A lot of commenters have talked about the pros of this routine, and there are many. Few interruptions, working while your mind is fresh, working within a regimen, etc.
However, if you don't have an equivalent amount of discipline on at night to get enough rest, you will quickly burn yourself out. I did this routine for a lot of the second half of 2011, and since I'm a night owl by nature (going to bed at 12 midnight is 'earlyish' for me), the lack of sleep quickly caught up with me. My project was actually getting some traction though, so I basically spent about four months in a sleep-deprived haze and consuming about 400 mg of caffeine a day just to function.
So I guess what I'm trying to say is, if you're like me and you go to bed at 1AM, wake up at 9AM, and go into work at 10AM (a very common engineer schedule), then it's not just a case of setting of your alarm clock but really adjusting your lifestyle so you're not fundamentally sleep-depriving yourself.
The caffeine is a vicious cycle (I've been there.) When you're short on sleep, you need it to get through the day, but the side effect is you end up staying up later than you need to. Also, if you want to get to sleep, avoid screens (TV, computer) for the last hour or two before bedtime and you'll find it's a lot easier (E-ink readers like the Kindle are great for this.) It's hard to switch gears from the stimulation of TV or a game and go to sleep unless you're already overtired.
A lot of this also depends on age, I suspect... I used to be a 1AM-type person in my 20s but as I've grown older, I find I naturally wake up at 7 AM or so anyway. By 11pm or so, I'm geting pretty useless. My sense is this happens to lots of folks as they get into their mid-30s, even if they don't have kids.
I was a serious coffee drinker that switched to black tea and finally down to green tea. I've found (and read) that small doses of caffeine are much better for concentration and productivity. I generally have 2-3 cups of green tea a day, get a slight boost in mental alertness, but never get the 'crater' effect of over-consumption. Bonus: I never wake up craving caffeine or needing that first of the morning jolt to become coherent.
It adjusts the color temperature of your monitor as the sun goes down. As the sun sets, your monitor becomes more red/pink. It takes a little while to get used to it, but I absolutely cannot stand normal monitors at night time now. When I occasionally disable F.lux to watch a movie at night, I'm blinded by the bright blue glow.
I've recently done this, and it helps when I'm on-call and get woke up in the night. I can now fall back asleep faster. Another item that helped, I've put oil lanterns up on the walls in my home office. I just got to remember to light them instead of flipping on a light switch, and all is good.
I picked up a couple of generic ones, I think they are made by Lamplight Farms. They include a bracket that hangs on the wall with a reflector plate. Other than the wall mount, most of the oil lamps are about the same (that is, the ones in the $5 - $20 range). Of course, I picked up these ones about 10 years ago, and I can't find this particular model any more. I can only find the table top ones (could probably put it on a shelf, with a mirror behind it for better effect).
You can use either lamp oil or kerosene in most of them, the lamp oil doesn't stink as bad (and if you get the "ultra pure" oil, there is hardly any smell at all). Also, last time I had a power outage I was able to keep the flame lit (on a pilot light height) through the night with hardly any oil used (and it made a nice night light -- don't know how safe it is though).
Anecdotally, when I initially switched to using f.lux on my desktop (reduces blue light levels at night) it's become a lot easier to drift off despite sitting in front of the screen until ~15 mins before bed.
You should try taking 5mg of melatonin around 9pm. I have trouble falling asleep before 12-1am, too. Undeterred, I stay up too late every night working on whatever project I have and can't sleep because I'll lay awake thinking about it.
If I take a melatonin I get the benefit of becoming inept at writing code by 10 and will be sound asleep before 11 and ready to wake up hours before I have to start my day.
This is good advice. Taking melatonin when you go to bed will help you sleep, but taking it a few hours before you want to go to bed helps retrain your circadian cycle (which is the goal, not just going to sleep easily)
Coincidentally enough I just started reading The Way We're Working Isn't Working and this one of the arguments he makes (i.e. that we tend to run ourselves ragged by trying to work longer and longer hours to 'be more productive', when it usually results in just the opposite).
I can definitely attest to the fact that my periods of greatest productivity tend to come in spurts as the book talks about (sprints of say 90 or so minutes of highly concentrated work) as opposed to being the result of long slogs of say 10 hours of coding, which tends to produce volumes of code, but not necessarily my best code.
You couldn't bring yourself to sleep before midnight even when waking up at 5am on regular basis?
I consider myself night owl too, nowadays I fall asleep at around 1am. But I used to work in construction, getting up at 5:30am every day and just after couple weeks of this routine, I would fall asleep at 10:00pm - 10:30pm, usually while watching TV :)
I'm a night owl, and a few decades agoI was on a rigid Army training schedule for months at a time, where we would be released for the night around 1am-2am and already have roll call at 6:30am; I would still not fall asleep until 3-4 am. (This was not physical training, although we did do a short physical exercise daily, and a an hour long one three times a week)
My pre-army reserves carried me through the first 3 months, and then I would just uncontrollably crash for 20-30 minutes at lunch time. My eyesight deteriorated significantly (much improved after I started getting some sleep again, thankfully, but not as good as it used to be, unfortunately) and I'm sure my body was otherwise harmed, although I did have more waking hours than at any other time I can remember.
Agreed on the cons. I've tried this as well for a while and it does require a huge change in lifestyle. My gym time was cut down to nothing as I would usually get up and hit the gym prior to work (going to the gym in the evenings is very tough for me).
So although my sleep time was the same (I was still going to bed and waking up at the same time as before), by taking out my gym routine, I was actually feeling more tired, down and otherwise less alert. So I've been playing with alternating work/gym during the weekday mornings.
