Productive Working Hours: What Are Your Best Work Times?

Although most offices operate on 9 to 5 (or 8 to 6) working hours, not all workers work best on this timetable. Night owl workers prefer to burn the midnight oil, working late into the night when there are no distracting coworkers and their brain is at its sharpest.

I, on the other hand, prefer to follow regular business hours (roughly 9-6), so I’m available for dinner or drinks when my cubicle-dwelling friends get out of work. Plus, I like that feeling of accomplishment when the clock strikes noon and I can strike a bunch of items from my to-do list and break for lunch. When I’m still tethered to my computer at 7 or 8 at night, I feel antsy and unproductive (though I’ll do it if that’s what it takes to meet a deadline).

What about your working hours? What are your best work times? Why?

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Susan Johnston is a freelance writer/blogger who has contributed to publications including The Boston Globe,’s blog,, and Yahoo! HotJobs. Her own blog,, covers tips on productivity, brainstorming, and more for fellow writers.


  1. suhail on the 23rd June

    i am use to my 8-7 working hour, but i rarely get a chance to leave at 7, working as a web developer and sys admin both, it usually goes upto 10, but i am happy, when ever i get a chance to leave at 7, so i can go home, relax, roam around on the streets, talk to freinds.

  2. Ryan on the 23rd June

    I usually do all my research through the day. Read my RSS, answer emails, Tweet. Then I do most of my producing. 9pm – 3am.

    I definitely know what your saying about getting things done in time for dinner. I just started freelancing 9 months ago…so Im still feeling it out. I think Im going for 6am – 3pm… It’s gives me the early mornings before anyone is around, but it also makes me available for client relations.


  3. Brandscaping on the 23rd June

    great topic – just trying to find the right time for me still.

    i’m a morning person by nature, but I don’t find a i really get productive until 11’ish, and then power through until 6 – have dinner with the wife, walk the dog, chill for a bit – and then maybe another hour or 2 after that

    like to find the sweet spot – hope it comes soon!

  4. I do not like working in the mornings. I start work a little late in the morning.

    I really start to get productive from the afternoon and also the evening and night. But I just don’t like working in the morning!


  5. cynicdesign on the 24th June

    I wake up and rush to the machine first thing when I wake up.
    I freelance from home so, like it or not, I tend to work most anytime I’m at home.
    But the most enjoyable hours are the first 3 or 4 of the day.

    I tend to get distracted later in the day, and then come back to really good production work late at night.

    Creative in the morning.
    Production at night.

  6. Martijn on the 24th June

    I work from 9 to 7 with a break of half an hour. I begin to get really unproductive by 5 in the afternoon. So the last 2 hours are a bit a pain to come through.

    But from september on I work on my own and my schedule will be different. Starting at 8 – 12 / lunch / 13 – 17 / getting the kid from school, eating with my wife and kid, doing some fun stuff with the three of us / 19 – 21 (finishing off, making my schedule for the next day, … closure)/

  7. Phillip on the 24th June

    I work best in the mornings between 5am and 1-2pm
    But I currently have to work 8-4 🙂

  8. Ashley Hill on the 24th June

    I’m a morning person…I would rather get up early and get to work or go to the office, and be able to go home early, or knock a whole bunch of stuff off my list.

    I’ve noticed I can just space out while coding and end up midnight-2am before I have to pack it up, but that’s only if I’m immersed in the project, and is usually just a project for myself.

  9. Carl Natale on the 24th June

    Depends. My mind is best at writing in the morning. Late afternoon I’m good for rote duties (updating my address book for example) and some technical duties (HTML and scripting).

  10. Josh on the 24th June

    I work well in the morning and evening, but between 1-5 pm, I get the worst energy crashes and I start nodding off while I do work. If anyone has any tips on avoiding the mid-afternoon crash, that’d be great. I’ve tried everything. My diet consists of whole foods (no refined sugars/carbs that cause energy crashes) and I always eat breakfast and a smaller lunch. I work out regularly and live a healthy lifestyle (no smoking, drinking, etc). I get 8 hours of sleep every night. I will NOT drink coffee or take naps though; I want to train my body to be able to avoid the energy crash without having to depend on coffee and naps.

    • cynicdesign on the 24th June

      Depends on how long you’ve been at it.
      I find that my caffeine consumption swings from zero to stereotypical graphic designer levels throughout the year.

      When there’s no caffeine around, I go with a nap if I need one.
      Better to stay productive and sharp after a 20 minute powernap than to grind away the entire afternoon fighting for some creativity.
      Plus it makes me appreciate the freedom that freelancing gives me.

      I like that I can just set the work down and take a break at will.

