When Is the Best Time for You to Write?

by John Soares on November 26, 2012

We all have a certain times of the day or night in which we get the most writing done with the best quality. This varies from person to person, and it can change over the course of your life.

I go to bed early and get up early, and I do much of my writing from about 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. I have another peak period from mid-afternoon until early evening, after I have my post-lunch 20-minute power nap.

And I have friends who are total night owls who are at their best at 2 in the morning.

It’s often a matter of circadian rhythms and habit more than anything else. Find out what times work best for you and stick to them. I find I can get more writing done in my best 2 hours than in 4 or more of my non-prime hours.

Your Take

When do you write best? How can you arrange your schedule so that’s when you write?

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Cathy Miller November 26, 2012 at 7:06 AM

I’m like you, John. I’m an early morning person. I have to adjust my daily walk around the weather so that sometimes changes my peak time. I get a 2nd burst after my walk.

So, typically, it’s between 6:30 or 7:00 am to around 10:00 am, then 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm.
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2 John Soares November 26, 2012 at 7:26 AM

I was up at 5:00 a.m. this morning Cathy.

Like you, I exercise outside whenever possible, typically tai chi and walks. And this time of year we definitely have to plan around the rain, snow, and fog.

The outside time is so important to my happiness in winter that I’ll take it during a peak work time if necessary.
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3 Cathy Miller November 26, 2012 at 7:28 AM

I am in total agreement with you, John. Once I realized what a difference the walking made in my health – and productivity – it became a top priority.

P.S. You beat me by 30 minutes this morning. ;-)
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4 John Soares November 26, 2012 at 7:38 AM

No matter when our best writing times are, we need to take breaks.

I’m hoping the fog lifts here in Ashland by late morning so I can get some sun on my face. Several weather systems will be hitting Oregon (and likely your home state of Idaho) from Wednesday onward.
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5 Amelia Ramstead November 26, 2012 at 9:39 AM

I’m a late sleeper, and my brain doesn’t kick into gear until about 9 am. I get my best work done between about 10 am and noon with another burst about 2 to 4 pm. Evenings after dinner from about 7 to 10 pm are also another very productive time for me. I try to keep these times free during my day and avoid scheduling appointments during my “productivity” bursts.
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6 John Soares November 26, 2012 at 9:54 AM

Amelia, it sounds like you know your peak times and that you take advantage of them.

I sometimes can get quality work done after dinner, but I try to save that for down time away from the computer when possible, in large part because I go to bed early and I don’t like to use the computer for at least a couple of hours before going to sleep.
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7 Anne Wayman November 26, 2012 at 10:10 AM

I keep what my dad used to call farmer’s hours too… I was actually up a bit before 5 am and at my desk about 6:30 after reading, meditation and such.

If I don’t get it done by 3 or 4 it isn’t happening. My evenings are play time … I tell my clients I get stupid at 4 – that seems to paint a picture for them that works.
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8 John Soares November 26, 2012 at 10:18 AM

Anne, I also find that I frequently hit late afternoon and my brain just won’t function at a high level. That’s when I do other tasks, either easy ones related to work or other things such as cleaning, the dishes, yard work, etc.

I also frequently do strength training workouts in late afternoon/early evening.
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9 Carol Tice | Make a Living Writing November 26, 2012 at 10:36 AM

I sort of hate this topic, because I feel like I lost my best time to write. It used to be all morning, from early until lunch.

Then social media was invented, and being on Pacific time you sort of have to be on there in the morning or you totally miss the east coast people.

So I’ve had to learn to be a productive writer in the afternoon now. Still trying to figure out how to reclaim peaceful mornings…
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10 John Soares November 26, 2012 at 10:52 AM

Carol, that’s in part why I’ve scaled back my time on social media. I’m still there, but I tweet less and comment on fewer blogs.