I can say from watching my father do this while I grew up that this is extremely unhealthy on the body. Sure you can do it, sure you can recharge every few many months but this will not work out in the long run. By that I mean accidents are looming when you live with this little sleep regularly. Trust me on this before its too late to say I wish I would have slept more.
There is strong evidence that links sleep deprivation over time, even minor, to long term health problems.
As someone who cut sleep for years (6 hours was normal in twenties and much of thirties), I can attest that at some point, it becomes difficult to operate on less sleep. If all of your coping strategies involve putting in more time (essentially at the expense of sleep), when you can no longer cut the sleep, you may be in a bind when that is no longer the corner that can be cut. Though not always, that point in time often coincides with when your parental commitments are at their peek as well, and as a parent, you probably shouldn't cut that corner. So what then...
Something like the Pomodoro method helped me alot.
Recently I've discovered that this mindset has been detrimental.
Sometimes hard work is supposed to be hard. If you rely on passion or some sort of intrinsic motivation, then as soon as you come to a task you don't want to do (i.e. the 90% of any project that doesn't involve coding) procrastination sets in. I worked mornings non-stop on my little side project for around 6 months last year and slowed right down as soon as all the 'fun' stuff was over.
Accepting that the work is sometimes going to suck is a) more realistic and b) more empowering. If you get used to short focused bursts of work you don't feel like doing, then there is quite literally nothing you can't achieve if you put your mind to it.
I came to the same conclusion. Often when working on a difficult problem I used to think, "What the hell is wrong with me? Why is this not fun? Why am I not loving this? Did I choose the wrong career or am I just a lazy useless person?"
Then I realized that as an athlete I never would have wondered why it hurt when I got cramps late in a game. I never wondered why my body complained about running the last mile or completing the last rep in training. I never had any self-doubt because I got bored practicing a skill hundreds of times to unlearn a bad habit. Those things are not inconsistent or contradictory to the joy and satisfaction of being an athlete.
Thinking about that helps me a lot when the problem I'm working on is causing me only frustration instead of immediate gratification.
Just because the work can get hard doesn't mean it can't still be enjoyable. For me, the enjoyment of work comes from the results you get out of doing it. There are times when I despise the actual work I'm doing but I enjoy doing it because I'm excited to see the final product.
Agree. I think it's key to have passion/love for the overall goal, and realize that day to day I'm going to have to do a lot of stuff that's not fun. The passion for the overall goal motivates me to do the non-fun stuff.
As with many people in this forum, the kind of work I enjoy the most is really hard.
It's true that there's a variable amount of sucky work that comes up.
Over the years, I've discovered that some of the hardest but most rewarding kinds of work revolve around figuring out what causes sucky work and making that stuff disappear.
Many times, this is addressing deep, systematic problems inside an organization. These are often technical, but sometimes they're not.
Sometimes, though, it just comes down to coming up with cute hacks to automate paperwork and communication. And that kind of work of work is rewarding too, especially as you get more and more people to use your automation.
Maybe I just read it differently, but for me this article described a way to cram things that I _want_ to do (other people might play the violin every night at 20 for fun?) into the early morning hours.
You're making a good point, _if_ we're talking about doing business in these hours (like trying to progress on your own little startup idea). If you just want to meddle with a small project, experiment with this $randomNewTech or improve your code for the fun of it, then this attitude of 'It should be fun' seems perfectly alright.
I think doing work you don't like or that you find difficult is compatible with new tech you want to learn just for the heck of it.
As an example I'm currently trying to deep-dive on Natural Language Processing. I'm a middling programmer but quite useless at Maths, so I know my weak points are going to be the stats used in NLP.
In this, I've picked up the most highly recommended university level NLP text I could find I'm putting in a couple of hours a week studying it. After about thirty minutes in, I begin losing focus and it starts becoming really easy to think of distractions or reasons why I shouldn't be doing it.
It's at times like that when it helps to realize that no, I should be doing this, I don't need to take a break, I should just power through. I'm not necessarily enjoying everything I do in these sessions, and it's definitely hard work in unfamiliar territory.
I've found that concentration is like a muscle, the more you train it, the harder and longer you can maintain it without taking a break. For me, expecting the work to be fun sets me up to give in as soon as I start losing focus.
Interestingly, after going at work 100% for hours at a time, I actually feel way better than I do than after a half-arsed attempt at productivity. Usually I've created or learned something, and I don't have that guilty feeling that I could have got more done today.
That's a good point. I didn't really think of it that way. And I'm definitely in the 'fun' phase of this project. So thanks, maybe as more tedious stuff comes up I'll have a better mindset going into it.
I've tried this approach and others. I'm sure for some it can work but ultimately I found you can't cheat time. If you wake up at 5am by 2pm you toast (mentally at least). I've found no real secret to gain extra real hours. The reality is that your mind can only function productively for so long each day. The productivity you feel at 5am is the same you'd feel at 8:00am it just seems more amazing because it's happening at 5.
The bottom line is you have to find what is sustainable in the long run. Regardless of how early or late you wake up the key is coming up with a consistant schedule that maximizes your productivity. Only you can figure out what the schedule is. It's certainly great to try new things and see what ends up working for you. Good luck.
I dunno, I've found I can make it work with progress. I get up at 6am, generally do 30 minutes of waking up admin (usually with an Anki/SuperMemo session thrown in), and then try and get a good two hours of work in, before heading to the day job.
You can't do this if you're not willing to go to bed early and eat well, too, though. And if you're still drinking alcohol during the week ... well, you have too much free time :-) I find a heavy workout at lunch time keeps me going after lunch.
What amazed me most about the OP was he updates his todos ... while watching TV? And squeezes his reading time for that? How do you find time to cook healthy food? See friends? Spend quality time with the girlfriend? Watching TV isn't inherently bad, but if you're doing it regularly, you've got waaay too much free time.
