Does it seem as if sometimes it’s so easy for you to focus on your writing, while at other times even the whir of a fan can distract you?
If you haven’t discovered the best time to write, you’re not alone. It can seem tricky at first. In fact, there’s a science to it, and there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. But even though there’s a science to it, it’s not rocket science, and finding the best time to write can be simple once you know where to start.
Here’s how you can find the perfect time of day to write, step-by-step.
Step 1- Find Your Current Circadian Rhythm
Extensive research has found that individuals do their best work when aligning with their circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are roughly 24-hour cycles of activity controlled by the brain that tell your body when to sleep and when to be alert, and help regulate other biological processes. Due to these rhythms, individuals experience peaks and valleys of alertness throughout the day.
The average person is fully alert one to two hours after waking until sometime between noon and three in the afternoon, then gets a slight boost in alertness around six in the evening for about an hour before their bodies unwind and get ready to sleep. However, some people are “morning larks” or “early birds” while others are “night owls.” Morning larks tend to have peaks and valleys in alertness that are earlier than the average person, and “night owls” tend to have peaks and valleys that are later than the average person.
The best time to write is when you’re most alert. If you aren’t the most alert in the morning, then you should write later in the day. Chances are, if you’re a lark or an owl, you already know which way you lean. But if you aren’t sure, conduct writing sessions at various times of the day for a couple of weeks and track how focused or creative you feel for each session. You should start to see a pattern in times that you tend to feel most alert and focused.
Step 2- Adapt Your Circadian Rhythm to the Schedule You Want
On average, it’s best to write in the mornings for the following reasons:
- You have the highest levels of willpower earlier in the day and are less likely to get distracted.
- The brain’s creative activity is at its peak just after it dreams and sleeps, and becomes more analytical as the day progresses.
- You’re typically in a better mood and are more motivated to work.
However, here are some reasons to write in the evenings:
- There are no outside distractions, such as meetings and business calls.
- The entire day you experienced has filled you with inspiration and ideas.
- You’re not in a hurry to go anywhere or do some other work.
While most people will complete their best writing in the mornings, it’s important for morning larks to remember that their “morning” will start earlier than the average person, while the “morning” for night owls will start much later than the average person’s morning. It all depends on when you sleep and wake up.
If you’re an owl that needs to keep a lark’s writing schedule (or vice versa), you can alter your natural circadian rhythm to match the schedule you want. How? Adjust your sleep schedule to match the circadian cycles you want so that you’ll wake up an hour or two before the time you want to start writing. Keep this schedule consistent.
You’ll also want to keep in mind that exposure to light affects your circadian rhythms too. Be sure to turn off any electronics with a bright screen an hour or so before bed so you can wake up and feel alert; otherwise you’ll feel sluggish because your brain will think it’s time for it to avoid light. All of this is easier said than done, but it is possible.
Step 3- Build a Habit and Write in Time Sprints
After you’ve discovered the best times of day to write (when you’re most alert), you’ll want to always write at those times moving forward. Your brain thrives when you form habits because its neural circuitry becomes reinforced and reinvigorated. Basically, your brain functions better and becomes healthier when you reinforce habits that are created while you’re most mentally alert. And if your brain is functioning better, so will your overall productivity and ability to write.
Another thing to keep in mind is that there are also peaks and valleys present in the stretches of the day when you’re most alert. According to researcher Nathan Kleitman, “Your brain can only focus for 90 to 120 minutes before it needs a break.” So, if you feel a drop in your alertness levels during the time of day you’re typically most alert, check to see if you’ve been working for a while. If so, take a fifteen-to-twenty-minute break before starting to write again. Writing in sprints like this will help you maximize your best time to write.
Determining your ideal time of day to write is critical. After you discover your rhythm, and start a writing routine that works for you, you’ll see your productivity greatly improve.