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4 a.m. Is the Most Productive Hour (wsj.com)
235 points by prostoalex on Aug 23, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 216 comments



I recently started waking up at 4 a.m and go to bed at 8-9pm. It has done wonders for my life. I realized I was confusing my personal task list with my work task list - the two should not be confused. I complete all my personal tasks in the morning, such as, studying a new language, practicing a musical instrument, learning to draw, and a couple other skills I want to learn and improve. Then when I'm worn out and it's time for work, I'm greeted with a mile high todo list that never ends, but I feel satisfied knowing that at least I accomplished my goals for the day, which is all that matters. The mile high work task list will be there tomorrow... it'll always be there. It has allowed me to put myself first.


Some years ago I started my day at 4 a.m. to exercise. While it worked, this kept me from having any social life outside from talking to coworkers. Getting a drink with friends in the afternoon is impossible if you want to keep this schedule, so I stopped. Being productive isn't everything in life. I'm only 30 but I doubt I will ever look back wishing I worked harder alone in my room instead of being with my friends.


> Being productive isn't everything in life. I'm only 30 but I doubt I will ever look back wishing I worked harder alone in my room instead of being with my friends.

I'm the opposite. At almost 30 I looked over a decade that has been awesome - friends, travel, girls etc - and decided to cut it all out as I create a software company. It's now 12 hours, 7 days a week, with a once-a-week break to meet a mate for lunch (and, eh, an occasional browse of HN).

I figured if I could amplify future moments (more money, more freedom, more opportunity to meet people) by deferring enjoyment now it's totally worth the trade-off and that if I did not start I would look back in a year wishing I was working alone in my room.

Moments with friends are great, and the memories are the fumes that keep me going when I might otherwise feel lonely or overwhelmed, yet swapping a year of after-work beers and hangovers for a shot at financial independence and self determination is worth it. Totally worth it.

Plus any good friends will be there a year from now, and if the hustle pays off, those future moments will be much more enjoyable than any fun I might be missing out on.


> Plus any good friends will be there a year from now, and if the hustle pays off

I like how you've implied at least the hustle is temporary. Too often people look at work vs life, as something that either (a) must be in balance at all times or (b) must sacrifice one for the other ad infinitum.


> Plus any good friends will be there a year from now

It's been 17 months since I made a similar decision. I'm not entirely sure if my friends will be there when I come out the other side. They think I "hate" them because I've decided to put work before life.


While I don't like the phrasing "work before life", I can sympathize with friends not understanding. I experienced the same thing when I began really focusing on my career.

In the end, I decided those friends were trapped in their own perceptions of what our relationship was supposed to look like. The true friends were the ones who simply said, "yeah, I noticed you buckling down. You do you; I'll see you next month"


Well getting drunk with friends in the afternoon doesn't seem like it's the answer to life either. I'm 31 and wake up at 5am during the week. Get to the gym before getting into the office at 7:30. Definitely have enough time to get drinks with friends here or there. I'm not staying out all night partying by any means, but there is certainly a way to make it work.

“Looking back over a life of hard work … my only regret is that I didn’t work even harder.” - H. L. Mencken

Sorry, I don't mean to troll, I just dislike the strawman argument of "[being productive/working/etc] isn't everything in life."


> Well getting drunk with friends in the afternoon doesn't seem like it's the answer to life either.

Wow, the GP didn't say anything about getting drunk, so you managed to turn his comment into "hanging out with friends isn't the answer to life either". I beg to differ, it's a big part of the answer.


You guys are going to be really surprised by this, but I swear it's true: the answer to life is different for each person


> the answer to life is different for each person

Robelt Waldinger seems to (partially) disagree:

https://www.ted.com/talks/robert_waldinger_what_makes_a_good...


Summary: The secret to happiness is good relationships with other people, and the bane to happiness is loneliness. This agrees with my own observations as well.


Deep Thought told me it was 42.


Watson told me it was 420. Must mean it's a 10x AI ;)


4:20 ;)


> Top 5 Regrets of the Dying: (2) I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. (4) I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.


I suppose that people on their death bed are pretty much biased, hardly less than average population. Human memory is quite imperfect and selective.


Inevitably, some day, you will empathize.


Definitely! I have hard time understanding my future self, and my future self may have hard time understanding me as of now. People change, and what feels important at medium term (a few years) also changes. There's hardly a single right answer good for all ages.


> “Looking back over a life of hard work … my only regret is that I didn’t work even harder.” - H. L. Mencken

I won't bother looking up quotes but you are going to find and endless list of quotes similar to ...

“Looking back over a life of hard work … my only regret is that I didn’t spend more time with friends and family.”

... as well.


No need to do it 7 days a week. You wake up at 4 few days a week and sleep longer when u had drinks a day before. Maybe my social life really sucks but I don't really have more lets go for a drink invites than once a week.


Personally, changing my sleep schedule day to day almost never works. I usually end up going to bed and waking up about the same time regardless. Once I start waking up at 4am, I will always end up waking up at 4am.


I find I am much happier and better rested when I keep roughly the same sleep schedule every day of the week.


While it surely sounds like a perfectly valid choice for you, it's worth to mention that another option is to actually get friends who have (or convert them into) a more healthy or otherwise desirable lifestyle as yourself. Then you can be with your friends at almost any time you want.


Where have to live (for work), there is nobody I'd want to hang out with, more than I want to do what I like after work, the decision is easier in such cases...


I’ve tried something similar for a while. On the plus side the day seems to last longer because you get a lot of productive work early in the morning when everyone is asleep. On the other hand it seriously fucked up my social life. When everyone is out having a drink or whatnot you’re heading home to get some sleep. The only way I could make it work is to sleep during midday so I can stay up a bit longer in the evening. But even that doesn’t seem to work that good because by 11pm you’re already dead meat. Nowadays I only use it in urgent situations when I have to get a lot of work done and never for more than two months.


If I did that, I would not perform anywhere near the requirements at work.


"Then when I'm worn out and it's time for work" "I feel satisfied knowing that at least I accomplished my goals for the day, which is all that matters."

So, you're basically selling your least productive time and you're saying this is OK. You must be one of those folks who detest their job to do that. Please change your job. First, this may give you an opportunity to do something more enjoyable and leave what you currently do vacant for someone else who'll enjoy it more. Second, if you do your paid job well enough despite being "worn out", then you're not using your full potential, which is a pity. Do yourself and others a favor.


> So, you're basically selling your least productive time and you're saying this is OK

I don't see what the problem is here, unless he signed a contract that said he'd give his best hours to the employer.

> Second, if you do your paid job well enough despite being "worn out", then you're not using your full potential, which is a pity.

No one hires you to "use your full potential" - they hire you to do your job. What would be the problem if Albert Einstein were to teach jnr high school[1] science and doodling away on his personal theoretical physics at 4AM?

I see no ethical quagmire of putting ones' interest before the employers while fulfilling the prescribed duties, especially when considering the power balance and the fact that the other party in this relationship is usually a soulless legal construct that puts itself (and shareholders) before any employee.

1. or a Swedish patent office


"No one hires you to «use your full potential» - they hire you to do your job. What would be the problem if Albert Einstein were to teach jnr high school science and doodling away on his personal theoretical physics at 4AM?"

I wasn't caring about the employer on that particular statement, it was about living one's full potential in general. And for Einstein parable, in practice what you do often gets on your mind before something else, it's basically the opposite of "out of sight out of mind".

"I see no ethical quagmire of putting ones' interest before the employers while fulfilling the prescribed duties, especially when considering the power balance and the fact that the other party in this relationship is usually a soulless legal construct that puts itself (and shareholders) before any employee."