I'm the same way, and my friends had the same reaction as you. They suggested that if I cut out caffeine and sugar then my body's own natural energy would resurface, and I'd stop being so groggy until the mid-afternoon.
So, I listened to them, and for 9 months I consumed no stimulants at all. After 9 months of this experiment, I was -- and I know the story isn't supposed to work this way, but it did -- consistently groggier and crankier than I had ever been before. So I went back to caffeine and have had no second thoughts about it since.
I say with conviction (having the same experience) that this is because your endocrine hormonal system is seriously out of whack. Probably hypothyroidism, but possibly hypopituitiarism or even lack of testosterone.
Go see an endocrinologist, stat! Your quality of life, and even longevity, could be at serious peril.
Hm. You may have a point. This was back when I lived in America, and seeing an endocrinologist would have required winning the lottery or something. Now that I'm living in a more civilised country, perhaps I'll give it a try...
Ok, the only other reason I notice sometimes long bouts of tiredness during morning, is when my wake up time is badly chosen. Do you wake up with an alarm? Try to wake up on your own before it rings. Waking up in certain cycles of your sleep will turn one into a sort of morning zombie ;)
Normal endocrine systems peak at around 3 AM and are at their lowest at around 3 PM. If you happen to wake up at 5 AM vs 8 AM, you will feel more energetic.
This is because, historically, our main predators were nocturnal, while we hunted almost exclusively in the two twilights (we have substantially better twilight vision than virtually any animal). So when the wolves came at 3 AM we'd be at our most energetic and when it's relatively safe (3 PM in daylight year round), we'd be taking a ciesta.
If your body is off hormonally, grogginess throughout the day is a primary sign. When my body was substantially off from ages 18-24, I actually became completely nocturnal, just because 12-5 AM were the only times I felt anywhere near energetic.
Huh. Your description of normal actually matches up pretty well with what I experience. Throw in some bedtime-drift, and you have a pretty good description of me. Thanks, this had been kind of worrying me a bit.
(I've always wondered why waking up at 6 AM was so much easier than waking up at 8 AM. It was baffling.)
My friend going to law school said she can study for 4-5 hours in a row, fully focused. But then she needs a break, for 2 hours ideally. Then she can do another 4-5 hours. After that, another break. Usually she can do a third 4-5 hours. That's 12-15 hours of full-focus time per day, which to me sounds like a ton.
Studying law is very systematic through (even more than other 'types' of studying). You outline as you go through the material, then revise outlines, then do test exams and repeat where necessary. Things that are very routine to do, even if they involve sitting at a desk, don't take nearly as much focus/willpower as 'creative' things where you need to decide what to do next, and think of new ideas on how to do it, every couple of minutes.
The point is that the hours between 5 am to 9 am should be more productive for the majority of people (assuming everyone else you know is sleeping at that time) than say the hours between 9 pm to 1 am when most of us can hardly get anything done.
But I agree with your premise that maximum productivity is achieved when one finds his/her best schedule and sticks to it.
My personal experience is somewhat analogous to yours. As someone who's working full-time and doing part-time graduate school, I have to ensure that I get at least 8-10 hours of sleep daily to stay sharp throughout the day (haven't quite figured out the whole nap thing yet). It also really helps if you do something like lifting 2-3 days a week so that you're able to endure these 60-80 hour weeks better.
I'd say the big advantage of 5am is that nobody's there to bother you, but you could probably pull off the same 2 hours of personal work / day if you were to work after 6pm.
I've been waking up at 6 am for three months now (on weekends, 6:30 or 7, depending at what time I can get to bed). I'm getti to sleep earlier than usual though - I would be a night owl myself. The most difficult part for me, actually, is to force myself to go to bed no later than 23:00 :)
When starting my business, I was working as a derivatives trader. The job was stimulating but I did not love it. It was not creative enough. Creative in the purest sense of the world. We did not create businesses, rather create profits through buying and selling.
I had to be up before 6am anyway to get in before the markets opened. We could leave shortly after the markets closed though so I did most of my work time in the evenings from 6pm to 10pm, sometimes later. And then on the weekends (probably another 12 to 20 hours).
I think the important points are:
1. Enjoy the work. If you do then you don't feel like it is work, rather a hobby.
2. Make the most of your 'day job' time. I would squeeze in gym whenever things were quiet. I would answer emails on the toilet. I would read the Financial Times and then sneak in Tech Crunch (I was trading TMT so I argued it was important to view trends).
3. Stay disciplined. A lot of the time I would get excited and stay up later. Rolling out of bed at 5:30am to get into work after being up since 1am does not feel great. You can do it once during a week, but twice and you really do become a zombie for the rest of the week until you get the time back.
I did this for two years until I managed to get some funding to take it full time. It was super tough, especially for my girlfriend. But I loved it because I believed we were building a project that would change the world. Whenever I felt down I just watched SJ's Standford speech and it would pick me up.
"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle."
Love this - a simple personal anecdote/retrospective rather than a self-promotion or "everyone should do as I say" piece.
You could solve the girlfriend + music issue with a nice set of closed-stage headphones. I love my AKGs. But I'd actually A/B test with and without headphones - without the distraction of office noise, no headphones/music might actually be helping you focus as well. I find that even with a solid, no-thought, tried and true playlist of entirely ambient (or even classical) music, I still find music causing my mind to wander from time to time.
I might have to try to sell the girlfriend on this idea soon.
In the last six or seven years I've been up regularly at 5am or so. I can get an hour of work done before the rest of the household wakes up. It's great.
My inspiration was Gene Wolfe, who wrote _The Book of the New Sun_ in the wee hours, and held down a day job as a technical magazine editor. [I'm not claiming my code is anywhere near as great as the wonderful writing that Wolfe did, but the early hours are definitely some of my most creative time]
A few rules I have:
- No email. This just starts the whole stress machine going. I'd rather not have /any/ human contact, and if something's fallen off and broken in the last eight hours, it can wait another two or three.
