Since I have started working from home, I have noticed that there is a direct relation between the intensity and quality of my work day, and the hour of the day in which I actually start working. The magic time seems to be somewhere between 11am and 12pm. If I can wake up, eat breakfast, do my hour-plus of Internet nonsense (check email, blogs, etc) and perform other necessary morning rituals (helping with the kid, etc), and still start actually working before 11-12 in the morning, then I will normally be able to get in some very solid work time (and end up working the equivalent of a whole day). If I miss this window (like I have done today), then for some reason it becomes much harder for me to actually get up and start working productively (and I end up spending most of the day refreshing Bloglines to see if anyone has written anything new, checking Newsvine to see if there are any new comments, and thinking up new blog posts – like this one – to write. Basically anything that I can do to avoid getting started with work).
Why is this?
My personal theory is that every day (assuming that you had a good night’s rest the night before) you wake up refreshed and ready to focus on a set of tasks. It does not matter what this is. It could be blogging. It could be working. But the first tasks that you do are the ones that will set the tone for your day. During the morning hours while you are at your most alert and before your brain has started to fill up with the nonsense, if you can start focusing on one set of tasks or responsibilities, than you will be much more likely to devote your best energies to these tasks throughout the day rather than using them to blog waste time. However, if you miss this window of opportunity and devote your primary brain processing time to other types of activities, everything that you do will have the effect of creating a new distraction in your mind. Each one of these distractions will make it that much harder to shift your focus to work, whenever it is that you get around to starting it.
So what is one to do if one misses this chance to start working productively? I think that the key may lie in finding new ways to motivate yourself. If I don’t start working in the morning and find myself sitting in front of the computer at 2pm saying “I have to do something productive today” just remember that some work that is accomplished, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant it is compared to how much you ideally wanted to get done, is always better than no work. Just start working. Give yourself fifteen minutes to do one simple task and build up from there. During that time, do not check your blogs, emails or answer the phone. After fifteen minutes are up, try to use the small amount of momentum that you have created to start another small task. (The Emergent Task Timer might be very helpful with this, with the help of TaskBlaze).
I find that the biggest barriers to getting a late start to your day and still being productive is the despair you might have at accomplishing anything (“I have so much to do, it is not even worth starting it now…I’ll just wait until tomorrow”) or the aforementioned distractions. By approaching your work one small chunk at a time, you may be able to overcome these obstacles and salvage some productivity from what otherwise would become completely lost time.