You've laid out a battlefield here, a context of conflicting interests or a situation with opposing parties at least. My advice was to get away from that, because that is not worth anyone's involvement. Change jobs, do something you enjoy and care to get involved into.


He doesn't view his job as something that determines his potential nor his worth, nor is this something necessary for life enjoyment as long as the job is tolerable. The hobbies and other such things makes him inherently happy. Not only that, but these things are much more constant than a simple job.

A job is just a job, however. A lot of people don't really like working at all. If he works at a factory, he's not doing anyone a favor by doing an already good job better - there are limits to what folks can do in that situation. He is, however, doing them a favor by having a work/life balance that makes him happy because it helps make his attitude better.


I understand your view, I've been there. I'm just encouraging both throwaway26960 and you (or anyone else for that mater) to look for something better. It's possible to end up with something more than merely "tolerable", something worth spending more than just leftovers of your energy.


Me personally? Any job I get at this point will be just a job. I don't speak the native language well enough to work in a lot of fields and my prior experience isn't worth nearly as much. What I'm really looking at is basically service jobs - janitorial and other such things, perhaps CNA type of work. Maybe I'll get lucky and get a factory job or something. But at the end of the day, there is only so far effort beyond doing the job well (which I tend to want to do on my own accord) will get me in these types of fields. The main thing a job brings me is income, honestly. A job that "isn't too bad" or "I don't mind the work" where the people "aren't too bad" is good enough. Now, this is entirely of my own choosing, but a lot of folks are in similar situations with fewer life choices.

But I get great internal pleasure out of cooking a good meal, out of making a wonderful piece of artwork, learning new techniques. Continued language learning (I've had 2 years of class, 600+ hours) remains important regardless of work. Seeing more of the country and the world? Definitely important. So I'll put more effort into those sorts of things than a job.


"But I get great internal pleasure out of cooking a good meal, out of making a wonderful piece of artwork, learning new techniques. Continued language learning (I've had 2 years of class, 600+ hours) remains important regardless of work. Seeing more of the country and the world? Definitely important."

How about you looking for a job around a restaurant or something? A scullion is as affordable job as any and from there gettin' into a chef's aid or into a position to augment the local's design using your taste in artwork shouldn't be that of an unrealistic expectation to have. In the longer term maybe even putting your polyglot skill to good use for distinguished clients, help expanding the place overseas, etc. Won't you enjoy that more than having "a job that «isn't too bad»" plus doing something else that you enjoy only off-work?


Keep in mind that I'm not being negative, just have some realism with this stuff, because I do consider such things. I'm honestly easy to make happy with the category of "just a job". I can tweak retail into giving a happy feedback loop because I like to make things look nice (displays) and I like helping folks, for example. Still just a job, though.

The stark reality is that kitchen jobs tend to be bad jobs on average. I've done quite a few of them, including working for a chef in a position to learn quite a bit. Bad pay, unrealistic expectations both from customers and management, and a great deal of hard work. Cooking jobs can be more demanding, requiring long shifts. It is still possible to open a place at some point, if I've the capital and did pick up skills to do that. This is one that is truly just a job in most situations, oddly. Large scale cooking in a school was the favorite in this category.

Jobs in art are generally a luck game, as a lot of art school students find out. I look from time to time - it is not out of the question, but truly i'm a few years off. Most would require some continuing education. Which isn't out of the question either, as the move gave opportunities I didn't have in the States. I do sell artwork from time to time, however.

Heheh. I'm in Norway, and my primary language is English. It is both a blessing and a curse. It doesn't pave my way into a job, just helps give an edge over some other immigrants because most folks under 50 can speak english - the schools start teaching it at age 6. I can use it for some tourist jobs and as an unofficial tutor, but a school-level 'official' tutor requires more education.


He's using his full potential, just not on work he's selling to others. I don't see anything wrong with doing that, as long as the market value of what he is selling is able to support that practice. Work to live, not live to work.


For anyone deciding if it's worth clicking through: it's mostly a list of anecdotes about early-riser CEOs & people who workout as soon as they wake up. I didn't see anything about those who work through the night.

[I personally find 4am is often productive for me, but that's because I work at night, and I'll only continue coding at 4am if I'm already in the zone. If I'm not making progress, I'll want to crash to sleep long before then.]


Thanks for the recap. I was curious if global output peaked at 0400 UTC, but that's all.


I would do the same thing if I didn't have kids. With kids my time, sleep, and work schedules all have to be aligned to theirs.


When do you sleep?


I generally sleep 3am - 10am, but it varies. Midnight is about the earliest, and 7am if I'm still in the zone / peak concentration. I try to sleep 8 hours every night, so if I go to sleep at 7am I won't wake until 3pm.

I'm a solo developer, mostly working on my own projects, but even when I work with remote clients I maintain what they call "vampire hours". Since I'm based in Australia, my weird productive hours naturally align with Berlin time.

_asummers asked about socializing - being naturally nocturnal makes it easier to go to nightclubs & concerts, or invite friends to restaurants or a moonlite all-nite diner. It's great if you have insomniac friends!

I also track my time/concentration using a program called Vitamin-R for Mac [1]. I've found my peak productive coding hours are 10pm - midnight. (4am - 7am is my actual 'peak', but I think that's because I only work those hours if I'm already in the zone.)

[1] http://www.publicspace.net/Vitamin-R/


I wish I had your life. My DREAM is to work on my own projects, in my peak productivity time, which is naturally from 10pm to around 3am.

That's my dream, and one I strive to achieve before I'm old and tired. I'm 28 now.

Working a 9-6 just isn't fun when it's a) not my project b) not my peak productivity time.

If you don't mind me asking... Are you retired?


I have a similar schedule to the GP: I frequently start my day around noon, start working around 3 pm, get a break around 7 pm for a couple of hours (to interact with my SO, who is back from work then), then work well into the night. That schedule is only disturbed when there's an important meeting during the day.

Funny thing is I don't even work 100% remotely (well, I sometimes visit the office...) - I just work for the company which couldn't care less about when I work as long as I deliver. So, while I'm not working on my own projects I still can choose when and how I work. It's been this way for 3-4 years and I just turned 30 a couple of weeks back.

So what I want to say is that you don't need to be retired or be an entrepreneur to have a freedom to choose your working hours. It's actually a good thing for the company because my working hours overlap with working hours of people half a world away, for/with who we frequently work.

So don't give up, search for opportunities and you'll sooner or later find a place where you can work according to your own schedule.


I'm definitely not retired! I need the products I'm working on now to sell well. But I've been doing this long enough to know not every product is a hit. Best to treat it as just one revenue stream together with freelancing, remote work, investments etc.

If you want to work on your own projects, start on something in your spare time & just put it out there. Keep your scope as small as you can (my first product was something I put together in 3 weeks). You'll make a ton of mistakes, but you'll learn how to avoid them next time too. Don't undercharge - I increased my prices 5x over the years! And start building an audience / mailing list as soon as you can, it's your best way of reaching customers but takes a long time to build.

I'm happy to chat about this stuff with you (or anyone reading this) if you think I can help - email details in my profile. But if I'm honest, you'll earn more & have more stable income with the 9-to-6 job :)


The trick is to work at a company where you can choose your working hours. I usually work 2 pm to 10 pm, and then tackle my personal projects / hobbies 11 pm to 4 am. Of course, things will change completely if / when I get married, but while I'm single and unburdened I can afford to maintain this lifestyle.


When I'm tired.

(not OP, but we have the same mind-set.)


How does this manifest itself in practice? What hours do you generally keep? If they're odd, has it affected social/family life?


Yeah, this only really works if you are single with a very flexible job. Parents can't just sleep when they are tired, and a majority of jobs require you to be there at least a few specific hours.