- No Reddit or other black-hole-of-surfing sites (though I do check HN -- this may change if HN becomes too Reddit-like).
- Coffee is ready to go (set up the prior evening).
> My inspiration was Gene Wolfe, who wrote _The Book of the New Sun_ in the wee hours, and held down a day job as a technical magazine editor.
Wow. That's really interesting. I was actually going to give this a try because of Robert Pirsig, who wrote Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Here's how he did it:
In a 1974 interview with National Public Radio, Pirsig stated that the book took him four years to write. During two of these years, Pirsig continued working at his job of writing computer manuals. This caused him to fall into an unorthodox schedule, waking up very early and writing Zen from 2 a.m. until 6 a.m., then eating and going to his day job. 
Funny he also writes technical literature (computer manuals versus technical magazine editor).
> the early hours are definitely some of my most creative time
This is something I've noticed too. When writing (usually essays, but sometimes code), I'm almost always more productive very late night/early morning. I don't know of any reasons (other than the obvious: you're not being distracted), nor do I know of any studies. Are there any out there?
I've been waking up at 5am for the past three years. I found that, by 9am when my colleagues started arriving at work, I had already managed to finish a large chunk of the work I had planned for that day.
I tend to do the actual work during these hours and reply to emails later on in the day. This helps me stay focused and I found it to be quite productive.
I don't drink coffee though, I have never felt the need for it.
My wife is a surgeon. I'm up at 5am with her, drive her to work, then sit down and start working myself around 5:30. I find that I'm fantastically productive from then until about 9 or 10am. I take a long lunch break (and go running or xc-skiing depending on how much snow is on the ground); aside from that I don't have any trouble going straight through the afternoon, though my afternoons are less productive (I usually spend them meeting with team members and doing more routine work because of that, which works well because that's when everyone else is around).
In order to make getting up at 5 livable, we're asleep by 10pm. We were both night people once upon a time, but I really don't feel like I miss it.
they do it because of the patient who were not allowed to eat several hours before
The reason why surgery is scheduled so early in the morning is
because you will need to have an empty stomach for about 6-8 hours
before your procedure. This ensures that your stomach is empty of
any contents for general anesthesia. This way, if you get nauseated
after surgery, you can try to throw up, but nothing will come out.
With no stomach contents, you will not accidentally swallow stuff into
your windpipe, or lungs.
I've heard a few theories, including some speculation that body functions are slowest at this time. More practically, a morning surgery generally means the patient has fasted overnight, and has an empty upper GI tract, reducing the risks of vomiting. Aspiration of vomit is a significant surgical risk.
First: not all surgeons start at 5; it varies somewhat with the specialty. The more "hard-core" specialties tend to start earlier in the morning because the cases can run longer (12-16 hour surgeries, while not typical, are not unheard of either).
Second, they don't start operating at 5. They actually couldn't--the non-M.D. staff (nurses and techs) work on "normal" shifts, so there's only a minimal overnight crew (present to handle emergencies that cannot wait until morning) at that time. Surgeries actually start around 7:30-8:00 typically, but the team needs to round on the patients under their care and discuss what's slated for the day before they go into the OR. Since that takes a couple hours, they start at 5.
This is a really effective way to get a lot things done. In summer 2009 I used to wake up before sunrise and absolutely loved it. To this day, I still wonder why I did not continue doing it.
My 2 cents:
Make sure you have something good (preferably healthy) to eat readily available when you get up. It should be something that does not require more than 10 min of preparation. Otherwise things tend to get a bit boring.
If you happen to wake before sunrise. Take mini walk in you garden or backyard and catch those 10 - 15 minutes of sunrise. It will absolutely super charge you for rest of the day.
EDIT: Let's admit that we all have a small nest at home specifically for work or related activities. Move this nest out of your bedroom. Keep your laptops, iPads, PCs or any such devices out of your bedroom. Switch off your phones during nights and do not switch them back on until after your morning sessions.
(PS. My uncle is a neurologist and he tells me that for people who work during day and rest during nights, certain hormones are secreted in the mornings that help us in staying fresh and awake. The catch is that they are only secreted if you wake before or around sun rise time.)
That's interesting. When I was in college I used to wake up at 5am every morning. I'd always start my day by taking the trash outside and looking at the sun come up over the ocean. (I went to school in Santa Cruz). Those short moments always set the tone for the rest of my day.
> I'd always start my day by taking the trash outside and looking at the sun come up over the ocean. (I went to school in Santa Cruz).
I suppose I understand what you're trying to say, but the idea of watching a Pacific Coast sunrise from Califonia (while not in an airplane or other fast-moving vehicle) breaks my mind a little. But your comment also made me realize I'd lived within a half hour drive of the Pacific Ocean for most of my life yet have no clear idea what a beach sunrise would be like. I need to add that to a list.
bit late but ... you can also see this from the santa barbara harbor. I used to surf there in the early morning and the sun would be rising behind the waves. Not a lot of places on the west coast that that happens!
I am a stay at home dad recovering from AML stim cell transplant. I have been trying to find time in my day to work on a personal project that I need to develop for myself and I think has a potential for profit. However with my busy 1 year old son waking up at 8AM(sleeps all night, which I am super thankful for), I can't find the time during the day to focus on a project. I get spurts during his 30-40 minute naps and when he is playing real good by himself, but as I get focused I am quickly pulled away. I have tried to be productive when I put him down at night, but I find I need to spend this time with my wife.
It is looking like I might become a 6AM coder soon. Seeing that my day starts at 8AM.
I had thought about getting up this early, but I just didn't think I could make it through the day with my semi-low energy levels.
