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I have always been at my most productive in the morning. However I have recently had a child which has required that I rearrange my schedule somewhat. I still wake as early as possible and get work done during the morning but now the only other time that I have is the block of time in the evening between when he and I go to bed.

I am having trouble making this time productive. Whenever I try to work during this time I find that I am unfocused and very unproductive.

Are there techniques or strategies that will help me refocus and make this time in the evening more productive?

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I have this in reverse, mornings are fuzzy for me –  orip Nov 12 '11 at 21:45
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3 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I do quite a bit of work at night, after working through-out the day. What I find works best is to map out (write down) the 1-3 tasks/things I want to accomplish. I follow the pomodoro technique so I usually make sure these tasks will only take 25 minutes long. Then at night when I am starting my work time (after the kids have gone to bed) I start the first one and have the goal of at least finishing that one in the 25 minutes. Usually if I get that one completed I feel motivated enough to move on to the next one, then the next one. An if I don't feel like moving on then I just put the tasks I did not complete on the next days list of items. Its kind of like working out as long as you get dressed and get to the exercise equipment you'll actually exercise.

Also one other thing I have done over time is I have figured what type of task I can actually do at night vs not doing. For example if I have to write some specific code, write up a document or respond to some email then I know more than likely I will do that. If I have to read a document, research something on the internet or do some creative thinking forget about it, no way that's happening.

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Thanks I have used the pomodoro technique with some success at work but I like the idea of beginning with small less daunting chunks... I am going to give this a try –  KennyPeanuts Nov 13 '11 at 16:36
    
+1 for pomodoro. I use it most in these situations when I want to do something but it is easy to get distracted. –  froderik Dec 2 '11 at 17:18
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Our bodies have limited energy, so if you keep waking up early as before and still try to be productive in the evening, it's going to be hard. Try, if possible to wake up 1 hour later. If that's not possible because you have to take care of your child, try to take a 20-30 minute nap before working in the evening. I've found that taking naps before working (at any time of the day) gives concentration and energy.

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There has been much research pointing to between 3 and 4pm as a very unproductive time, mostly doing with our circadian rhythm and it's low of energy after lunch. I couldn't for the life of me find a japanese research showing increased incidence of work accidents around 4pm, but I found this research instead pointing that 4pm is also a peak time for employees to stray the web while they should be working. So it's not just you, I for one struggle with it as well, and morning is for me too the most productive time, especially early on.

As much as many productivity tricks can be suggested, I think the best you could do is take a break for physical activity around 4pm. Hit the gym, go biking or take a walk, anything that will revert the low of mental energy by actually tiring your body but refreshing your mind in the process. It's well known, and I recommend reading the awesome Power of Full Engagement, that a fit body provides the grounds for a fit mind. I find it's simply the best time to exercise and it's possibly the very best use of the hour between 3-4pm or 4-5pm, you'll come back to work full throttle.

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Also keep in mind this can vary based on person - I tend to find the 3-5pm hour to be my most productive time whereas 12-3 is awfully hard. –  enderland Feb 25 '13 at 0:43
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