I have two kids and do basically this. I usually work from 11 am or so until 5-6 pm, then from 11 or midnight until sometime between 2 and 4 am. If one of the kids needs before 4am I usually handle it, after 4am my wife usually takes it. Kids are usually up between 9 and 10 am (I guess we're all late risers - not sure if it's genetic or learned) but if they're up earlier my lovely wife lets me sleep.


That sounds like you have a fairly consistent schedule though; the person I was commenting about made it sound like their sleep varied completely (they just stayed up until they were tired and then slept until they were rested).

Of course, many schedules will work for families - my point was that you need to have one if you are going to function in a multi-person family.


yeah. I did this when I worked for myself, but I found that with the addition of social (and business social, and errands that must be done at a certain time) I would end up either missing appointments or waking up mid-sleep cycle.

I mean, the regular down 10 up 14 isn't great for me, either, I seem to be on a 26 or 28 hour cycle naturally, but I end up getting a lot more uninterrupted sleep if I keep it to a mostly 24 hour cycle that very slowly creeps forward, with occasional resets. (and end up being a lot more productive when awake.)


I was really hoping for more anecdotes on night owls.

2am-4am is definitely the most productive time for me and I regularly stay up that late, deep in the programming zone.

Of course, I shouldn't really have expected the WSJ to highlight night owls. We've turned sleep schedules into a morality play, where waking up at 4am is somehow impressive and virtuous while waking up at 10/11am is slothful (even if you spent all night getting lots of work done).


We're hackers though, you're one of us.

From pg himself:

"I used to program from dinner till about 3 am every day, because at night no one could interrupt me. Then I'd sleep till about 11 am, and come in and work until dinner on what I called 'business stuff.'"

http://www.paulgraham.com/makersschedule.html


I did a similar thing for a while, when working on my startup. Actually, I free-wheeled it. I stopped trying to go to sleep, and just slept when I needed to. I'd typically crash between 4am and 8am, sleep for about 4 hours, get some business work done, take a 3 hour nap, and then get into my night routine.

It was fantastic for when I had solitary work to get done. Not so great for social life. I could go out, but that would be like taking half a day off.


>We've turned sleep schedules into a morality play, where waking up at 4am is somehow impressive and virtuous while waking up at 10/11am is slothful (even if you spent all night getting lots of work done).

This is nothing new, it makes perfect sense if you consider that sunlight was once the main form of illumination.

In the modern sense it still makes some sense as many businesses keep hours similar to 9AM-5PM. Any time regularly spent asleep in that window is wasteful if you rely on anyone or anything on that schedule (or they rely on you).

You need to live something of an "outsider" lifestyle to make this work, and that still isn't practical for a lot of people. I did it for quite a few years and found I was also rushing if I need to run an errand like going to a bank in person.


My anecdotal, subjective observation is that:

- early risers have a consistent additional couple of hours every day.

- night owls make each day last as long as it needs to.


This was obviously written by a "morning person."

Like most engineers and other creatives, 4 AM is when I'm just starting to get my deep sleep (which peaks at 6-7 AM).

12-2 AM is the most productive time of the day for me.


> Like most engineers and other creatives

Free yourself of culturally-assigned norms ("engineers and creative people work best at midnight, with lots of coffee") and consider a wider breadth of experience.

The most productive and effective person I know, a computer engineer, typically starts working before I'm even awake. The premise of the article is that 4 a.m. is both outside most of society's normal waking period AND it's immediately after you've had a solid night's sleep, while 12-2 isn't really such an unusual time to be awake and, for most people, it comes at the end of the day.

As someone who woke up at 5 a.m. for many summers so I could start work on the farm before dawn, I know that you can definitely accomplish a lot of work before most people even roll into the office, but I also know that sleeping in is incredibly satisfying :)


First it was open floor office layouts, now it's morning productivity.

Why can we not just agree that what works for one person does not for another.

I have a mild form of attention deficit. When I am fully awake and alert, my mind races at a mile a minute, and I can't focus on any task for longer than a few minutes. It's great for email, but having a long deep uninterrupted think? Forget about it. So, I distract myself - whether it's with music, or by pacing, or what have you, and it allows my brain to pay attention.

This also means that being SLIGHTLY tired at the end of the day is wonderful for focus. No, I'm not thinking as quickly as I do when I'm well rested. But I get a lot more done.

One other thing: I'm sure I'm not the only night owl that finds the morning pre-everyone-else-awakening far from peaceful. If anything it's a constant reminder that your time is finite and is about to disappear. Every morning is a deadline until the world awakens and your productivity ends.

Evening/nights are the opposite of this: If everyone around is in bed they'll stay away, and you are only limited by your own fatigue and focus. The world is your oyster until YOU choose you no longer want to work.


I am a night owl as well and I share your sentiment: Time seemingly stops when everybody goes to sleep. It is like a freeze button has been hit for the rest of the world, and the universe is mine.


I know, the feeling of solitude, concentration, flow, and energy -- to say nothing of rebelliousness for defying societal norms -- of staying up late, it's just great.

I've always had my greatest thoughts and best ideas at night. I've always crushed projects and invented great things at night.

Luckily, my employers have also been very accommodating of this as well because I _produce_. My boss didn't even raise an eyebrow when I showed up at 1 PM. I remember staying at work and being the only car left in the parking lot with my team's best engineers for nights on end.

It was great, and we were accomplishing things that nobody else in the company even came close to pulling off at the time.


My dream is to go to work ~2:00 every day. My sleep cycle is pure hell otherwise.


Why would you assume that it's a cultural norm?

I don't drink any caffeine but regularly stay up until 4 or 5am. It's simply when I feel most productive and is totally natural for me.

It seems pretty clear that the opposite (early rising) is the cultural norm which is getting pushed. There are many times in my life where I'm forced to revert to waking up at 8am, but as soon as I'm back in control of my time I'll revert to a 4am–10am sleep schedule. I hardly think that's due to fulfilling some abstract cultural norm.

People are different. Sleep schedules shouldn't be a morality play.


Wait, you're literally arguing that the "culturally-assigned norm" is working late and sleeping late, instead of vice-versa, Benjamin Franklin's "early to rise, makes a [person] wise" from America's agricultural roots that birthed the normed 9 AM start time for the salaryman for centuries?!

In high school, I had to wake up at 6 AM every day; you can imagine I was tired as hell -- and it's because of my biological chronotype (I am genetically from a family of night owls -- late risers). It had nothing to do with culture, other than the fact that I was forced against my will to go against what my body was telling me was healthy (sleep at 6 AM and awake at midnight).

Modern science has JUST caught up and realized that chronotypes are a thing, but culture has definitely not (despite the "late start" school movements for adolescents, whose biologically clocks are even FURTHER ahead than us).


I thought about this a while back, and it occurred to me that if you had a tribe of primitive humans, it would actually be advantageous if not everyone had the same biological clock. It might be useful to have a few people usually awake at night, guarding the camp, instead of everyone passing out quickly after sunset.


I've read that some folks may be more sensitive than others to cues like blue light. This would mean staring at a computer ruins your sleep (or pushes it back). Eating and sleep cycles are also closely related, folks like us may not even feel hungry until late in the day. Lots of generalizations in this thread about what's good for everyone. As the only expert here on myself, I wish they would can it.


I've never in my life drank even a sip of coffee, energy drink only a few times mostly during college. I have also never woken naturally before 9am. Literally as long as I remember even as a child before high school in the weekends I would sleep in when my younger siblings would rummage through the house the entire morning, much to my parents surprise.

I don't doubt that it would be possible to be conditioned to wake up at 5am every day, but don't just brush it off as a culturally-assigned norm, I didn't even meet another computer nerd until I was 13 years old.