However, I am thinking if I get up at 6AM, I can nap when my son naps for 30-40. As I read another post on HN that it actually is great to take these short duration naps.
People generally have two high-quality stints in them per day. Putting in a sleep cycle (be that a power nap or up to a full cycle) between them works wonders for all sorts of benefits physiologically and creatively.
Send me an email or some contact info for you (my email is in my profile). I was randomly looking at some of your comment / post history on YC and we are in a somewhat similar situation. I'd like to help you. :)
I would love to see a simple service that groups people who are willing to commit to getting up at the same time each day in order to hold each other accountable. There doesn't need to be anything significant - maybe it's just a matching service, letting people figure out for themselves how they can "check in" to confirm they are up and working at 6am (or whatever time is chosen). I know that I definitely can commit to something like this (e.g. going to the gym early) if I have at least 1 other person I'm doing it with.
Love that people are responding positively to this. I shared the idea with my brother, and we're going to try to throw something together in our spare time over the next week.
If anyone's interested in helping out (I'd say we're most in need of someone with good web design skills, though will update later once we've fleshed it out some), feel free to contact me at [my HN user name] at gmail
That reminds me of a web app where you check in your work of the day, and the app tells you by week how well you did. Makes you build yourself objectives and stick to them. Not totally what you're asking for, but in the meantime maybe it would be enough ?
I tried to find it but can't seem to use the right keywords, sorry.
Maybe even a combination of this with the idea of pledging money if you don't achieve something? How much more motivated would you be to roll out of bed at 6am if you knew that skipping it would cost your buddy cash?
I use https://idonethis.com, it seems similar. They send you an email every day at a time you configure and you answer back with what you've done. It tells you what your current streak is in the email and has a quote of some kind to ponder.
Kanban itself isn't key, but rather I think the key is having a plan.
Kanban is a process where you divide your work into stories, and place them on a visual board. You pull stories across the board into different columns as the story progresses. Typical columns are "ready to pull" (first column, this story is ready to begin work), "in progress", "in test", "complete". The idea is to focus on getting cards across the entire board, and having few cards in flight at a time. This is generally believed to increase productivity by avoiding the urge to multitask too much. It can also reveal bottlenecks in your team's process and generally is good at visualizing how your team gets things done. Which can be eye opening.
Since I'm all by myself, my kanban board is really just a fancy todo list. I am using http://www.agilezen.com for my board. Trello is a more well known app along these lines, but purists disagree that Trello truly accomplishes Kanban because it's missing a few key Kanban concepts (whether that really matters is up for debate).
This is one confusing thing about Kanban. The Kanban JIT manufacturing process that Toyota developed is different from the agile Kanban process used in software. The latter was inspired by the former, but they are very different.
Maybe it is horrible :) I'll see how I feel in a month. But why not experiment? My desire to do this sprung from being tired enough after a day of work that I'd really only work on my stuff on weekends.
Truthfully, I do run on Thursday mornings instead of code because that day I have lunch commitments (I run at lunch the rest of the week). I plan to try mixing in more morning running with the coding, see how that changes things too.
i wake up at 5am on weekdays to go to the gym. i'm on the 520am bart train, get to the gym at 6am, workout till 730am, at the office shortly after 8am before anyone else shows up.
the days i do this (as opposed to the couple days per week i sleep in later to take my son to school) i'm far more productive and content than the other days.
i sleep in on the weekends, but never sleep more than 7.5 or 8 hours anymore. i can wake at 5am without an alarm, though i usually set it as a backup. but i'm almost always awake at 4:57 anyway, so i get up.
That's what I do, well not always 5am... but I try! Any way ever since exercise became a habit I no longer need caffeine after lunch. The bonus is if you're super busy then you can skip the workout and do some extra work.
Mornings are great. Yesterday I woke up at 4 and saw that Facebook Hacker Cup is on. I finished all the problems before my work day started - how awesome is that to start your day?
It takes me a few hours every Sunday and Friday to get in the mood of 'this project is going to kick ass'.
This might be controversial, but have you considered opening an anonymous/throwaway github account and publishing there? I mean put them up, make an announcement, and then feel free to ignore any social pressure to work on them, at least that way the code is out there where somebody else could pick it up and improve it.
Just seems like a weird reason to not release code you intended to be open source.
Actually never thought about. I recently wrote Verdict and published it as a gist. It was horrible! People asked me for help! And I created a full repo and a website instead of working. http://radagaisus.github.com/verdict/
I have been doing the exact opposite of this strategy for some time now. Going to bed at 5am. Those 6 hours of coding between 11pm and 5am are some of the quietest you will ever experience in Toronto where I live at least.
If I woke up at 5am, I would bHORNe consHORNtaHORNntly distrubeHORNNNNNNNNd.
The noise pollution in Toronto is obscene and I am thinking I should move somewhere else. I live by the Gardiner, and I also code at night, it is bliss, there are virtually no cars on the road. No noisy neighbours or horns or traffic or street cars.
Is the noise there so bad that noise-cancelling headphones wouldn't help? You can get a pretty good pair from Bose for $200-300. It might be a steep investment at first, but if it improvements your working conditions and you use them for a few years...
Can't agree with you more. I used to live looking north up Church and between 3-5AM there wasn't a single car - it would get actually creepy. Day time I had helicopters landing beside me, phone calls, horns, construction (!!!) etc.
Thanks for sharing. I did the same for several months, I would call each session a mini iteration. And I kept a kanban board on my moleskine...which is imperative. I had times where other things would take precedence and I would stay away from my project for several days but due to my physical kanban I could easily pick up where i left off.