  11. MarthaandMe on the 24th June

    I am best first thing in the morning, so I like to be at my desk by 8. I do well until about 2 and then I don’t have as much concentration. I can’t do anything after about 8 pm. Generally I work 8-4 and then will do a little bit of email type things after dinner. I also generally get some things done over the weekend

  12. sheena on the 24th June

    just starting out in the freelancing world myself and although i’m not tied to a desk as an in-house designer anymore, I think i’ve simply become accustomed to waking up early and working the normal hours of business.

    Don’t get me wrong, I hate getting out of bed in the morning when I have the choice to sleep in longer if i please (being a freelancer), but once i’m up and about i find it a lovely time to work, especially now summer is here. The weather is so nice outside, it’s bright, light an airy.

    Sometimes i find myself working very late (and very long days) to get a particular project finished or catching up on posts and other bits a pieces, but it almost seem un-natural to me to be up working after midnight…i feel like i’m doing something i shouldn’t be, especially when everyone else has gone to bed and it’s completely silent.

    I think personally it’s best to stick to regular hours as much as possible. One, because it’s all i’ve ever been used to and two, it’s good to be contactable by clients when they are at work themselves. Otherwise you may miss out on potential work.

    It’s also good to be available to do social things with friends when they aren’t working!

  13. Melanie on the 24th June

    I’m a morning person. I’m productive from when I get up around 5 until MAYBE 3pm. After 3pm, I’m brain dead and better suited for taking a walk or doing housework than any task that involves thinking.

  14. Sheryl on the 24th June

    I get going around 8 in the morning – and need frequent breaks in order to work a whole day. And, if I’m not finished, I’ll often hit my computer at night, too, although this is definitely not my favorite time to do work; the brain is a bit tired by then.

  15. Jennifer Margulis on the 24th June

    First thing in the morning, for about 3 hours, I have the best concentration. But since I also have a small baby who needs me during that time (sigh) I find I am being more productive at night. (I am writing this as said baby and her big brother both sleep quietly besides me in bed)…

  16. Alexandra on the 25th June

    Isn’t it fascinating how everyone is different? For me, the best hours are early morning, before the other demands of my day take over.

  17. sarah henry on the 25th June

    I’m a morning person who dips a bit in the afternoon and sometimes gets a second wind and can work way too late into the night and even into the early morning hours. Did I mention I’m self-employed writer and work from home?

    I should also ‘fess up and say those late nights take a toll the next day and I’m not sure I do my best work, I’m just chasing a deadline.

    Truth is, though, as a writer I often feel I’m working 24/7, in the sense that I’m frequently mulling over a lede while I’m in the shower, on a walk, or lying in bed.

    And, of course, when I’m out and about in the world, I see potential story ideas everywhere. Guess it’s just as well I love what I do!

  18. Thera on the 25th June

    6PM-4AM is my best time, being a nocturnal person. Sadly, even freelance, I have to be awake and available during “regular” work hours which makes finding time to sleep a daily challenge and frustration.

    • Thera on the 25th June

      I should mention that I don’t work from home, I have an office at one of my clients, which is why I need to be available during work hours instead of choosing my schedule.

  19. Jens P. Berget on the 25th June

    My best working hours are 10 – 14, that’s because that’s the time I have the most energy and feel most creative.

  20. nXqd on the 27th June

    2Jens P.Berget : Wow, it’s rare to see a people work from 10-14. We’re almost tired at that time 🙂
    I work most effective at 5-9am, 2-6pm. Another time, I work less effective because the noise of friend and maybe I’m tired. I manage to take a snap every time I feel tired, it definitely re boosts my energy 🙂

  21. Jens P. Berget on the 28th June

    2nXqd : are you starting your work at 5 am, wow that’s early 🙂 I’d wish I could do that.

  22. Freelance FactFile on the 28th June

    I definitely don’t work well late in the evening. I’m more of a lark than an owl. My most productive times are at weekends when I don’t get distracted by phonecalls, emails and ‘can you justs’ from clients.

  23. John Beatty on the 28th June

    I usually get up at 4:30am, answer email, read some blog posts’, maybe work on mine and get working around 5:30-6:00am…

    I too usually need a quick 15-20 minute nap around that 2:00pm area and then am good to go until I get done what I need to.

    Some days I can really get a lot done before 11:00pm, so if something in the day comes up…I’m covered.

    Works for me!

  24. Andres Alfonso on the 29th June

    I currently work a 9-5 so I have to be productive throughout that time, but I do my freelancing after 10pm or 11pm work until 2am or 3am, night is definitely the best time for me.

    When I was freelancing full time I would work from either 9am or 10am ’till 2pm, go out and skateboard all afternoon, hang out with friends, play some sports, then I was back to work around 10pm or 11pm ’till 2am or 3am, although sometimes I get to excited and would work ’till 4am or 5am

  25. Ebi Atawodi on the 3rd July

    10 – 8 for me, sometimes I’ll be up super, most times I’m up at 9 and getting my head space together the first hour. I have a friend who works 5am to 11am and doesn’t touch e-mail or his phone during those ours…impressive.

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