A solid nights sleep for me is over 9 hours. I rarely get that as I have to set an alarm clock to work up to be able to coordinate with the team effectively and I usually don't manage to fall asleep before 2am.


I usually don't manage to fall asleep before 2am.

That would probably be why you don't wake up naturally at 4AM

Talking about waking up early puts the cart before the horse. It's really about going to sleep early, IMO.


Whatever. If I go to bed early, I roll in my bed for 2, then 4, then 6 hours and not find any sleep. And that's on a good day. On a bad one, it will be for 8 hours and then it's time to wake up.

When I was a kid, my folks put me in bed every evening at 8 PM, sharing the same false assumption as you. And I spent hours after hours watching the darkness. I would almost always fall asleep later than them, and often not until 2 or 3 AM, sometimes 4 AM.

When I was in middle-school and high-school, it was terrible because there was no mid-week day off as there was in primary school, and because it started earlier (and there was a bit of extra commuting). As a result, since I wouldn't fall asleep before 2 AM on any day, I was actually sleeping as much during the 2 days of the week-end as I was sleeping during the whole rest of the week (5 days).

In high school, I experienced a week there or there when I was totally er... off, in a mist, because of exhaustion. But even that didn't make me able to sleep early. The next year I was so exhausted that I fell asleep at noon one day and woke up 3 days later in the evening.

Then I was in University or Engineering school and those were the good years because attending the lessons was not mandatory and there was nobody to tell me to go to my bed or my room early in the evening.

30 or 40 years later, I am typing this message, it is 5:45 AM and I might fall asleep soon.


I'm exactly the same. In highschool I had to wake up at 6:30 am but could never fall asleep before 1-2 am... I was exhausted all through the week until I could sleep in during the weekend. It was especially tough during spring when the sun would set later. I did not drink coffee then and still do not drink coffee.

It's only once I went to university that I've been able to have my own rhythm and would sleep from 3-4am until 9-10am. I even chose my first job because it allowed me to come a bit late in the morning.

A lot of people seem to think that being an early riser is only a question of motivation but I think it's not a question of motivation but a question of genetic make up.


Thank you for writing this. I had exactly the same experience, since primary school I would stay awake until 2-3AM every night staring at nothing. My biological clock just couldn't accept the 8PM sleep schedule.

Then at some point I decided to start listening to it, and found my most productive hours between 12PM to 4AM, then waking up at around 10AM to start the next day. That's how I rolled my university years, masters, PhD and (entrepreneurial) work. Unfortunately, trying to explain that to conservative "early to bed early to rise" folk is a usually waste of time...


I was talking about my parent's:

I have also never woken naturally before 9am

Maybe my parent also has trouble falling asleep early like you. But my point is just that you aren't going to wake up early, unless you fall asleep early- when you fall asleep drives when you wake up.

If you like your sleep schedule, that's fine. It sounds like you are controlled by it though. I have found melatonin helpful for moving my sleep schedule when it gets out of hand.


Also, not eating before going to bed. An empty stomach before bed is (A) good for sleep, and (B) good for waking up early (without alarm).


It's called the SERVER approach. Super Early Rise, Very Early Rest. Buy your own copy over here in the self-help section!


Sleep hygiene.


Freedom from the norms is what got me to the point of being most productive after midnight.

Programmers/developers aren't productive at night because it's a cultural norm (for the most part). We're productive at night because it's a learned behavior. For me, I only had time to myself on the computer after everyone else in my family was asleep. Also I had insomnia.


Is "before" really meaningful enough to bother differentiating? You work from 5am to whatever. I work from 9am to whenever. It's not a big deal.

Guess I could say, "While that farmer calls it quits, I am working late into the night getting ahead! Mwahahaha."


As a normally decidedly non-morning person, getting up really early (2-4am) works surprisingly well for me. Allows for a really slow, but stress-free morning, which leads to a more productive rest of the day. The hardest part (for me) is realizing that yes, I have done enough and am tired, and should not power through an evening-low and stay up until after midnight.

YMMV of course, but getting up really early might not be as outlandish as it sounds.


You aren't truly a non-morning person, I think, because it works for you. You might not like mornings, but it isn't wired in as it is in some of us.

Waking before 8-9am seriously affects the very quality of sleep. 8-9am takes a little attention to my sleeping and continued use of an alarm clock, but I can get a decent enough sleep. At 6-7am wakings, it is doable with a great deal of work. I then continually run the risk of oversleeping sporadically (I often don't hear alarm clocks early in the morning). Sometimes I'm just wide awake after midnight even with continued waking. Outside of taking sleeping pills, I'm not sure how to combat that.

I worked exactly one job that started at 4:45am and had to quit due to lateness. I physically couldn't do it. Half the time the alarm wouldn't wake me. I can do this occasionally for a couple days at a time, but it is rough. I'm much better working overnight than early mornings. I used to get told I'd grow out of it, but I'm 38. I don't think I will.


I feel like you about the 6-9 period, and I still prefer and fall back to getting up at 9 (or later if nothing stops me).

But if getting up late is not an option, 3am beats 6 or 7 am for me. Which is a solution for times when I have to do something early.

But again, just my personal experience. Everybody is different, and nothing is worse than telling other people "oh, you are doing it wrong, just do X and be a normal person!"


As a non-morning person, waking up before 8AM usually ensures that I am absolutely dog tired by mid afternoon (~2-3PM) and completely non-productive from 5PM onward.

Waking up at 4AM would mean that time-frame moves up another 3 hours and I would have to finish doing everything I need to during the day by 2-3PM and most jobs would generally look down upon that.

> YMMV of course, but getting up really early might not be as outlandish as it sounds.

Doing it once or twice isn't especially difficult or outlandish, but I haven't managed to keep it up longer than a week despite my best efforts. And it always resulted in absolutely miserable afternoons.


I noticed something similar. A few years ago I tried for a few weeks to be in bed early and get up early. The result was that a) I had more trouble falling asleep because the world around me was a lot more active, b) I wouldn't actually be productive earlier than I would had I gotten up at a "normal" time, and c) I would feel miserable starting some time in the afternoon.

When I go to bed late and wake up late, however, there is no such "miserable" time period.

That said, if I go to bed later than 2-3AM, I'll feel tired the next day.


That sounds spot on.

Sleeping 1AM to 9AM has worked fairly well for me thus far and I'm just glad I have a job that allows me to work flex hours.

I have to add that I find lying in bed unable to fall asleep one the most miserable human experiences. I suspect it's what ultimately led to me developing the late night sleeping habit, since if I was unable to fall asleep within 10 minutes, I would get back up and keep reading or doing something until I was more tired.


i am a decidedly non-morning person.

i wake up at 4 am everyday because i need to get into the office by 5, and lots of things needs to be done by 7.

by noon my productivity falls off a cliff and I am a zombie by 6 pm but the social life begins at the time when friends and family get off work. you can choose to cut that out of your life... but that's a huge sacrifice.

when the weekend comes around, i'm in bed until noon, and then by sunday i'm back to ready to hit the sack at 2am again, except that work starts in 3 hours.

every week this cycle of absolute torture goes around, and has been my life for the last 5 years.

but what this article is not about is the time you wake up, but the quality, quiet time you put aside for important things, before work starts. for me, that would be 2 to 4 am before i go to work, but obviously that's not happening. so just because you wake up at 4 doesn't obviously mean anything on its own, the important thing is waking up at 4 when your workday begins at 7.


I agree totally. Different people work better at different hours. It's all totally individual and depends very much on your biology/upbringing.