What I did different is this: at each iteration i would set a goal that I new I could accomplish within the mini-iteration (1-2 hours, sometimes a little more). Then at the end I would check off my accomplishments and would quickly "trim my backlog" and create a list of "NEXT:" for the next time. Then the next time I sat down I would review this list and adjust it as necessary and begin.
I found that have a physical notebook was beneficial because at the first sign of discouragement I could easily look back and see where I was just a few weeks ago or a few months ago. And nothing feels better than marking something complete. My lists are segmented by each iteration by day and have three categories: DONE, TODO, NEXT. it worked great for me.
Though I never delivered my product it was a great talking tool at an interview that led me to a job with a 30% pay increase. And I'm ok with this.
There's probably little to add here, but since I've been doing a 5am coding period each morning for the last year.
First, I am 42, married with 1 kid, so that may explain some of it. ;)
1) Coffee maker on autobrew, but not immediately upon waking. Give yourself and your stomach time to wake up.
2) Eat and/or drink something easy upon waking. I go for the MixOne protein shakes, or OJ.
3) A clear goal of what to accomplish that morning.
4) Get enough sleep or you will burn out and have to stop for a time period of recovery. I go to sleep or rather, my body & mind collapse, at 9PM. Asleep by 9:30. I am able to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night. More than plenty.
5) Don't use anything with a screen (except maybe an e-ink Kindle) before bed. Reading helps me to get right to sleep.
Due to having a kid in preschool, I generally am limited to 1-1.5 hours in the morning. Which is just enough time to do one task and very little else, hence the need to focus on something.
I did something a bit more extreme for over a year - and I have a family to contend with. But I wasn't coding, mainly product dev a(wireframes, specs, etc) and some hacking.
- Hang w/family from the time I got home until their bedtime, roughly 9:30 PM.
- 2 hours of work, then 30-45 min of useless TV (Family Guy or TAR)
- About 5 hours of sleep
- Another 2 hours of work before hopping on the train
Somehow I kept this up for over a year, though it has to be said that I curtailed the workload to just 2 hours a day (and a bit more sleep) over the weekend to spend more time w/the family.
I think that's the only real guidance here - as long as you can budget adequate time to recharge the batteries, then you can keep this up for the long haul. For me, hanging with the family kept me fresh, kept me sane.
Interesting post. I used to do this myself but eventually found it difficult to get up so early. I've recently been trying out something similar though.
I find it difficult to get to sleep often lying awake for up to 5 hours before falling asleep. As I am a freelancer I then tend to make up for it by sleeping in late (as I don't have a job to go to).
I have recently been following a schedule of sleeping 2 nights and then staying up 1 night. This night without sleep I use for work and it also helps fix my problem of getting to sleep for the next 2 nights. I find that I am extremely productive working through the night and gain in productivity by falling asleep more quickly and getting up earlier the other 2 days.
I've been in this cycle before. I still almost fall into it naturally, but less so than when I was in my early twenties.
My experience was that it isn't sustainable, the day after you stay up all night just gets worse and worse the longer you are on that schedule. After a short time, for me, that day was so unproductive that it more than destroyed any gains made in those extra hours or the encouraging "reset" to my ability to sleep at regular hours.
I have to admit that the early night and long sleep after that day was the best sleep I could get at the time.
The rest of it was pretty shitty, I slept like a dead person and woke groggy. Good sleep habits and a regular schedule have a domino effect, improving all sorts of stuff, definitely worth trying to stay off that sleep 2, stay up for 1 cycle in my experience.
It's been working for me so far but I can see how it would be hard to maintain. I don't expect to keep it up forever. Although it's working now I doubt it will last more than a month. Good to hear someone else experiences this sort of cycle naturally. Sleep is a big problem for me and really hurts my productivity so I'm always trying to figure out new patterns that might help, at least short term.
Laying in bed awake is counter-productive to falling asleep. Get up, have a drink of water, read a few chapters of a book. Let your mind settle down, then try it again. Laying awake just lets your mind wander.
I wish it were possible for me to do something like this during the week, but it isn't. I wake up at 05:30 as it is, and I'm out the door and heading to work by 06:30 (that's an hour to SSS, prepare and consume breakfast, take out the trash, scrape the windshield, and whatever else might need doing). I don't get home until after 17:30. I'm typically occupied being a loving and attentive father up until 20:00 or so. Assuming I want to get 8 hours of sleep, that means I'm left with one and a half hours to split between personal projects and my wife during the week.
On the other hand, I do get up just as early on the weekends, and it's probably my most productive time of the entire week, up until my kids get up.
I actually live only 10km away from where I work, and my commute amounts to less than an hour per day.
I'm at the office by 0700 and I leave sometime after 1700. My work situation deviates significantly from a programmer's "standard" in a lot of respects, unfortunately. I do get paid for overtime at least, but I'm beginning to question whether it's worth it.
I have a similar situation. I live in the far East Bay and commute to San Jose, about 3 hours round trip. Sometimes I get lucky and leave early enough to make it a 1 hour trip -- being on a huge campus with nobody around at 7am is an interesting experience.
I'd be living in SJ, but I just bought a house out here so there's some legwork to be done.
Another option that you should look into is switching to a four day, ten hour each day schedule. Of course your employer has to approve and I’ve seen a lot of people that can’t keep up with the long days, but if 5am schedule works for in the long term you shouldn’t have any issues with it.
I've done this for the last four years and it really works well for me. It gives me the option to work on my personnel projects on my off day (Friday for me). It also forces you to wake up early and the morning always seems productive. The best part is you can be flexible with that time, like on some weeks maybe you take a long trip or family/friend time.
Why is waking up two hours earlier in order to do stuff like coding on personal projects so much better than staying up for two more hours at night?
It won't make the day longer. Each hour you wake up earlier you will also probably go to sleep earlier. Of course you could also sleep less, but also in that case IMHO it doesn't make a large difference whether you add those extra hours to your night or to your morning.
