My friend makes his living from 4-8 am. Over lunch one day, he claimed he wouldn’t have it any other way. Since I’m really going for it, I figured I’d give it a shot. This particular schedule is built around 3 aspects of my situation:

  • I do very little real-time collaboration with others
  • I’m a morning person
  • I’m terribly unproductive and easily bored from about 2:30 – 6:30 pm.

Snippet of daily work schedule

Wake up at 4

Yes, that’s 4 am. For some reason that I can only guess at (sleep cycles?), this is easier for me than waking up at 6, and has some major advantages:

  • Zero distractions. Not from co-workers. Not from family. Not from prime-time television. Nobody calls you. Nobody is on IM.
  • Similarly, it’s really easy to focus at 4. It sounds crazy, but it’s true. I find myself saying “okay, I did not wake up at 4 am to surf the web.”
  • The work day is never totally lost, even if you “take the day off.” My friend (the same one mentioned above) invited me at the last minute to a Cubs game. Under normal circumstances it would have blown a big chunk of the work day. In this case, I was pretty much done with work anyway. When my wife is sick and I need to take care of our daughter, I still get a few focused hours in and can then be a dad for the rest of the day.

Siesta

We in the U.S. haven’t quite figured out what much of the rest of the world already knows: there’s power in a mid-day nap. Think it’s not for you? Try waking up at 4- you’ll find it pretty easy to doze come 12:30. I can really feel the difference on days that I don’t nap. Even 20 minutes helps a lot.

Afternoon is the new evening

I hit the gym now in the afternoon. I have the place to myself. I even saved money by getting a “matinee” membership. And my life is just a tiny bit more pleasant now that I’ve removed the awful afternoon unproductive boredom slump I’ve been dealing with for the past several years. Instead, my daughter and I go chase the pigeons in the park and sometimes I cook dinner.

Wednesday is the new Saturday

Although Tim (in his 4HWW book) applies the “break up your work and play” principle to long-term career planning and mini-retirements, the same principle can bring benefits on a micro level. Why save your weekend for the weekend? Chelsey and I save tremendous hassle by getting shopping and other errands accomplished during uncrowded Wednesday mornings. Working on Saturday has the same “uncrowded” benefits.

Lights out at 10

Except for Tuesday and Saturday nights, we get to bed early. Everything in life has some tradeoff. If you’re a party-hard single college student, following this schedule will probably destroy your social life. But I bet your grades would be awesome.

Mind Tricks

In closing, I have to admit that underlying concrete benefits is an intangible sense that you’re a sort of a step ahead. There’s just something gratifying about hearing my daughter wake up and knowing I’ve already accomplished my most important task for the day. And the same feeling when I ride my bike home from the gym at 3 and realize the rest of the world will still be hard at work for several more hours. It sounds kind of silly, but it’s there.

Three 4HWW principles in action: breaking conventions,  play and work more frequently interspersed, and shooting for minimal effective load. The benefits of this schedule can be realized no matter your situation, but for a family man like me, it’s been almost perfect. It’s been three weeks now and I don’t see myself changing it anytime soon.

Please share your schedule ideas in the comments.