I work best between midnight - 4am. Unfortunately I'm stuck in the corporate world where I'm expected to work 8-5. Late sleepers aren't any less productive than early raisers, but the bias prevents business from shifting the work clock around to cater to our different sleep patterns:

http://www.vox.com/2016/3/28/11306124/chronotype-night-owl-d...


until i read the hn comments i automatically assumed the article (which i couldn't read) was talking about how if you stayed up all night working on a deadline you'd hit some sort of productivity zone around 4am


To each their own.

Most people have highly adaptable bodies and can train themselves to be a "morning person." If a person were to stay up until 2AM, there's no way they'd want to wake up at 4AM. They would therefore see themselves as a productive night owl.


> Most people have highly adaptable bodies and can train themselves to be a "morning person".

I disagree. If it were that simple (with some work, obviously), more would easily be able to train themselves to be "night people" to work overnight shifts. And my experience working nights disagreed. Some folks just cannot handle the sleep and waking times of the shift, others get to a point that they have trouble being productive. A few find it unsafe to drive home afterwards.

I think we are flexible and adaptable to a point, but there is a limit before you find health and sleep suffers a bit too much. For most, nights would push the envelope, but the early mornings do it for a few of us.


Anecdata:

If it were possible to train yourself to be a morning person, then I would have done it by now after several years working 1st shift (8 AM start). Previously I was working 2nd shift (2 PM start). I never really have gotten used to getting up to be at work by 8 AM. I do it, but I always feel sleepy until about noon. Last week, I had to cover for an absent coworker and worked 2nd shift for the first time in years. All last week, I felt more alert, I was more productive, and I slept better.


Shifting your wake-up time by a few hours is a totally different story from being nocturnal.


That is very true.


"like most engineers and other creatives"... is not the case at all. Some people do their best work in the morning and go to bed early. Yes, even "engineers and creatives".

If there's a trend at all, I'd suggest that older folks fare better in the early morning and younger ones are better at night, although I've seen counter-examples and even poly-phasic folks who do just fine.


What gives you the idea that engineers and creative people all have your sleep schedule?


"Why Night Owls Are More Intelligent Than Morning Larks" https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-scientific-fundamen...


In the context of this article, I recommend my fellow HN community members to read a wonderful book on the same topic:

https://www.amazon.com/Miracle-Morning-Not-So-Obvious-Guaran... (NOT a referral link)

Before, here's me trying to plan something, usually stuck on a petty issue, that is dependent on something else, and this task would be put aside for so long. My body is used to talking to clients late night and waking up late. The only thing I became in this process is tired, obese and lost self-confidence (though personal, I am willing to share this openly).

Once I started practicing waking up early on, I realized everything is very clear. My mind knows exactly what to be done and if there's a problem, how I can solve it efficiently. I could easily grasp new concepts, plan for my future more clearly and efficiently get tasks done.

I use a pomodoro timer and I noticed that tasks that would take 2 hours in the night would take just 45 minutes or less early in the morning. At least for me, it just feels like my brain has access to all the information it needs so quickly. Combining this with another book "30 days of discipline by Victor Pride" I was able to reduce my body weight, finish an Saas prototype and finally live a structured life and gain back my confidence.

Posting this hoping it will benefit someone. Cheers.


Our point that you're missing is: yes, people can train themselves to shift their sleep +/- a few hours, but people are biologically wired to have certain "chronotypes" that you cannot "will" yourself into defying.

I woke up at 6 AM for six years, and I never "adjusted." I don't feel well-rested unless I sleep until 10 AM.


Here I thought I'd be getting some validation for being a night owl.

4 AM is my most productive hour. It's just that I haven't gone to bed yet then. What's this "up before the sun rises" stuff? It's productive because the day is just coming to a close.


Same here. I assumed the article would be about someone who discovered the joys of being a night owl. I tend to head to bed around 1 or 2am, but if other life constraints allowed me to stay up later I almost certainly would.

Once when I was in my early 20s I had a magical period of 2-3 months where there was no work, no school, and not really even social or family obligations. I would go bed when I was tired and wake up when I woke up. What I found was that every night I stayed up about an hour later than the night before. After 24 days my sleeping cycle went lapped the clock. At the time I interpreted it as, biologically I had a 25 hour cycle. No idea if that was true or not. Probably not. Regardless, if left to my own devices I always tend to stay up into the wee hours.

If there's an opposite of a morning person, I'm it. My entire life, I've felt completely wrecked after waking up, and it takes up to an hour to feel awake and alert. I get progressively more productive until it's time to go to bed again. Apparently it's the other way around for most people.


Very likely true. There've been a few cave studies where they shield the experimental subjects from all natural light, and then time how long their "biological" day is. It usually ranges from about 23.5 hours to around 28, with an average of about 25. It varies significantly by person, but was not at all unusual for someone's cycle to be longer than 24 hours.

(Personally, my natural sleep cycle seems to be about 25-26 hours; I'll usually go to bed 1-2 hours later each night until I reset at some point.)


I wonder if there's some control-theory reason why one's unsynchronized circadian rhythm is on average slightly longer than a day? Intuitively it seems that one might actually have more consistent synchronization with the solar cycle if upward pressure from a natural setpoint is balanced by downward pressure from end-of-day environmental signals (light levels, etc). Or in other words, the body has evolved a slight margin to allow for adjustability "in the field" via feedback loops.

But that's just a guess and I can't seem to find anything in a quick search... anyone know more about this?


There is also the fact that in most places in the world, the length of the daytime hours change over the course of a year.


That proves we come from another planet which revolves more slowly :-)


Exact same here for all your paragraphs. Perhaps even closer to 26 hours. And during the same time of a couple of months without any obligation at all that you described, I found out that I should skip one 'night' (if I may call it so, let's rather say a sleeping period) every 7-10 days, to 'resynchronise' a bit with the classical day. Because you sometimes have to go shopping, see someone, do a bit of gardening work in the daylight, etc. :-)


It seems like the common thread between early risers and night owls is that they both find their most productive time during a period when people don't normally socialize, so that they can avoid meetings and have some 'maker time'.

They don't seem all that different on the face of it, it's just a shame that society considers one productive and the other less so. Probably because night owl hours coincide with those of people who party all night and sleep in? Nobody gets up early to party all morning.


> Nobody gets up early to party all morning.

You clearly haven't been to Berlin yet.

(I do agree with your post, though.)


I wish I could sleep in until sunrise. That would mean quite a lot of sleep during winter ^_^

https://www.google.se/search?hl=en&q=sunrise+in+lule%C3%A5+a...



I'm one of those unlucky types that have the hardest time waking up and getting going in the morning. Mentally I'm at 50% or less. Is there anyone else like this who's found techniques or other methods of overcoming the slow start?


I'm the same way.

I have simply made peace with the fact that I just am a slow starter in the morning, and try to take advantage of natural times of production. It takes 30 minutes to 2 hours for me to "wake" properly, so I just do stuff that doesn't take much thought when I can. Instead of overcoming it, I just made peace with it and do things to help it not be such a drag.

The first 20 minutes of a too-early waking might be groggy enough that I can't manage to shower yet (I get 'sleep drunkenness' occasionally). I give myself extra time to get ready. I know certain activities take longer in the morning. If possible, I schedule low-energy activities for the morning.

Sleep maintenance seems to help me physically wake, but not with the slow start. Coffee doesn't seem to do much either way, but I do drink it. Exercise first thing in the morning? Forget it. It feels harder then.

On the other hand, I get this wonderful uptick when some others are starting to tune out, so there is that.


I am like you. Here's what's worked for me:

* Get up at the same time every day, even if you've had a late night

* Wind down by avoiding electronics an hour before bedtime

* Put a loud alarm clock on top of the fridge

* Get a big drink of water as soon as you wake up

* Turn on all the lights (or go outside, but that obviously won't work at 4am at most latitudes)

* Have a morning routine that you can do on autopilot while your mind fully awakens. For me that's cereal and a shower.