Some might argue, that morning hours are more productive. But for me that is only true if I have slept well and long enough and it also implies that whatever you do in the evening will suffer by starting your day earlier.
Morning hours are often more productive because there's fewer distractions - the rest of the household is asleep, the phone doesn't ring, and there isn't much on TV. Not to mention that if you've gotten up two hours early to do something, you're probably going to be doing it. (I used to have to get to work at 7:30 in the morning but still found that going to the gym before was the only consistent way to ensure it happened.)
All of that aside, the bigger problem is that other things pop up during the course of the day to steal your energy and time. If you have something scheduled at the beginning of the day, they can't eat away at it. If you schedule it anywhere later in the day, it becomes the "stub" for whatever else happened that day.
One of the pieces of advice they give folks who want to save more money is to "pay themselves first" - save some money from your paycheck _before_ allocating to other things you want to spend on, especially anything discretionary. This is the opposite of what we normally do, which is "save" whatever is left over after our spending. I think folks who set up a morning routine for work or gym are basically paying themselves first in terms of time commitment.
After working 9 hours at a full time job, a 45 minute commute home, helping make dinner for the family, cleaning up, playing with the kids, getting them cleaned up for bed, reading with them, putting them to bed, cleaning up the house a little bit, its 9pm.
All I wanted to do is spend a little quiet time with my wife, any motivation to work on personal projects, which may have been fairly strong during the drive home, is now gone, and all I really want to do is spend quiet time with my wife before we had to go to sleep.
So, it had nothing to do with making the day longer, and it had everything to do with the reality that by the time I actually got to the point where I could work on something, it was the least important thing in my life.
Quite the coincidence - I just started doing exactly this a few weeks ago, and am fact am reading this at 5:30am my time (when I should be coding :P). It has worked quite well for me as I work on my app.
I'm a bit more tired in the evenings and go to bed a bit earlier than I used to, but seeing as how I would just waste time in the evenings playing Jetpack Joyride, it's a very good trade to make.
I bought a coffee machine that has coffee waiting for me at 5am, and I also use the Sleep Cycle app which at the very least provides a placebo for making me wake up more alert. ;)
Exactly. Most people are far more distractible in the evening (partially because there are simply more distractions available), so shifting your schedule earlier results in less time spent on distractions.
I'm coding at 6am now, because I've been up all night! I don't enjoy it, but I find it very difficult to want to go to bed at the right time. Working in a startup time doesn't seem to matter so much I guess.
I've thought about doing something like this but I've realized I just can't until I figure out a better commuting situation, either having a very short commute or using public transportation. Sitting in traffic for almost an hour on the way to work is rather draining to where if I'm going to do that I can't seem to bring myself to get up any earlier than I have to as I'd rather use the time spent driving to wake up so its not completely wasted
If you can use public transportation, you should definitely try it. I'm a student, but I also work part time in San Francisco; there is about a 30 minute commute. I am actually surprisingly productive while on the train working on my random side-projects. Having something to do stops the commute being a boring waste of time.
The one problem is crowding--if there are too many people, you might not get a seat or otherwise be uncomfortable. I avoid this problem by travelling at off-peak times, but this may not be an option. You should try it out and see how it goes.
Awesome, yeah, actually I'm planning to move to the SF Bay Area soon, I'm from northern California originally and want to get back there, I think living further out and using BART to get into SF would be fine as it would give me some time to work on things, or even just to use my tablet and read up on things, do research, etc. Just being able to relax and not have to watch the road for the hour commute would be a lot better IMO.
I used to do this a while ago, while working from home. I woke up at 6am and had my breakfast right next to the computer, then would only do the 'morning routine' (shower, walking the dog, etc.) after my wife had woken up and gone to work.
It was incredibly productive. As the author say the cost of those two hours keep you focused (you know you are making that extra effort, so distraction isn't an option.)
Mary Kay in her book called this the 5 am club! She said the 2-3 hours she got before the rest of her family were up was so productive that it was "almost as if she had 24 hours a day extra to work with" Paraphrasing here but she said he enabled her to manage her traditional roles of being a husband & mother in addition to a full time & demanding business role.
I have been on this routine for about 18 months. Waking up early in the morning is not easy or fun, but the alternative is to work in the evening or not at all. I find working in the evening really difficult because after a full day of work and a nice dinner with my wife - I am not really in the mood to "go back to work". Waking up early allows me to put my personal project into a set routine. 2 hours every day - not 2.5 or 3 or an all-nighter. This constraint is great for focusing the mind and making those 2 hours really productive.
There is one downside. I really need to be asleep by 9:30 (I actually wake up at 4:30). This is difficult to do when I meet up with friends. For example, this week I have two meetups planned - both of which will probably cause me to get home past 10:30 which means I am more likely lie in the next morning. ...and I agree with the OP - it is much easier to keep a schedule like this if you do it every day.
I did this for several months while I was taking the Stanford AI class. I got up at 6, did coursework for two hours or so, and went to work by 9.
I found it to be highly beneficial for several reasons (some of which were mentioned in the blog post):
-since I am usually exhausted by the end of the day, I found the early time to be really conducive to clear thinking
-early part of the day is so quiet-- no interruptions
-I felt like I accomplished quite a bit even before arriving at work, so I somehow felt more productive even though I should have been more tired
I intentionally did not keep up the early time on the weekends and slept in-- btw, 8am felt like sleeping in :)
Since the class finished, I kept up the habit and wake up early to code or read.
I admit it isn't for everyone, but it is worth a try for anyone who wants to code after work but feels too tired or easily distracted.
