One of the joys of running your own business is that you are not quite so beholden to other people’s schedules. Despite this, in the last ten years I have done little to break out of the usual nine-to-five routine. Rather, I have fallen into the typical self-employed trap of extending the day at both ends and doing little to disrupt the typical period of limited productivity in the middle.
This year I plan to change all that.
As a naturally early riser I typically start work early, around seven AM. This would give me lots of brownie points according to the entrepreneur-y, self-help blogs but I don’t pretend it’s some sort of virtue. It’s just the way I’m built.
There’s no doubt I am at my most creative in the few hours after I have woken up. I can be incredibly productive until somewhere between 10 and 11, when I tend to run out of steam and get very hungry.
In the past this has meant I faffed around until an ‘acceptable’ lunch time around midday (or worse, I’ve snacked). Once I’ve eaten, almost whatever I eat, my body goes into a serious lull for a couple of hours.
A ridiculous work ethic has always seen my try to fight this lull, getting progressively more frustrated at my lack of focus until it finally returns somewhere around 3. Because I feel I’ve wasted so much time I’ve then stayed at my desk for hours to try to make up for it.
This is clearly a drastically simplified summary of my working day that ignores the more varied reality. But you get the idea.
So what am I going to do about it?
Firstly, I am leaving the office every day at 4. That still means a ten hour working day rather than the ‘usual’ 8 (which no-one I know actually does) but it’s a start.
Secondly, I am going to have lunch when my body tells me I need it — usually around 10:30/11:00, about 4 hours after breakfast (it’s no wonder I’m hungry now I write that down).
Thirdly I am going to sleep. Every day I’m in the office and commitments don’t clash, I’m going to have a nap after lunch.
Here’s my little cosy corner. Headphones in and podcast on, I’ve found I have absolutely no trouble dozing off fairly quickly.
The idea is that whatever gives me that creative boost in the morning can be replicated with a 20 minute nap at lunchtime.
The results? So far so good.
The reality of my working life is that only a fraction of my days are ‘normal’. i.e. in the office from 7–4. But on the days that are, I’ve managed to get my head down for a nap three times in the last week since the beanbags arrived for me to kip on.
And once I’ve had a kip? Well I knocked this blog post out in about 20 minutes. Not quite my pre-8am rate but not bad.
This schedule won’t work for everyone, but I think it’s very likely that we will see increasing flexibility in the structure of the working day. The more we know about human performance and its infinite variety, the less sense it makes to force people into a rigid single structure.
Does 9–5 work for you (or more likely 8–6)? And if not, what can you do to change it?