And I also have the Pacific time zone blues. Even we early-to-rise West Coasters are often late to the party.
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11 Sharon Hurley Hall November 26, 2012 at 11:36 AM

If I’m creating from scratch, mornings are best (up to 11am); I can edit sucessfully from 11 till about 3. After that, there’s really no point – anything I write late afternoon I end up having to redo.
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12 John Soares November 26, 2012 at 12:00 PM

There seems to be a trend that we can only do so much quality writing in a day. Thanks for your input Sharon!
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13 Joven Agno November 27, 2012 at 4:02 PM

Hi John, I can relate myself to your friends who are a night owls. I can easily write articles in the evening or late evening. I can highly concentrate on what I’m working when all of the people in our home are already fall asleep.
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14 Gene Burnett November 28, 2012 at 1:38 AM

I am a night owl all the way. I recently stopped fighting my nocturnal nature and set up a schedule where I sleep from about 5-9am and then again in the afternoon from about 3-6pm. One reason I did this is because I do my best creative work in the wee hours. It’s not ideal but so far this is the best compromise I’ve come up with. I sleep, get up, teach T’ai-Chi for a few hours, come home, have lunch, go back to sleep, get up again, play a music gig or hang out with my wife or do some social thing and then when I come home, I still have 3-5 hours to myself for creative stuff, including writing. As I write this, it’s 12:37am and I still have hours of work to do. John, I go to bed just as you’re getting up! GB

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15 John Soares November 28, 2012 at 9:18 AM

You are the quintessential night owl Gene! I remember once telling you that you miss all the beautiful sunrises, and then you said you often see them right before you to to sleep!

How do you deal with noise while you sleep? You’re down while the rest of the world is up. My suggestion: a box fan for white noise.
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16 Gene Burnett November 28, 2012 at 11:24 AM

For some reason light and noise do not bother me at all. I am out like a light for both sleep periods. GB

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17 John Soares November 28, 2012 at 7:47 PM

You’re lucky.

I’m a fairly light sleeper, so I use a small box fan, especially on summer evenings when I have the windows open, or when I house-sit in San Francisco.
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18 Carrie Schmeck November 28, 2012 at 9:46 AM

From around 6-8 a.m. I drink coffee and do all the social media stuff, check emails and read blog feeds. After that, I’ll work on original content until 1ish, when I take a break for my lunch and nap (glad I’m not the only one). I’ll do my home chores for a bit and start again around 3 or 4 with phone calls, editing or other loose ends.

Barring super bad weather, like this week, my Thursday ams are devoted to bike rides though I try to get back no later than 10am. The outdoors/exercise component is huge for my sanity!
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19 John Soares November 28, 2012 at 10:05 AM

Carrie, I also like to take exercise breaks outside. The weather for the next week here in Ashland, Oregon is very wet and very, very windy. I’ll try to do tai chi in the back yard during rain breaks.
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20 Mr.X November 29, 2012 at 11:36 AM

I believe the best time to write is only a ‘myth’. If you know the niche well, you can write a great engaging blog posts at any hour of the day.
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21 John Soares November 29, 2012 at 1:37 PM

A myth? Circadian rhythms in human have been studied extensively.

Are you saying you can write at a high level of quality regardless of whether its noon or midnight, or whether you’ve already been working for 10 straight hours?
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22 Mikeachim December 5, 2012 at 3:04 PM

I’ve noticed that I write *differently* at certain parts of the day and in certain conditions. Afternoon train journeys are great for sending me into a state of zenlike productivity where my mind unjitters and I can single-task really fiercely. Mornings (while coffee is kicking in) are good for freeform crazy ideas, so I’m currently trying to push my brainstormiest work into the hours before lunch and just before dinner, when my stomach is empty and my thoughts aren’t made sluggish with food.

But I also think there’s great value in mixing it up a little. I need routine to get things done – but too much routine mechanizes my thoughts, stops them making useful sideways connections and leaps of intuition. I think it’s maybe smart to experiment with having fixed times & places for work as part of your day, and also having free-floating, organic times where you can, say, head out to a coffee-shop you’ve never been to, just to see what happens to the inside of your head. :)
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23 John Soares December 16, 2012 at 7:55 PM

Mike, I typically like routine, but I also like to mix it up occasionally.

Sometimes I’ll do something very different, like write at a picnic table in a park, and the ideas and words will really flow.
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24 Lexi December 9, 2012 at 7:06 PM

I don’t really have a definite time to write but usually, inspiration strikes me midmorning :D But I tend to keep a note pad close to me so I can write things down on the fly and then get back to that later on.

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25 John Soares December 16, 2012 at 7:56 PM

Lexi, you can also dictate ideas and even rough drafts into a smart phone or digital voice recorder.
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26 Irwin December 20, 2012 at 12:57 AM

I have always found it easier to write between 4 and 8 am when my mind is fresh and there is not a lot of distractions.
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27 Chris January 4, 2013 at 6:08 PM

The best time for me is to be in solitude and in a quiet place.

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