.
 
The standard working week – nine to five, five days a week – has been around for generations. Long before wifi, the internet, or even personal computers. It could be that there will be a slow transition away from this as it becomes the next notion to become outdated. Just as the idea that you need to commute for miles to work on a computer no different from the one you use at home has. Location is becoming more flexible, could the times that you work?
 
There will always be plenty of commitments that need us to be available at a certain time. If the bottom line is productivity, we should be able to put the work in when we’re at our most productive, whenever that is for the individual.
 
For a lot of us, our productivity declines significantly in the afternoon, a process linked to our natural circadian rhythms. So why waste time working then at all? Why not use that time more constructively? Go to the gym, run some errands, read a book, or watch an online talk or seminar. Then come back to your desk when you’re ready to give your best again.
 
The novelist Patricia Highsmith used to split her days entirely in two. Going to sleep in the afternoon, and then getting up again, getting dressed and getting back to work fully refreshed and energised. What the pandemic has shown us is that we don’t need an authoritarian approach to work. We don’t need to have someone looking over our shoulder, as has generally been the consensus until recently amongst corporate employers. We can produce results whenever, wherever. Which perhaps means that in the long-term the whole concept of the working week will be done away with altogether. There could be work, and there could be downtime, the precise nature of which could be up to the individual.
 
As long as you meet your deadlines and your targets, you should be able to achieve those results in whatever way works best for you. And if you were able to work in a way that suited you, then chances are you’d exceed those targets and expectations anyway, which would be good for everyone – your boss included.
 
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