I used to be like you, then I had a baby.

Now I go to bed at 8 and get up between 4 and 5.

A little human screaming and kicking you in the balls every morning is a power incentive to get up and do stuff.

Turns out it isn't even that bad. I get to play with the kid, I give him a bath and have some breakfast, and get some reading in when he has his first morning nap, then off to work. Going to bed at 7:30 or 8 seems to be key, though


I was thinking all these people talking about their night owl schedules and sleeping whenever they were tired clearly don't have kids.

When you HAVE to get up early, you start getting tired more early, too.

I had a similar experience, where I used to hate the mornings, but now love the bonding time with my daughter.


A room facing east that gets plenty of natural sunlight is key for waking up early.

For a while I lived in an apartment where my bedroom faced east, and my bed was placed such that the first rays of light hit me straight in the eye. During that time, I miraculously became what's called a "morning person."

Then I moved to a house where my bedroom faced north, and the blinders on the only window in my room were a pain in the ass so I left them shut most of the time. I quickly reverted back to being a late-riser/night-owl.

Not everyone has control over the direction their room is facing, but you can still simulate daybreak using artificial sunlamps that are programmed to start lighting gradually at a designated time.


Modafinil, from my limited experience, corrects my sleep-wake cycle. Also something exciting to look forward to, or a great pressure, like an important meeting or appointment. Also, social pressure, e.g. camping in the mountains with friends, the sun wakes me up at 5am eager to start the day. Otherwise I could sleep till noon.


What time do you go to sleep and when do you go to bed?


Right now it's bed at 2-3am and up at 10am due to my current work. I've varied that quite a bit in the past. I've done different hours of sleep as well. I've even seen a sleep medicine doctor who seems to suspect a circadian rhythm sleep disorder. So far the best method I've found is being consistent with the time I wake up, although that only makes it marginally better in the morning.


How many hours do you sleep per day? Do you go to bed and wake up at the same hour every day? At which time do you drink your last cup of tea/coffee? What do you eat for diner? Do you exercise regularly? What is the last thing you do before going to bed?


Get a good espresso machine. Then get hooked on caffeine. Then wake up looking forward to your first hit of the day. Before you know it, you're getting shit done.


I was like this until I had sinus surgery.

Turns out I had a deviated septum and chronic sinus infection that made my breathing pretty shitty while I slept.


Were there any symptoms of this while you were awake?


Yes- in retrospect, my nasal breathing was unpredictable... I would breathe unevenly through my nostrils, and sometimes have difficulty with both.

I was also prone to sinus infections... sometimes low-grade ones that just hung around for weeks and felt like allergies.

I thought this was how it was for everyone for years. After my surgery it was night and day.


Coffee, exercise.


Only tangentially related, while I don't like having to wake up at 4, being out and about in town at 4 a.m. is a pretty enjoyable experience, especially on say a Sunday morning. I love driving through foggy streets as dawn is just starting to break, and the only other people around are gas station attendants and the occasional extra-early rising farmer.


There is a certain appeal to being out and about at that time - that appeal starts around 2am and ends about 5-6am. I miss 24hour restaurants for that reason, and used to rather enjoy super-early morning "breakfasts" as dinners. Nice and peaceful.

But not enough to get me to wake at those times, as I wouldn't enjoy it in the same way.


Let me tell your experience would be totally different in a big city and you wouldn't meet the same kind of people (or what's left of us^Wthem) at that time of the night !



Who the heck gets productive within 1-2 hours of waking up?

Sure, those hours are great for ingesting what has happened since the last cycle but not really for creating new value.

Edit: I just realized I wrote this the wrong way. What I meant was that I can't imagine people being productive during the first 1-2 hours after waking up.


For "head down" type of work, it often helps me to start on that before looking at my email. If you have some work that you already know you want to finish today, start on that right away for a couple hours, with your phone/email/instant messenger notifications disabled.

If you come into work, fire up your email, you may find a number of emails that you want to respond to right away, despite them being low priority. Granted, this is how I do start most of my days. But when I really need (or just want) to get an in-depth task accomplished, the best plan is to tackle that first thing. At most, I might scan my email to make sure there isn't any emails with the subject of 'immediate response required for you to keep getting a paycheck' or 'the datacenter is on fire'.


It depends how quickly you get through the morning routine doesn't it? For example: If you work from home, you have no commute, you don't need to get dressed, etc. Roll out of bed, slug down some soylent, do some jumping jacks to get the body warmed up, and start catching up on yesterday. With that minimal morning routine, you could easily be in the zone within 1-2 hours.


See my edit please.


My mother and brother. Seriously. Both morning people. Wake up, have some coffee, and get started with the day. My mother would wake up early, clean house, then shower and get ready for work when she could. My brother prefers to wake up and do things as well. I'm just the opposite - I'm pretty useless the first hour I'm awake. Just getting through the morning routine feels like actual work if I start too soon.


People who can produce the goods in 1-2 hours are that productive.

>Sure, those hours are great for ingesting what has happened since the last cycle but not really for creating new value.

Why?


Well, for starters because it takes at least 1 hour to eat breakfast, take a shower and get dressed + usually another half hour for the commute and some minor errands on the way.

Obviously that applies less if you work from home, since you can cut the shower and the commute.


I can wake up 7:50 and be in work, showered, by 8:10, including the 5-10 min commute. I think it varies a lot by person, just like productivity through the day!


Some have been known to work from home without breakfast, as well.


Me, if I look at my punch card on GitHub I can see my productivity kicking in about two hours after getting up.


Unpopular opinion here. I also don't think that 4 am is special in some kind. But I believe that getting up early increases productivity. The reason is that in the evening I at least do less productive stuff, sometimes nothing meaningful at all. But after I wake up I usually do my todo list. So focussing a longer part of the day on the morning hours makes me spend my time more reasonably. From my personal feeling getting up at 6am is the best. Earlier and it feels really painful (especially getting to bed before 10pm is hard). Later and I'm losing time.

PS: Right now I'm more on a late schedule, starting to get productive between 10 and 11 am. Trying hard to get back to a good morning routine though.


I expected the article to have some kind of research to back up this claim. The anecdotal evidence presented could just as easily apply to 3 or 5 a.m.


Interesting article!

The Rishi's and Yogi's in India always woke up at 4 in the morning. In the Hindu Yogic philosophy this time period is also called the Brahma Muhurta. If anyone is interested, you can read more about it here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brahmamuhurtha

and

http://hinduism.stackexchange.com/questions/537/what-is-the-...


I have spent weeks in yoga ashrams and meditation centers. It's pretty easy to get up at 4 if you don't have a commute and no work at all or limited work. At home it's much more difficult and not really sustainable unless you go to bed at 8 or earlier.


This says 1.5hrs before sunrise time which varies. So in January in Northeast USA this would be 5:30am


I HATE INDIANS FUCK YOU


You created an account just to post this asinine comment? How jobless can one be!


There is an interesting correlation here with some ancient wisdom:

Most schools of Indian philosophy borrow the term `guna` -- literally "quality" but in context[0] meaning "mental texture" to refer to three main states of mind:

Sattva: equanimity, poise, contemplativeness, objectivity

Rajas: frenzy, agitation, result-orientation

Tamas: indolence, lethargy, sloth, sleep

It's interesting to note that Brahma Murta[1] falls between 4am-6am and is indicated as the predominance of sattva[2]. The predominance of other gunas may be observed by looking at the nature of activities during other times (6am-6pm = rajas), (6pm - 4am = tamas).