I did something similar for a while but other concerns pushed my routine out of the window, and for the sake of my sanity I shouldn't have kept on with it as long as I did. If I could recommend one thing to anyone thinking of doing an early-morning stint, it would be to keep an escape route clear. Don't commit to more than a week's work at once (you shouldn't be doing this anyway) and make sure that you can unconditionally drop the project at short notice if something comes up. Otherwise you will find that your work strategy is very fragile and very explosive.
That said, the particular issues I faced were external to my early-morning work strategy, and on a level playing field it is a wonderful way to do some of your best work.
It's not universal though. I find (sometimes) late morning and (usually) late afternoon are my most productive or potent times. I suspect everyone is different. It seems that this idea though has the added benefit of bringing more focus (due to less of the normal distractions.) For me, I think, that would be the major difference .
I'm almost in the same boat with the guy that wrote the article.
Like him I also read 1year ago, on hn, about a guy who started to code on his projects starting with 5 a.m. because in the evenings he spent time with his fiance.
After I read it I tried it for a while, and it worked, I had to stop because then I was also a student and I was also working full time + I also had allocated gf time.
I will try it again, I hope I can get more things done in this way.
My problem doing this is the weekend. I like to go out to concerts and occasionally bars with friends, which has me out until 1 AM on an early night. Then I sleep in the following day, which destroys the whole schedule, since it's the complete opposite of what I need to do during the week.
Compare my current schedule, which has me going to bed around 2AM most nights—even if I go to bed at 5 AM on Friday, that's only 3 hours off from my usual schedule, so it's much easier to recover by Monday.
I just arrive at work a half hour before I "should" be there. That's when I do a little code kata or read HN. Then I grab a coffee and it's work time. After work I go to the gym and coming home from that I find I have enough energy to put in another hour or two on my side projects.
However, having kids might change that and make 5am more sensible... you might at least get an hour before they're up and you have to get them ready for school.
It depends on the person but it's true for me. I tend to do my really hard/deep thinking in the morning and queue up stuff that I can do the rest of the day. The creativity that tends to appear more often later in the day and in the evenings end up being the cool stuff that bubbles up.
I find that with the insane amount of meetings and interruptions I might face in any given day that don't contribute to "coding time," this works really well to ensure that I'm getting things done and to keep my mind fresh. I can then engage on the business side of things later without having that nagging feeling in the back of my head that something needs to get done.
This seems highly related to a recent poll - how many hours of sleep do you need a night?
For example, if I tried this, I would have to go to bed at around 7:30pm at night. For a number of reasons (including eating dinner at 6pm), this is completely infeasible. A shame too, since a few hours of uninterrupted time would be great.
This idea has also stuck in my head since sometime ago (I think it was a comment by @jrockway who said that he got up really early because at that time there is nothing else to do but work), though I do not do it everyday, only occasionally when I want to finish something... I will follow the site for updates! :)
Sounds like a great habit. There are some studies that indicate problem solving ability is highest when you're "groggy" so maybe skip the coffee. Many authors have developed the same habit during their early days when they had a day job. Mark Cuban said, "You're only at your best once a day."
I wake up at 4:30 to read for a bit and some days squeeze in 30-40min of development work. After getting ready I head out for walking between 6:30-9am (depending on the day) then head to work. This gives me room to do a little project work in the evenings.
This is a great idea. I, too, often end up coding if I'm not tired when my wife is going to bed, but it often ends up being a marathon until 1:30 or 2 in the morning. Restraining myself to 2 hours a day, but doing it every day, seems like a good discipline.
I am doing this right now. The point, I believe is, that you spend the most productive part of the day working for yourself rather than for your employer. Still, I believe in certain jurisdictions your employer owns your work even if done in your free time.
Your employer should only own your work outside of work hours only if you have a non-compete, is directly related to the work you perform, is derivative of code that you access from work, or you indentured all of your code contractually.
Anybody know if a GPL versus "we own everything you do" situation has arisen yet in the courts?
This is essentially what I have been doing for the last 6 months and it works great for me. But it only works great because 1) I go to bed at 9 pm - I am literally falling asleep with 5 minutes. 2) Coffee is only allowed before 9am.
I do the wake up at 5am routine, but I use it to go to the gym. I think a healthy body helps you maintain a healthy mind. (keep in mind this "healthy body" is very much a work in progress, like many of my coding side projects)
I woke up at 4:55am for a year while working on Stormpulse. Specifically, 2007, when my first child as 3. I was so excited that I never had a problem launching out of bed and walking down the hall to work by 5:00.
I am going to start doing this. Right now after 8 hrs of work, dinner and working out I am dead. I push myself for a couple of hours to work on personal projects but I am far from 100% by this time of the day.
You put your best and most creative energy into your own project.
Instead of whatever you have left in the tank after a long day of work and then doing home stuff and then finally settling in.
Getting out of bed isn't a problem when I'm so excited to work on something and I know what exactly I need to do -- I make a list before I go to bed.
Lack of distraction plus a full head of steam and energy is a great combination.
I try to do this as much as possible because it's so rewarding. Breaking the cycle with a late night or the weekend seems to be my main obstacle, I'm thinking of waking early 7 days a week and becoming like my old man, lol.
Will work/job suffer? Our work/job often needs our attention to detail more than our best and most creative effort every day.
I'd wake up a 3 am every morning (except Sunday) and write until about 6 am, which is when I got ready for my 7 am shift.
I agree with the author that being super-motivated was key and I had already invested several years research and writing the book. I was becoming worried the book would never get done.
I was also able to avoid cognitive burnout because my day job was at a metal foundry and consisted of mostly repetitive work.
One drawback was I was completely zonked by late afternoon, and had no social life, but I still tried to eek out something for the book before bed (which was sometime between 8-9 pm if I remember correctly).
Afterthought: I can't wake up so early now. Lack of sleep gives me a short temper. Something to consider.