Those interested in further reading might consult the Vedanta Treatise[2] by A Parthasarathy.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gu%E1%B9%87a#Samkhya_school_of...

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brahmamuhurtha

[2] https://www.amazon.com/Vedanta-Treatise-Eternities-Parthasar...


Sounds like more cargo culting to me. Oh look, CEO XYZ does it, maybe if I do it, I'll be as successful as him!


I'm very much in the early morning camp too. Most days I'm up at 3 or 4 to get through personal items, at the gym (a short walk) by 5, and am home and ready to cook breakfast for the family by 6:30. Getting up early is the only way to clear the deck for things I need to do.

This has come at a cost.

- I need to get 6 hours sleep, so a 3-4am wakeup requires a 9-10pm bedtime. If I don't plan for this, the worst thing happens, which is 2 hours of alarms as I don't get out of bed until 7.

- I can't survive after a drinking binge. No more than 2 or 3 drinks the night before, and ideally 0.

- It doesn't always jive with family who are night owls.

This isn't how I lived in my 20s, but it works for me now. In my 20s there was still a decent chance of good things happening at 1am. Now there is rarely anything that happens from 10pm to 1am that I miss. :-)


I just happened to do this last night because I was exhausted from overwork and passed out the night before at 8. I woke up about an hour before sunrise.

In the quiet and still of the morning, tucked into a muffled corner of my couch, with hot coffee and cream at-hand, I set about a detailed refactoring of my home project that I had been planning.

Once I got in my groove, I found I was starting medium-sized tasks that I would normally hesitate to start because I couldn't get them done in one sitting. Not only was I completing these tasks quickly, but I was making mental leaps that turned out to be correct in-hindsight once the refactoring was done.

I'm normally overworked and have much less energy to develop to my home project. It is pleasant to develop code on a full mental tank of gas, especially when it's my IP.


looks like only 15% of american adults are awake at 4 am. ppl like to sleep in!

http://flowingdata.com/2015/12/15/a-day-in-the-life-of-ameri...


Which is precisely why it's easy to be productive at that time in the morning - fewer people around mean fewer distractions.

From the article: By waking up at 4 a.m., they’ve essentially wiped a lot of those distractions off their plate. No one is expecting you to email or answer the phone at 4 a.m.


unfortunately for me, all my distractions come from within my own mind :\


Research shows that on average people are most productive and focused early morning. Get your creative things done first, get most important stuff done first in the morning. Leave meetings and routine where you don't need to think much for the afternoon.


Yeah, if you are average.


Use of the early morning hours as the most focused and effective are nothing new for night owls.

What makes the 4 am wake up really special is when you go to bed at 8-9 PM and get twice as much done in the middle of the night as you would when pulling an all nighter.

Being a life long night owl who has become an early(ier) morning guy... imagine your best all nighter ever, with double or triple the productivity due to having your full force of energy to solve problems with zero interruptions.

The only trade off, like a lot of things is that there is some things you can't do as a result like have late nights too often.


I love those early morning hours. Getting up a 4 am, I can walk the dog, go to the gym, play in my garden, read a few chapters, make breakfast, and catch up on the news before the rest of the world even starts.

Even better on the days I don't have to come into the office, since I can start work at 7:30 or 8 and get most of a day's productivity in before the deluge of emails and meetings hit, rather than spending the better part of an hour hating everything on the commute in.


Well, not if I've stayed up all night to get there...


I need to write a book to start fighting the cultural over-current:

"How To 10x Your Productivity By Staying Up Later and Waking Up Later"


This might work for me, except that I want to spend some of my day with my partner and she wouldn't do this. So I can't


That is ancient Hindu knowledge too. It is called Bramha-Muhurta. I remember as a child my parents use to wake me up at 4 am to study.


Adalbert Stifter once said: The work of a poet is done before the first tram passes by.


4 am is a different beast depending on where in the world you are and the season.


Funny, I'm reading this at 4am.


The article is paywalled.


Pro tip: click the "web" link below the article title. It will take you to a Google search for the article, whose link circumvents the paywall.


It doesn't work for me, link in result still paywalled.


Make sure your browser sends a Referer header?


And maybe right-click the link and select "Open link in incognito window" to make sure the site doesn't know if you've visited them before or not.


and put these lines in your /etc/hosts...


Wow, remind me not to hire you for a job then.

As an employer I am paying you to put my work ahead of yours.

I am paying you to be productive so that with the collective production of the employees, the company can outmaneuver the competition.

This lackadaisical approach and work-ethic means that, of course the mile high task list will always be there. It'll never ever get done!


We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12347100 and marked it off-topic.


If you believe you are hiring him for that reason, then I see why you felt the need to use a throwaway.

You're buying his time and experience for agreed upon hours. You don't have the ability to make him put your work ahead of his anymore than you have the ability to make him put your work ahead of his family, personal life, education or retirement savings.

In discussions like this I tend to fall on sympathizing with employers because until you've taken the risk, hired and managed people you don't fully appreciate just how hard it is or how difficult it is to keep people happy.

What you're describing is closer to buying his life - which would be an understandable arrangement from a business partner but not an everyday employee.


Of course, you're forgetting the most important part!

People get paid for all sorts of reasons. If you are being paid specifically to put work in front of your hobbies, then that is your job! Think database uptime employees who are paid to get up in the middle of the night to fix a bug, etc. Heck, I even paid a friend to eat a shoe once; you can pay people to do all sorts of things. Paying someone to put work in front of hobbies is hardly novel or extreme.

Of course, this should be clear in the job description!!


"If you are being paid specifically to put work in front of your hobbies"

...then it is most probably illegal in quite a lot of countries. Labor codes exist for a good reason. Most people are a) employees b) not willing to put life ahead of work and c) not willing to be forced to by competition from desperate/workaholic co-workers.

Database uptime employees work shifts, so even they should not be forced to put life before work.


I suspect you are wrong about legality, but lets put that aside.

Do you think it's reasonable to expect a CEO to put work in front of hobbies?


Not as a goal in itself, no. In the case of real priorities, yes. In the case of apparent priorities, no.

Nevertheless, how numerous are CEOs compared to other employees?


By whose authority are you imagining that expectation is enforced?


Pager jobs at smaller companies are often not on shifts. Larger companies are usually much more realistic about it. Larger companies tend to give you shifts, along with the better compensation and more realistic expectations, at least in my experienice.

Legally, as an exempt employee, at least in California, my employer is in the clear. Hell, I believe they do it to hourly workers, too. I have worked in the computer industry my whole life, but I am told that it is not uncommon for minimum wage jobs to insist you come in at unexpected hours to cover unexpected events.


Sir, you have clearly been trolled. Don't feed the trolls.


Sometimes a troll is worth replying to if it gets a discussion going. The troll no longer needs to be a part of the discussion.


Wow, you're a terrible employer then.

I've worked at a lot of IT companies, doing developer, sys admin, dev ops .. I've run the spectrum from health insurance to credit card processors -- very little of the work I've ever done is fulling or contributes to society in any significant way (except maybe the University I worked for briefly).

My personal work matters way more than any of the crap I get paid for. That being said, I write good code. My stuff has solid test cases, good design and readable code. I learn from code reviews and try to give good feedback. I generate good work and get it done in a reasonable amount of time. But I don't do over time. I don't work over 40 hours a week. I will not work on the weekends. If you work at a hospital, I can see how being on-call could be important. Any other job, and it's just money you're losing.

Just become my employer doesn't come first, doesn't make me a bad employee. If anything it makes me a better person because I have a life.


I think 40 hrs/wk is plenty of effort for a job. It's called full time for a reason and there are only so many hours a day. It's also why the US DOL has that law about mandatory time and a half. If you need more hours out of someone then you're probably understaffed. Increasing the number of people employed is definitely a good idea.


Even working 8 hours a day, at full concentration, is nearly impossible.


I hope your employees are mentioning this sort of thing on Glassdoor and the likes so we never accidentally get hired by you!

> As an employer I am paying you to put my work ahead of yours.

As an employer you're paying me because I have the skillset required to do whatever your thing is and the bills that require me to work.

I might enjoy the work, don't get me wrong, but I'm primarily here because you either can't or don't want to do what I've been brought on to do and I can and will do it in exchange for money. I'll even consider signing a non-compete if the money part is enough.

> I am paying you to be productive

Correct. Stop there. The rest is waffle.

> Wow, remind me not to hire you for a job then.

Gladly! What company was it you're hiring for?


It's a good indicator of your management style that you won't even publically forward your opinion without a throwaway.

Nobody wants to work for a coward.


> Nobody wants to work for a coward.

I dunno. There's advantages to having a boss that's a huge pushover...

Boss: "We need this done by the end of the week!"

Employee: "That's just not possible. These sorts of things take research and most importantly, time."

Boss: "Oh. I see. Two weeks OK?"

Employee: "At least a month. Maybe two."

Boss: "But that's too long!"

Employee: "Nine women can't make a baby in a month!"

Boss: "Oh alright. You've got until the end of the quarter."


Right... then later when "the Boss" talks to his boss...

Big Boss: "Why haven't you delivered the product yet? I was expecting it midweek?"

Boss: "Well, uh, the team you see... well, they don't think they can deliver... and... "

Big Boss: "If your team can't get this done on the timeline this company needs, get a new team. If you can't do that, then I guess I need a new manager."

Boss: "Yes sir, I see your point."

[Later, with employee]

Boss: "I thought I could give you till the end of the quarter, but we need it tomorrow. Oh yeah, and there's extra requirements now."

Employee: "But you...."

Boss: "I've been overruled and just couldn't push back. You know how it is. Have a good... productive night."


Yup, this is exactly what happens. Basically the same as the "make whoever is in front of you happy until the big boss puts his foot down" anti-management pattern. It can work for periods if the big boss knows what hes doing and respects the employees, but otherwise, destined for disaster.


You don't want a complete pushover, though, otherwise nothing ever gets done while your team is busy playing video games all week. What you want is a reasonable boss!


Additionally, pushover bosses won't stand up for you when Scope creep starts to happen. Before long you will have 20 new change requirements to do in the last few days because someone decided they like the old-old way. (ie the code you just tore apart to appease their previous request)


What's worse is having a boss that's a pushover in one direction. From above, it's always whatever upper management wants, and to his team, it's do it now or you're fired.


You want someone who makes you justify your estimates, so you don't run wild, but is also willing to be like "yeah that really is gonna take 3 weeks longer, go do good work, I'll get you the cover".


>As an employer I am paying you to put my work ahead of >yours.

Maybe you're an employer in a 3rd world country so I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, but no worthwhile employer in the US would even pretend to expect that.


In my experience, most do.

In Japan it's even common to expect an employee to move in a weeks notice for up to a year at a time.


Keep in mind I said "worthwhile". :)

I wouldn't tell anyone how to value their time, but I certainly wouldn't tolerate an employer telling me what I could focus on during off-hours.


Well it's certainly worthwhile to the Japanese people that work at these jobs for decades. Otherwise they would not continue to do it.


Worthwhile probably isn't the best word to use here. Most do it because it is expected of them. Some people thrive with this mindset and others are SOL.

The work culture in Japan is a very extreme case and can't be used to prove that this type of behavior is common in other parts of the world. I would say the majority of companies in the US and in Europe do a reasonable job of respecting the personal lives of their employees--more so if they are part of a union.


>Well it's certainly worthwhile to the Japanese people that work at these jobs for decades. Otherwise they would not do it.

Being conditioned to do something, or being forced to do something to feed yourself because few other job opportunities exist outside Japan's corporate world, are not the same as "certainly worthwhile".

Except, of course, in the sense that not getting homeless or starving is worthwhile.


> not getting homeless or starving is worthwhile

Do you not consider those worthwhile!? That's like the best example of worthwhile there is!

What point are you making?


That if the employer creates a situation where you can't play an hour of guitar at home and put it on youtube without firing you, then it's worthwhile for no valid reason.


That as far as worthwhile goes, that's a pretty low bar. In fact the lowest there is -- where what we do is determined by sheer immediate need and necessity.

To give an example that might sound extreme, but it's the reality for hundreds of millions in other parts of the world (and a decent tens of millions in this part of the world too) a 12 year old child can go work in factories, mines, sweat shops or even prostitute itself to sex-tourist perverts to avoid starving. That doesn't make those "pursuits" worthwhile.

Of course for a privileged or semi-privileged middle/upper-middle class person, on a steady diet of comfortable upbringing, family support, financial support net, cushy jobs, and "do what you love" kind of advice, the situation is probably so alien that what's wrong with it might not even register.


Or that we're so alienated from it that weve forgotten just how worthwhile it is


Yeah, we forgot how lucky it is for slaves and sex exploitation victims to be fed. They should count their blessings instead of complaining...


Hard working Japanese employees are considered slaves and sex exploited? That's a pretty offensive thing to say.


If you hadn't used a throwaway you wouldn't have to be reminded because people could simply avoid your company.


> As an employer I am paying you to put my work ahead of yours.

While I'm at the office. You want me to dedicate my entire life to your business instead of mine, that costs more than you can afford.


No no no my friend. You are paying your employees to work under the employment agreement that you both signed.

> I am paying you to be productive so that with the collective production of the employees, the company can outmaneuver the competition

Your employees may be so productive on a project that has no future which at the end will not help the company at all. It is you who should steer the ship for competition. I think you are confusing being a lazy employee with what he/she is saying.


For someone who knows absolutely nothing of the OP's circumstances, you sure are confident in asserting he is overpaid and under-worked.


>Wow, remind me not to hire you for a job then.

Who told you the parent was interested in working for you and your random company in the first place?

>As an employer I am paying you to put my work ahead of yours.

Nope, employees compensate people for doing specific work for them. Not for "putting their work ahead of their personal life/family/or whatever".

As long as they get their money's worth (and more, since they obviously pay employees less than the value they get out of them, unless the company is merely breaking even), and the job gets done, then they don't get a say in anything else about their employees personal time. Unless they are shitty employees, in which case, let their companies crash and burn.


Just to pile on to the hate you're getting, you're the type of manager that couldn't earn my respect in a game of checkers, let alone at work.


s/put my work ahead of yours/put my work ahead of your personal life/ is what you're coming across as saying. In real life, there is, and always should be, balance. An employee devoted entirely to work will burn out and perform suboptimally, sometimes dramatically so.


You should be working collectively with your team and "outmaneuvering" the competition, instead of posting 3rd grade managerial comments.


"I put all my genius into my life; I put only my talent into my works." -- Oscar Wilde.


I do the same as the parent. I'm at my best in the morning and someone has to get my second best. The best part of my day is working on personal projects or spending time with my wife in the morning. Work get's my second best when I show up at 9.

If I'm passed over for a promotion because of this, meh. I think I'm doing way better than the guy gives his best to his work and what's leftover to himself and family. Additionally, I've found I do better at work anyway because the rest of my life is order and I show up already having accomplished things and on a roll.


I always put my employer's work ahead of my work. Please let me know where I can submit my resume, I have skills I think you'd find useful.


Beautiful!


on one hand this feels like sarcasm, on the other hand he used an account with the name throwaway.


It's a bit telling about the median sensibilities here that so many responded earnestly.


Not if you're only paying for 8 hours. If you want full control you have to pay for all 24.




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